835 Jackson

The original Chinese Hospital building at 835 Jackson was built in 1924 and converted to a Medical Administration Building for the hospital when the adjacent 43,368 square foot Chinese Hospital building at 845 Jackson was built in 1979.

835 Jackson Existing

As proposed, the 29,793 square foot building at 835 Jackson will be razed and in its place a new 101,545 square foot hospital and skilled nursing facility will rise.

835 Jackson Proposed

The existing hospital at 845 Jackson would become a Medical Administration and Outpatient Center in 2015 when the construction is finished as proposed.

With Mayor Ed Lee having successfully extracted over a hundred million dollars worth of affordable housing, transit and streetscape improvements in return for approval of CPMC’s plans to build a hospital on Cathedral Hill and rebuild St. Luke’s in the Mission, we’ll let you know what the Mayor demands for approval of the Chinese Hospital’s project.

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    Sad to see an old building with character replaced by such a bland building. Maybe the mayor can point to this incremental extraction of character from one of SF’s most interesting neighborhoods as one of the reasons for the project to include enhancements.

  2. Posted by sf

    Killing off San Francisco’s character one wretched project at a time.
    And yes, building bland crap decreases quality of life and also property values, which is why it is much cheaper to rent or buy a 1970s box rather than a Victorian, Tudor, Crafstman, or Cottage style.

  3. Posted by Turin

    Awful. I would be upset if this was replacing a parking lot. That it’s replacing a beautiful and unique building is borderline criminal.

  4. Posted by ph_goat

    Good grief. That anyone involved in creating or approving such a soulless monolith believes this improves the street/neighborhood/city is astounding. Criminal indeed.

  5. Posted by lyqwyd

    I usually think the historic preservation in SF is ridiculous and used merely to block development, but this seems like a perfect opportunity to actually preserves a unique and attractive building. The new design is terrible.
    At the very least the exterior of the existing building should be preserved and the building could be extended up and back if it does not currently provide enough space for the desired use.

  6. Posted by Toady

    Great. We’re now putting fake pagoda frills on the same level as Victorian bay windows.

  7. Posted by futurist

    Other than the traditional Chinese canopy and ornamentation at the entry and top, the building is basically a white, bland box. Look at it again.
    And I would assume it is completely seismically deficient. It was designed nearly 88 years ago for a different type of healthcare approach. The cost to rehab it for today’s technology and practice would not be cost effective.
    No doubt the new building’s facade will evolve thru the process. I look forward to seeing this built.

  8. Posted by john

    don’t particularly care about the building they are razing, but damn, that new thing is ugly. That architect should consider a new career.

  9. Posted by BT

    I’ve got to join the others in saying what I almost never say–this is a development we might be better off without. At the very least, the design needs work. What characterizes the architecture around it is fine scale, micro-embellishment, of which the new building is almost completely devoid. It can only be called “brutal”.
    I hate to say it, but the exterior needs to start almost completely over with a new approach. Possibly it can be done using the same interior arrangement. But I’ll join the picket line myself if this ugly thing moves forward on this site unchanged.

  10. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    I also think that historic preservation in The City is more often than not a ploy used to merely block development that displeases incumbent parochial interests, but in this case the existing building does have character and does not deserve to be replaced by a boring soulless rectangle.
    The existing building at least says something about and has a connection to the neighborhood. The proposed replacement could be built down on Pine Street in the Financial District with no changes and no one would say anything.
    The project architect is Jacobs Global Buildings and I hope the completed project is a lot better looking than this, but I won’t bet on it.

  11. Posted by futurist

    A development we might be better off without?
    Are you speaking for all of the members of the Asian community who live there who depend on this hospital for their health care needs?
    The existing building (s) are woefully inadequate in many ways: structural safety, medical technology and healing environment. As a former health care architect, hospitals are among the most complex and expensive buildings to design and build, more so in a dense urban environment as this one on Jackson St.
    The new building will address and solve all of those issues. I think it’s pretty hard to judge the outcome of this project by one digital rendering of the street view.

