Cover Story
San Francisco Weekly
December 16, 2009

Laguna Honda Featured in "The Worst-Run Big City in the U.S."
by Benjamin Wachs and Joe Eskenazi

Isn’t it interesting that the local media is finally starting to pick up on the story that the rebuild of Laguna Honda Hospital has become a taxpayer boondoggle, horribly mismanaged?  Hats off to Benjamin Wachs and Joe Eskenazi for featuring the Laguna Honda rebuild project as an “example of the best of San Francisco at its worst.”

Wachs and Eskenazi lead off their December 16 cover story with:

“It’s time to face facts:  San Francisco is spectacularly mismanaged and arguably the worst-run big city in America.  … and no one is made to answer when the city comes up short.”

They then ask, rhetorically:

“Who is to blame for this city’s wretched state of affairs?  Yomi Agunbiade, that's who.  Metaphorically, that is.”

Wachs and Eskenazi were referring to the former General Manager of San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Department, who was appointed by Mayor Gavin Newsom.  The authors note that “city government is filled with Yomi Agunbiades – and they’re hardly ever disciplined, let alone fired.”

Comments from readers posted on SF Weekly’s web site included this:

“Marking Yomi Agunbiade as the shining example of SF’s dysfunction was right on the money.”
Comment by Datzaright from SF on Dec 19th, 2009, 15:39 pm

Wachs and Eskenazi succinctly desribe the state of affairs regarding the Laguna Honda bond project, noting:

“Amazingly, this gets worse. After securing the bond funding to save Laguna Honda as a hospital for the elderly, the Department of Public Health began transferring younger, often dangerous and mentally ill patients there and mixing them among the old people. This went about as well as you’d think …
To cap it off, elder activists now worry that a 2009 Department of Public Health–commissioned report will pave the way for even more relatively young, mentally ill patients heading to Laguna Honda. The massively overbudget, behind-schedule hospital may not even end up primarily serving the elderly population that voters were promised it would.”

Wachs and Eskenazi also describe Mayor Newsom’s inept “Accountability Matrix,” “Accountability Index,” and “Accountability Report,” which three reporting mechanisms only chronicle the Laguna Honda rebuild debacle as being “In Progress.”  Wachs and Eskenazi did not know that line staff at Laguna Honda had suggested years ago that the Mayor include more detailed and more relevant accountability “outcome measures” for Laguna Honda residents into his accountability matrix — like the number of Laguna Honda patients receiving physical rehabilitation or restorative care annually, or who were successfully reintegrated to living in the community — but they were rebuffed by the Department of Public Health’s policy planners as being “too much detail for the Mayor.”

Nobody is made to answer to what is happening at Laguna Honda, least of all Mayor Newsom, who on June 21, 1999 as a then City Supervisor voted along with then Supervisor Barbara Kaufman against placing the Proposition A bond measure to rebuild Laguna Honda Hospital on San Francisco’s ballot, and who then voted on August 16, 1999 — again, along with Kaufman — against placing a proponent’s argument in the voter guide.  

As those of us who worked to gain passage of Prop. A in 1999 know, Newsom never wanted Laguna Honda rebuilt to serve the elderly at all, so it’s no small wonder that now just four months before the new Laguna Honda Hospital is set to be opened to the public, Newsom’s team is leading an effort to once again change Laguna Honda’s mission.

Since Willie Brown first appointed Newsom to be a Supervisor in 1997, Newsom has served for a dozen years leading the “Worst-Run Big City in the U.S.” in one capacity or another.

Isn’t Newsom as much to blame for the City’s wretched stated of affairs — and for Laguna Honda being prominently featured in Wachs’ and Eskenazi’s article — as Agunbiade is?  (Metaphorically, of course.)



Copyright (c) 2009 by Committee to Save LHH.  All rights reserved.  This work may not be reposted anywhere on the Web, or reprinted in any print media, without express written permission.  E-mail the
Committee to Save LHH.