A community-based coalition, a trio of supervisors and a very special mediator helped seal CPMC deal

The politicians might as well have just come out and said that Lou Giraudo is The Dude.

The takeaway message from a July 11 press conference held in the Mayor’s office touting legislation authorizing California Pacific Medical Center’s construction of two new San Francisco hospitals was seemingly this: Everyone hearts Lou Giraudo.

A part owner of Boudin Bakery and former president of the San Francisco Police Commission, Giraudo was called in last year to help mediate a deal that seemed doomed when CPMC, city officials, and a coalition of labor and community organizations were unable to hash out an agreement that was acceptable to all sides.

Negotiations have been contentious over the past year due to early indications that CPMC would not guarantee that St. Luke’s, a health care facility relied upon by many low-income San Franciscans, would keep its doors open as a condition of moving forward with the new Cathedral Hill facility, a centerpiece of CPMC’s $2.5 billion project.

Enter Lou Giraudo, everybody’s favorite public servant who was, according to a not-so-subtle hint dropped by former Mayor Willie Brown in his San Francisco Chronicle column last year, “quietly brought in” by the mayor’s office to fix the half-baked mess that the CPMC deal had evidently devolved into.

“He’s often said he’s just a businessman. A baker, if you will,” Lee said during yesterday’s press conference. But Giraudo came to the table with the right “recipe” and the “main ingredients” for a successful deal, Lee added.

Sup. David Campos also sang Giraudo’s praises, saying, “I have yet to meet a finer public servant,” and calling Giraudo “a real hero of mine.” 

Giraudo himself told the Guardian that his strategy was “to de-politicize the process and get people to think about the community.”

Board President David Chiu, who worked closely with Sups. David Campos and Mark Farrell to negotiate with CPMC and other parties on behalf of the Board, went so far as to compare Giraudo to Batman. He even joked that he was going to shine a bat signal the next time a negotiator was needed, in hopes that Giraudo would save the day.

Presumably, when this happens, Giraudo will dust the flour off his apron after toiling away at some sourdough bread shaped like an alligator, duck into a Boudin Bakery bathroom to squeeze into a superhero costume, strap on his jet pack and take off for the gold-capped dome.

Giraudo may have provided the catalyst needed for a deal, but it was community advocates who ensured that the public at large benefitted from the CPMC plan more than they would have otherwise – since the mayor’s office seemed willing to go along with the health care giant’s original terms.

Long before Giraudo’s involvement, a coalition of labor and community organizations waged a campaign to rebuild CPMC “the right way,” holding strong on the issue of St. Lukes and refusing to agree to anything that would leave open the possibility that the hospital, a critically important facility for low-income patients, would be shuttered.

“That coalition has been working for quite some time … to save St. Lukes,” Campos said yesterday. The diverse coalition of community and labor leaders, who formed under the name San Franciscans for Healthcare, Housing, Jobs and Justice, commissioned studies on the need for health care services for low-income populations, studied housing and transportation impacts, and developed a broad base of support for a better deal than what was originally floated by the healthcare giant. “It kept working for many years,” Campos noted.

Under the terms of the agreement that was ultimately agreed upon, St. Luke's will have a number of specified services to ensure it remains a full-service hospital, and CPMC will commit to providing services to 30,000 charity care patients and 5,400 Medi-Cal managed care patients per year. CPMC will also contribute $36.5 million to the city's affordable housing fund, and it will pay $4.1 million to replace the homes it displaces on Cathedral Hill.

But wait, one last thing we’ve just learned about Giraudo: Did you know he also served as chairman at Pabst Brewing Company? The next time you get drunk off PBR while gorging yourself on sourdough baked into the shape of a teddy bear, or for that matter receive emergency medical care at St. Luke's after an unsuccessful attempt at building a DIY jetpack, you’ll know who to thank.