Commission wants changes in hospital expansion plan

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals Commissioner Diane Trautman said the overall plan was too intensive a use for the site, which is in the lap of one of the community’s oldest neighborhoods. Newhall Memorial, facing competition in recent years from other medical groups, is seeking the city’s approval for its master plan, which would spell out how the facility could be built out over the next 25 to 30 years. A six-story, 100-foot-tall tower that would be centrally located on the grounds, a five-story parking structure and a four-story medical office building that would be built on the western border were the focus of attention during a neighborhood tour Tuesday. Commissioners said their tour – on which they scoped out the hospital parking lot and ventured into neighbors’ backyards at ground level and above the hospital – was eye-opening. Cherry-picker cranes crowned by red flags marked the heights of the three proposed structures. The improvements would not spill beyond the hospital’s borders. Some buildings would rise from current parking areas. Eventually, some older buildings could be demolished to make way for modern facilities. SANTA CLARITA – The city Planning Commission, weighing a proposed hospital expansion that could plant massive buildings along McBean Parkway, told hospital officials to go back to the drawing board after hearing protests from neighbors. On Tuesday, the commissioners visited Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital and examined an environmental report, paying particular attention to two spots: the western edge of the property that borders homes and the face of the hospital complex on McBean. The hospital’s long-term project calls for adopting a master plan that would allow for structures taller than the existing two- and three-story buildings. Commissioner Michael Berger said a five-story parking garage needs to be scaled down or residents whose homes would sit in its shadow “will not see the sun come up till noon.” On Tuesday evening, hospital officials made a case for the master plan. Roger Seaver, Newhall Memorial’s president and CEO, said specialists who would occupy the medical offices would complement essential services offered by the hospital, and they in turn would benefit from being clustered near the facility. A cancer specialist who has consulted with the hospital since the early 1980s has seen the medical community morph from a pool of general practitioners to include specialists, and he does not foresee it dwindling. “There is an increasing need for space for specialists,” said Dr. John Barstis. Barstis is on the faculty at the University of California, Los Angeles, and serves as medical director for the UCLA cancer center in Santa Clarita. “We need to have space on campus.” He said the hospital is in a bind because while it is tight on space, its need and ability to provide specialty care has grown. Homeowners from the North Village homes and The Summit, bordering the hospital grounds, have been vocal about preserving their quality of life, which they say will be tarnished if massive buildings loom over their homes. The commissioners, who accept the premise that more office space is needed, also agree that quality-of-life issues are important. John Vedder’s yard lies about 70 feet from where the four-story medical office building is planned. “I was shocked and my wife was crying,” he said. “You can no longer see the sky.” He also is concerned about increased traffic and pollution and noise from cars in the parking garage, which would not be far from the community pool. Solidarity was expressed in the form of clapping and “amens” from many who oppose the project in its current form. Several of those speakers favor the development of a satellite facility, which they say would reduce congestion and improve emergency response times. “I’m opposed to a parking structure overlooking my backyard,” Eileen Blankenhorn said. “Henry Mayo is located in the oldest part of Valencia. We need another hospital on the east side of the valley.” Chris Blankenhorn seemed to sum up the mood of the opposition crowd when he said, “It is too much for one neighborhood, not enough for one valley.” Some homeowners questioned the relationship between the nonprofit hospital and G&L Realty, which would partner with the hospital on the expansion. About 40 percent of the hospital campus is owned by G&L Realty Corp., which develops medical-related properties. The company provided an infusion of cash when the hospital went into bankruptcy several years ago. However, the company can only lease space to doctors who are residents practicing at the hospital. “Part of our agreement with the hospital is that all doctors who lease on campus must be on staff at the hospital,” said Richard Gottlieb, vice president of G&L. Hospital officials said it would be prohibitive to relocate the main hospital to another spot in the valley. They did not rule out someday building a satellite medical facility in the eastern part of town, but said right now it is critical to attract specialists who will practice close to the hospital proper, rather than duplicating existing basic services elsewhere in town. Industry professionals say construction and other costs have driven up the price of building a new hospital in California to $1 million a bed. Seaver said a new hospital would need to provide at least 100 beds. Private investors would need to be tapped to fund such a venture, he said. Newhall Memorial serves a 680-square-mile area. Commissioner Dennis Ostrom asked senior planner Fred Follstad whether the hospital will meet the future medical needs of the Santa Clarita Valley and whether any competitors are on the horizon. When Follstad said others had not submitted proposals, Ostrom concluded that the city is taking a passive approach to the situation. Providence Holy Cross Medical Center, which recently opened a $47 million outpatient medical facility in Santa Clarita – its first in the community – is planning to spend $116 million for a 101-bed expansion of its Mission Hills facility. Kerry Carmody, an administrator for Providence Holy Cross, said, “We continue to look at opportunities to meet the growing health-care needs of the Santa Clarita Valley.” In the meantime, one out of six patients who visit the Mission Hills facility is from Santa Clarita. Commissioners asked whether city planners could devise an overall medical services strategy for the community. Planning manager Lisa Hardy said she would deliver the request to City Manager Ken Pulskamp. The hospital’s master plan is envisioned in two phases. Phase 1 would include projects that would be built in the near term as the need arises. Phase 2 is the balance of the 25- to 30-year build-out, said Jeff Lambert, a consultant for the hospital and the city’s former planning director. The developers could scale down the project by half, they could relocate garages to the interior of the property and they could reduce the height of the proposed buildings by a story or two. The goal is to pay particular attention to the architectural design and to ensure that the improvements are compatible with the community of Valencia. Other projects, including an emergency room expansion, a corridor connecting the nursing pavilion to the main hospital and relocating the helipad to the roof of a building have already been approved. After the public hearing was continued, Vedder commended the commissioners for performing due diligence and for their common sense. “You can’t have that kind of intense use close to homes,” he said. Judy O’Rourke, (661) 257-5255 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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