  12. Posted by Jackson

    I agree with others the old Chinese Hospital Administration building has much more character than the proposed structure.
    However, the facts are Chinese Hospital desperately needs additional space to service its clientele.
    I’m sure the Chinese community is very capable of deciding the benefits versus costs of retaining/retrofitting the old structure.
    The SF Planning Commission should support the Chinese community in light of the medical needs in Chinatown.

  13. Posted by Snark17

    Lovely old building. Would be a shame to lose it. Agree the new one is terrible.

  14. Posted by badlydrawnbear

    While I understand some of the comments on purely aesthetic reasons, if you read the summary of the proposal you would see that this project would provide a substantial expansion of facilities and services to serve the local community.
    You might lose some fake pagoda details but you are gaining hospital beds, acute care services, and greater community health.

  15. Posted by futurist

    @bear: That’s how I view the project: much needed and expanded facility to serve the local community.
    The fake pagoda details are pretty minor in the scheme of things. I’ll bet we won’t find many within the Chinese community living there who opposes the new building.

  16. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    For what its worth I’m not suggesting that the old building be saved (though that would be nice). Just that its replacement not be such a brutish bland and out of place block. Surely a better replacement can be designed.
    Even if the new building were a basic block with a modern stylized Chinese motif it would be better that the proposed design rendered above. That design makes a passing oblique reference to Chinese aesthetics, kind of the way that some lovers of a dry martini wave a bottle of vermouth over their mix.
    And no, lotus shaped designs etched into the glass and other facade materials don’t cut it.

  17. Posted by dd

    I don’t care about preserving the old building, but for god sake build something beautiful and modern not some ugly monstrosity…..

  18. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    I fail to see how the “substantial expansion of facilities and services to serve the local community” somehow necessitates the building of a soulless, bland structure that has no connection to the neighborhood.
    Also, even if we accept that the original building was built in another era and isn’t up to modern standards of seismic safety, it does not follow that the replacement simply must be a bland box that could be built in Anyarea, Anycity, U.S.A, with a sponsor/owner of Anyorganization.
    The project architects could have satisfied all the requirements for increased “hospital beds, acute care services, and greater community health” without creating such a mass of undifferentiated blandness. That’s what architects are paid to do.

  19. Posted by lyqwyd

    it’s not “fake” pagoda detail, it’s pagoda detail, and quite nice if you actually look closely. The existing building is nicely detailed, has multiple articulations, and is aesthetically appealing. It’s proposed replacement is a hideous box with 0 personality, and isn’t even a good example of modern architecture, nor any connection to the surroundings. I like modern architecture, and believe it can work well when mixed in with old structures, particularly when it replaces an old soulless building. But this particular case is obviously value engineering at it’s worst.
    Like I said, keep the facade and expand up and back. The new portion can be modern or any style as far as I’m concerned. There are plenty of examples of newer expansions that preserve the existing facade, and they can be very nicely done.
    I’m perfectly happy to see the hospital expand, but I’m not happy to see a unique building replaced with a P.o.S.

  20. Posted by Toady

    What’s ironic is that the new building is probably more aligned with what’s going up in China today than the old building with some western view of the exotic orient.
    Fits the Disneyification of SF, though, to keep it.

  21. Posted by Toady

    “it’s not “fake” pagoda detail, it’s pagoda detail, and quite nice if you actually look closely. ”
    Blech. It is fake pagoda detail because, um, the building isn’t a pagoda.

