Embryonic Stem-Cell Center Lands in San Francisco

San Francisco was chosen Friday as the headquarters for California’s controversial $3 billion stem cell program after the city put together an $18 million bid that included 20,000 square feet of rent-free office space and other perks for the next 10 years.

Supporters of stem-cell research, including some businessmen, politicians and scientists, applauded the choice, calling it a “strong selling point for biotech business recruitment.”

"There is no question it will be an anchor for business," said SF’s Mayor Gavin Newsom after the vote. "This secures our future as a point of destination for discovery."

However, opponents of embryonic research, including evangelical Christians and Catholics, mourned the decision and its likely impact on a city already known for its gay-rights and new-age movements.

“San Francisco is a city that is very much in need of a spiritual revival,” said Bill Wagner, Professor of Cross-cultural studies at the Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. “And this stem cell move will not be very helpful.”

According to the Associated Press, no actual stem cell research is planned at the headquarters. The main role of the 17,000-square-foot office will be administering the $3 billion state-funded research grant that was approved by California voters late last year under Proposition 71.

Vicky Evans, the coordinator of “Respect Life” – a pro-life ministry within the Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco, said her office “vehemently opposed the whole issue” from the start.

“It’s the foundation of the whole issue we are opposing,” said Evans. “The fact that Prop 71 passed did not make us happy and the fact that this will be headquartered in SF does not make us any happier.”

Evans further explained that stem-cell research is “unethical” and “unjust.”

“I don’t think this is a victory for the city because stem cell research is unethical at its core,” Evans said. “You are creating life in order to destroy it in the name of research and the ends does not justify the means.”

Under the new plan, San Francisco will provide 2,600 free hotel rooms and discounts on another 14,000 rooms. The city will also give the stem cell research institute free access to several conference centers and the free use of 46,000 square feet of laboratory space at the San Francisco General Hospital. Supporters of stem cell research hopes this new space may draw thousands of jobs to the state each year.

``The hope is that the spillover effects of the administrative headquarters will result in more companies starting there and growing there,'' said Ross DeVol, director of regional economics at the Milken Institute in Los Angeles to AP. ``They're hoping to convert it into longer-term economic development opportunities.''

Economic potentials aside, Wagner said that while he is in “favor of progress that brings a better way of life to San Franciscans,” he fears the move will hinder the city’s spiritual growth.

“We are happy about the growth of the city, but we question the ethics of this research,” Wagner explained. “We feel this does not respect life as we view it from a Biblical point of view.

“We are not sure that we would want San Francisco to be known in an anti-Christian light.”