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Mark Zuckerberg and wife give $75 million to S.F. General Hospital

Calls for the tech sector to give back to San Francisco through philanthropy yield one more result

Facebook founder and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, are donating $75 million to San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center in what officials say appears to be the largest single gift from a private donor to a county-run public hospital.

The facility, run by the San Francisco Department of Public Health, serves the city's poorest residents. It also provides San Francisco's only psychiatric emergency room and level-one trauma center, caring for airplane crash and gunshot wound victims, among others.

It is staffed by UC San Francisco clinical faculty and serves as a training ground for its medical students. Chan, who did her medical residency there, said in a statement that she knows "firsthand the vital health care and trauma services the hospital provides to anyone who lives, works or travels through San Francisco."

Neither Zuckerberg nor Chan was present at a news conference Friday held at the hospital to announce the gift.

A new, expanded hospital under construction on the Mission District facility's grounds is scheduled to open in December thanks to an $887-million, voter-approved bond. But far more had to be raised to finance its inner workings, including state-of-the-art equipment for an expanded emergency room, two additional trauma rooms and three more operating rooms, hospital Chief Executive Sue Currin said at the news conference.

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An elated San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee called the hospital "a great equalizer," for providing top-quality care to all, and stressed that the hefty sums required were beyond the city's abilities. "We needed the private sector."

The gift is the latest in a series of large philanthropic donations from wealthy tech sector executives. Their companies have transformed the city in recent years, with a flood of workers who have sent housing costs soaring.

The changes have triggered spirited protests against Google buses that transport workers to Silicon Valley, an outcry against tenant evictions and displacements, and a scapegoating of techies by some in what has amounted to a culture war.

A home that Zuckerberg purchased and is upgrading in the fast-gentrifying Mission District has also been the focus of hostility.

Lee, who has welcomed tech companies to the city as job creators, has made the push for private philanthropy a cornerstone of his administration. He recently unveiled intentions to prod tech sector leaders to donate funds to help solve the housing crisis and has welcomed private infusions for education.

His strongest allies have included Salesforce.com founder Marc Benioff, who has challenged others to give and who with his wife, Lynne, donated $200 million to the renamed USCF Benioff Children's Hospitals in San Francsco and Oakland; and venture capitalist Ron Conway, who with his family donated $40 million for the UCSF Ron Conway Family Gateway Medical Building at the universty's new Mission Bay hospital complex.  

The process has now begun to rename this latest new facility the Priscilla and Mark Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, said Amanda Heier, chief executive of the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation.

San Francisco Giants CEO Larry Baer, who with his wife co-chairs the capital campaign committee for the new facility, said Friday that he believed the gift "would inspire others. Priscilla and Mark: We can't tell you how much you've done to set an example." 

Public reaction was mixed.

In comments on sfgate.com, the San Francisco Chronicle's website, some responded with sarcasm and skepticism. "Are we supposed to applaud Mark Zuckerberg and the tech industry for what impresses me as image laundering and superficial altruism?" one person wrote.

Others expressed gratitude: "Slowly and by the millions, I'm warming up to this couple. Props to the Zs."

And, as tech's footprint here got a bit larger, one commenter probably spoke for many: "Lived in SF for many years in 80's and, these days, noticed the significant changes in buildings and people. Its a great city and hope it still can find a balance between the new techies and the old SF culture."  

Twitter @leeromney

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