  22. Posted by futurist

    @ brahma: I essentially agree with you. Unfortunately, the most important component you are leaving out is BUDGET.
    From several reliable sources I contacted today in the SF architectural community, all mentioned that Jacobs Global Buildings is known for delivering complex health care projects like this on time and at a very competitive cost. In other words, they can deliver to the client a cheaper building than many other firms could. To my knowledge, there is no local firm overseeing the design.
    The other factor is that the clients wanted a low cost facility, perhaps sacrificing design quality for more space.
    Jacobs is not known for superb design, but rather efficient buildings. I would agree that the exterior design could use improvement, but I won’t judge it until I see more complete design drawings and renderings. I also don’t excuse bland design because of a “cheap” budget.
    The directive by the client may give them a cheaper building, but also a blander building.

  23. Posted by Jackson

    I’m sure Futurist is correct with his statement of Jacobs Global Buildings delivering health care projects on time and at competitive cost.
    The Chinese Hospital as proposed isn’t the most beautiful, if money was no object.
    Have any of posters demanding costly changes ever set foot in Chinese Hospital to know of the current medical needs? The hospital has been serving the Chinatown community for years in a small cramped space.
    The Board of Chinese Hospital will make the best decisions on building a new structure based on their budget and needs.
    Of course, they want the most beautiful hospital possible as an asset to the neighborhood; however, money is an issue.
    For those outside of the Chinese community to pontificate and makes demands about perceived ugly building design smacks of paternalism.

  24. Posted by Dean Volker

    I live directly across the street from the Chinese Hospital and have thought a lot about the project. Chinatown’s aging population really needs this facility and a serious upgrade. It certainly isn’t earthquake ready. That said, the building is historic (Bruce Lee was born there!) and the front area with benches is an essential amenity in a neighborhood with few places to sit for moment. I’m in favor of the project, provided its street facade accommodates the residents as the old one did. Otherwise, we shouldn’t be quibbling about hospitals.

  25. Posted by Rillion

    So only chinese people are allowed to comment on the design of a building in Chinatown? Are only rich white people allowed to comment on the design of a building in Pacific Heights? Are only gay people allowed to comment about buildings in the Castro?

  26. Posted by wrath

    the better way to have put Jackson’s argument would have been to say, you don’t live there, it does not serve your community so why stick your nose in this?
    But, in any event, the more interesting aspect here is the one the editor raises & as to which no one seems to want to say anything……..

  27. Posted by lyqwyd

    @Toady
    The building not being a pagoda doesn’t make the detail fake. In fact, calling it “pagoda detail” is a misnomer as there are many buildings in China, built in the same time period, with the same architectural style that are not pagodas.
    @Jackson
    “The Board of Chinese Hospital will make the best decisions on building a new structure based on their budget and needs.”
    If they don’t have the budget then they should continue their fund-raising efforts until they have the budget to do something decent. Many other hospitals and other organisations have done the same, why are they different?

  28. Posted by lyqwyd

    @wrath
    true, and thanks for the reminder… it will be interesting to see how the mayor handles this in comparison to CPMC.

  29. Posted by futurist

    I don’t think that Jackson meant nor implied that others outside the Chinese community cannot comment on the new hospital.
    Like it or not, we all know that everyone in SF has a voice in the design of our city, both public and private. That’s how we do things here, not always successfully either. IMO.
    But, in truth, a lot of the comments are just off the cuff about the “blandness” or ugliness of the new building; without really understanding the back-story of the clients needs and directions, the budget and other factors that weigh heavily on the design. Cost is a HUGE factor in hospital design.
    Also: just looking thru the Planning Dept. documents at the basic plans, there is a large outdoor “porch” being planning on Jackson st. with benches and adjacent landscaping.

  30. Posted by Rillion

    Well accusing people that are not part of the Chinese community of paternalism for expressing a negative opinion of the design seems to imply that they are wrong to expressing their opinion.

