Children's Clinic Move Causes Stir

San Francisco mayor accused of shuttering mental-health facility for children in midst of campaign for higher office

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    This small clinic is the center of the continuing controversy over the budget submitted by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and approved by the Board of Supervisors.

    While San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom promised that he had a new respect for parents after becoming a father himself, representatives of a local union say his budget choices suggest otherwise.

    But as in all things San Francisco, it's complicated.

    Members of the Service Employees International Union Local 1012 are concerned about the closure of the Southeast Child-Family Therapy Center is located in San Francisco's Excelsior neighborhood, one of the few corners of the city with lots of working families, and primarily serves Spanish and Cantonese speakers.

    According to the mayor's office, the Fire Marshal deemed the building unsafe for lacking a rear door, so in the city budget the mayor shifted money for the building's rent and instead allocated more money for a new facility within the Silver Avenue Family Health Clinic a mile and a half away.

    "By placing the clinic at Silver, we think we'll see positive results because it will serve to integrate the mental health services with the physical health services already offered at Silver Ave," argued mayoral spokesperson Joe Arellano in an email. And certainly parents in Portola will find it easier to reach.

    However, Lucia Hammond, a social worker at the clinic who spoke on her own time as an individual, said the move was still a hardship for neighborhood families.

    "We pleaded with the mayor to keep this clinic in the Excelsior-Mission area," Hammond said, after arguing that "if you move it out of a certain community, it's almost like denying services."

    Arellano said taxi vouchers are being considered, but Hammond says working parents with multiple children just don't have the time.

    What this does demonstrate is that Newsom isn't likely to be able to count on SEIU, the state's fastest-growing union, to support him in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

    And without money and volunteers from unions, good luck against Attorney General Jerry Brown.

    Jackson West is just surprised the mayor's office actually got back to him.