Late night Council meeting refines questions and brings some answers
After a marathon session for the Santa Clarita City Council, the discussion regarding the Henry Mayo campus expansion plan will continue at the September 25th meeting. But some answers were presented by City staff and Henry Mayo, while pressing questions continued to be whittled down to their most precise forms yet.
Henry Mayo and their partner G&L Realty have been attempting to get a master plan for expansion passed through governmental proceedings for three years. The plan has changed and evolved as a result of City staff recommendations, elected official input and public comment. The plan currently proposes three medical office buildings, four parking structures and one inpatient hospital facility.
Discussion on the Developer Agreement was held until the September 25th meeting. The Tuesday night discussion did include a presentation by City staff that took a comprehensive look at the most recent list of changes made to the campus expansion plan. They are as follows:
- The time frame for the master plan campus construction has been changed from 25 years to 15.
- An alternate plan for easing traffic congestion resulting from the increased density at the Henry Mayo site has been identified. Previously, opponents of the plan had argued that the only mitigation for the traffic congestion that would occur would be eminent domain, which would involve the removal of up to five homes to create a dedicated right turn lane from westbound McBean Parkway to southbound Orchard Village Rd. The new alternative calls for a realignment of McBean Parkway to shift a portion of the road 12 feet, using space on the Henry Mayo campus. This realignment would extend across the entire hospital frontage along McBean. This would allow a right turn pocket the room needed. While the threat of losing homes in that area would be eliminated with this plan, some opponents still found room to criticize the alternative because it would involve the removal of 40 trees. As a side note, an additional 35 trees will need to be removed on the Henry Mayo Campus as a result of building construction.
- Medical Office Building one has been relocated to sit side by side with Parking Structure one.
- Medical Office Building two has been relocated further into the interior of campus, creating a larger buffer between the building and nearby homes.
- Architectural enhancements have been made to Medical Office Buildings one and two to make them more visually appealing.
- Parking Structure Four has been planned to have all three levels be wholly subterranean.
- Several outdoor patient plazas, walkways and a “Healing Garden” have been added to the plan.
A newly updated Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is being fine tuned at the moment, and will be released for public review in October. Normally it is required that the highly detailed EIR be in review for no less then forty-five days, but because the plan is modified, and not fully new, the City was able to apply for a shortened review period of thirty days. Mayor Pro Tem Bob Kellar, however, stressed his desire to still leave the EIR in the review period for either forty-five days or sixty, citing calls from the public to have more time to review the document. The rest of the City Council concurred.
There was also talk about parking at the hospital. While each building phase includes sufficient parking for the new construction, the overall Hospital campus would end up being parking deficient when the Master Plan is completed, according to present day parking codes. This is because buildings already in existence have different, older parking codes attached to them as opposed the present day codes that would be applied to the new construction. The issue is further complicated by the fact that buildings are subject to different parking allotments based on their individual uses. Since older buildings could see a change in their uses, Councilman TimBen Boydston asked that the whole campus be reevaluated and brought up to the same, present day parking codes. Mayor Marsha McLean voiced opposition to forcing older Henry Mayo buildings to live up to new code requirements. That issue is still on the discussion table.
Another issue related to parking was whether or not G&L would charge for parking at the Henry Mayo campus. Currently there is no such discussion in the plans, and if in the future G&L would like to charge for parking, it would require them to acquire a Minor Use Permit. But opponents of the plan have charged that a majority of G&L’s other properties charge for parking. Mayor Pro Tem Bob Kellar asked for a condition to be placed into the Development Agreement that would outright ban G&L from charging for parking, an idea TimBen Boydston promptly agreed with. However, Councilmember Frank Ferry asked that a study be done to compare paid parking to non paid parking, and Mayor McLean agreed. So that study will be looked into.
Perhaps the largest issue covered was an actual commitment to building a hospital facility. Some of the fiercest criticism thrown at the hospital was that Henry Mayo CEO Roger Seaver could not guarantee building a hospital. Seaver had stated that this is because the act of building inpatient hospital facilities is one shrouded in state regulation and strategic complexity. Tuesday though, every councilmember called for some form of commitment to building a hospital before other components of the plan could be enacted.
“Every ounce of my energy is committed to expanding the hospital services,” Seaver said to the Council. He went on to describe the impossibility of guaranteeing that a hospital would be built, for the same reasons listed above. But he did state he was willing to commit to starting construction on a new inpatient hospital facility before construction on medical office building three was started. That marked a new milestone in the discussion.
So the debate will continue on September 25th and likely into the following months. However, Tuesday did see significant progress in the plan, which is very different then it was three years ago when it was originally brought to the city of Santa Clarita.