  31. Posted by burner

    The top of the new design looks like the wing on a souped-up rice burner. Put in some green neon lighting around the pillars for ground effects and this baby is ready to tear ass down the Broadway tunnel

  32. Posted by Jackson

    Lyqwyd asks: “Many other hospitals and other organisations have done the same, why are they different?”
    The primary difference with Chinese Hospital, when compared to other hospitals with generous benefactors, is the population it serves.
    Many of the patients served by the hospital have Medi-Cal and very poor. The Chinese Health Plan serves this community on a bare bones budget.
    When the next earthquake hits, un-reinforced masonry buildings in Chinatown will collapse or be severely damaged.
    If the Chinatown community wants just basic, larger, structurally sound hospital now, rather than years in the future, I support their decision.
    As an asset to the neighborhood, I know they will build the best structure possible for their budget.
    Everyone on SocketSite has fun expressing their ideas; however, other than Dean Volker, I’ll wager few others will ever know the true medical needs of the Chinatown neighborhood.

  33. Posted by lyqwyd

    Saying you serve poor people doesn’t give you free reign to construct an ugly monstrosity.
    If earthquakes are their concern then they should reinforce the existing building.
    If their budget is too small to build a decent building then they should scale back their expectations, or seek additional funding.
    Far more people will be affected by the building than will ever use it, and the impact it will have on them is also worthy of consideration. I simply do not buy the argument that because there is more need for space that whatever the hospital wants should be granted. It’s a hideous replacement of an attractive building, and is therefore unacceptable to me, and seemingly many others.

  34. Posted by futurist

    Unacceptable to you?
    Ok, well……..
    Some simple facts:
    1. Many in SF think any building over 2 floors is a “monstrosity”. We get your opinion.
    2. A seismic upgrade on a functionally deficient building would be a serious waste of the client’s money. It’s NOT going to happen.
    3. What is a “decent” building? Asking (or almost demanding) that a hospital client seek “more funding” to make the building more attractive to you is a waste of resources.
    4. The client’s primary goal is to provide quality health care to their (low income) Asian clientele. That means a highly functional building that supports the best possible medical care the users deserve. It does not mean designing a “pretty” building that others are comfortable with. It means solving the clients program and budget, whatever that may be.
    Spending more money to make a beautiful building is not going to happen. Let this design evolve. Withold judgement, and understand the real challenges to designing an urban hospital in a dense environment such as this.
    I especially think there is a real arrogance in suggesting the client seek more money only to make the building more aesthetically appealing.

  35. Posted by around1905

    This is indeed an elegant building and I will be sad to see it go.
    Lets hope that in floating that monstrous rendering around, the real aim of the hospital board is to scare up enough funding to build something decent.

  36. Posted by BT

    The City demands changes to facades all the time. I, at least, am not demanding no new building–I’m opposing THIS new building at it is. I don’t think some changes making it more neighborhood friendly need be that expensive. For one thing, why couldn’t the exterior be a more compatible material? And what’s the point of that thing that looks like a vehicular “spoiler” on the roof?
    This extreme modernist cube just looks like it couldn’t care less that it’s in Chinatown and we should not obscure the fact that Chinatown is a resource important to the whole city.

  37. Posted by BT

    By the way, to all the posters wanting to know if any of us have ever been in Chinese Hospital, I say, “No–my hospital is California Pacific and I’m still waiting for the city to stop sucking blood out of that, so the changes being suggested to this building are quite minor by comparison. And until it’s been debated another decade, it’s ahead to the Cal-Pacific timetable.”

  38. Posted by EH

    The design of the new one is bland just so they can push through the idea of replacement. Don’t want to spend too much money or effort if Ed Lee isn’t able to make it happen. After that, the NIMBYs will get involved and people will demand that the ugliness be augmented in some way.

  39. Posted by futurist

    @ BT: look, you don’t really know what the exterior materials are going to be yet. Neither do I. It’s a placeholder rendering. BTW: what is compatible material? brick? stucco?
    A hospital building’s exterior needs to be almost maintenance free and able to last for decades.
    The sloped shading device at the roof may be part of a rooftop patient garden and outdoor space. It also may serve as a visual cornice to anchor the roof-line.
    This entire project will still be going thru a long (drawn out) review process with the Planning Commission and neighborhood groups. It will evolve. It will change.
    But I do know this: the client, a private health care entity, will not be “forced” to make the building exterior “acceptable” to The City, if that means cutting essential functional programmatic requirements.
    Quite frankly, I like what I see in a general way. This is a large, urban hospital, not a corner coffee shop.

  40. Posted by Snark17

    Hope the old building can be saved and the new hospital built somewhere else. The idea that only Chinese people should decide the fate of this beautiful structure is ridiculous.

  41. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    “When the next earthquake hits, un-reinforced masonry buildings in Chinatown will collapse or be severely damaged. “
    Wait. How did Chinatown escape the California URM retrofit ordinance? I thought that unreinforced masonry buildings needed to be retrofitted or razed in the 1990s.
    It can’t be that hospitals were exempt. That’s the sort of use that should be held to the highest EQ standards.
    Not that this old building is used as a hospital now anyways.

  42. Posted by BillyBalls

    Haven’t read the proposal, but I’m almost certain that seismic compliance is the major driving factor behind the new construction, second only to increased space for service offerings.
    Although both are non profit, the Chinese hospital’s mission strikes me as decidedly more locally beneficial than Sutter’s @ der neue CPMC.
    The space and geography constrain the design, which is outweighed by functionality and cost.

  43. Posted by Toady

    Lyqwyd claims:
    “The building not being a pagoda doesn’t make the detail fake. In fact, calling it “pagoda detail” is a misnomer as there are many buildings in China, built in the same time period, with the same architectural style that are not pagodas.”
    Uh, I doubt it. 1899 was during the decline of Qing Dynasty and in the middle of the western powers occupation. Many buildings in China built during this period were probably European in style instead of some weird occidental (i.e. white man’s) view of China.

  44. Posted by Stucco_Sux

    Its a great building. What a shame the tasteless toads will rubber stamp its demolition. San Francisco can be so backwards sometimes.

  45. Posted by Mole Man

    The most important thing about buildings is how they function. Hospital buildings need to be particularly safe and have many other constraints as well. In between every floor there is a space for mechanical and other systems that is big enough to walk around in. This construction is being proposed in order to expand and improve the services available.
    It is not possible to save old structures like this. The masonry merely gets in the way and can never be sufficiently secured to be safe. The aesthetics could be duplicated, but why spend extra money and reduce performance of the result in order to look backward instead of forward? Discussion needs to be based on realistic alternatives and not dreams.

  46. Posted by Rillion

    I think the problem is that this building doesn’t look forward either.

  47. Posted by BT

    @futurist: For the record, I’m a doctor so I know a little about hospital buildings. And I’ve worked in ones with all sorts of exteriors. The one where I trained (Duke U.) looked like a medieval castle on the outside. The argument that a hospital, in order to function and be earthquake safe has to look like a soulless cube is simply wrong. There are 2 reasons to look like that: Bad architecture and “value engineering” (AKA designing it to be cheap to build). Now I realize money doesn’t grow on trees, but once more–this is Chinatown. If Chinatown starts looking like the rest of the city, the city looses a resource that has value.

  48. Posted by Adam

    Let’s say that the new construction is not an improvement on the old building. Fine. But what makes it so? The old hospital building is set back from the street, so it feels less imposing on the street scape. It is not the tallest building on the block, and pagoda-details aside, it features a classical three-part centered front facade.
    The problem with the new building is simply that it looks cheap.It is a giant box. There was clearly no real thought put into its design beyond the most basic assembly. Instead of demanding the old building be kept, let’s demand that the architects be called back in to rework the hospital building some more. A few setbacks and some more carefully considered details would make the difference.

  49. Posted by Wai Yip Tung

    Many of these Chinatown architecture are basically Hollywoodized tourist gimmicks. Chinese people are not welcomed in US back then. After the 1906 earthquake, people try to boot them off and relocate them to remote places like Hunter’s point. Chinese merchants resisted. When Chinatown was rebuilt, they’ve designed the building with decorative Chinese elements like these tiled roofs. This give them some distinctive touch and help to attract tourists, which is a economic lifeline in Chinatown back then as much as today.
    As far as I know, these Chinatown architecture is not used elsewhere. If people in China has money, they probably rather built in chic Western style than a building with fake pagoda.

  50. Posted by futurist

    @ BT and Adam: I’ll add a few comments to both of you jointly.
    1. Again: I have mentioned previously that the CLIENT has chosen a design/delivery firm that offers cost effective and functional buildings. We cannot fault The Chinese Hospital for necessarily being very budget conscious. I doubt if they are looking to build a “trophy” building, neither are they looking to put up the cheapest possible project. There is a balance to their goals.
    2. Value engineering is a real and necessary part of architectural and engineering design to actually build what “you can afford”. If not, a project could remain just on paper. That’s reality.
    3. From my experience as an architect and part of many hospital design teams, the clients and staff, including doctors and nurses, will continually push for the most functional and patient friendly INTERIOR architecture over exterior design.They want the best OR’s, the best patient rooms, the best labs, radiology, etc. That’s where they want their money to go.
    4. Most architects will struggle to convince the client to spend a great deal of money on the exterior; Not to say the exterior should not be attractive, well constructed, and good use of appropriate materials. It should. Within the budget constraints.
    5. Hospitals are often “giant boxes” design to contain a myriad of complex rooms, mechanical and electrical systems. Setbacks and facade articulation can be nice and welcome, and appropriate. They often cost a great deal of money and can sacrifice interior functional spaces.
    6. Keep in mind this is a very dense urban space, with little or no room for staging, cranes, trucks, equipment,etc. Given that, I suspect this new building is already at the high end of cost, probably in the range of $800-1000 per square foot.

  51. Posted by jlasf

    I bet if the architects were asked about the design, they would spout some BS that the airfoil on top is a reference to the existing pagoda detail. Yeah, right.

  52. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    futurist – Of course the client here wants the most bang for the buck. But isn’t that true of almost every client? If other builders are held to exterior aesthetic standards then why exempt this hospital? I think that was the editor’s initial assertion here considering that the city extracted a lot from the CPMC project.
    And modern hospitals need not be ugly monolithic blocks. See the new main building at Valley Med in San Jose for example. It was funded by cash strapped Santa Clara county and also serves primarily low income medi-cal patients though they still were able to afford an interesting exterior.
    This Chinatown project seems to be more take than give.
    ————————-
    Jackson – I’m still interested in your assertion that Chinatown contains unreinforced masonry buildings. Which ones escaped the URM ordinance?

  53. Posted by futurist

    No, I wouldn’t define it the “most bang for the buck”. Not at all. But rather, spending money in the right way: and that means more money for the interior functions than for the exterior envelope.
    And I honestly cannot judge the eventual outcome much from this one single exterior digital rendering.

  54. Posted by sf

    I’m not saying that I oppose the building being torn down and a new one installed to be put to better use, after all, that is the definition of progress. I’m saying that the state of the new building is representative of our society at large, and it doesn’t look pretty. I thought SF was a fun, progressive, open minded, forward thinking society, not a caricature of itself.

  55. Posted by Toady

    “I thought SF was a fun, progressive, open minded, forward thinking society, not a caricature of itself.”
    You must be new around here.

  56. Posted by wrath

    “Many buildings in China built during this period were probably European in style instead of some weird occidental (i.e. white man’s) view of China”
    but were these European buildings some weird oriental (i.e., yellow man’s) view of Europe?
    inquiring minds want to know!

  57. Posted by wrath

    for an accurate description of SF please see
    (starting at 5:20):
    http://www.southparkstudios.com/full-episodes/s10e02-smug-alert

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