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Monday, Jul 15, 2024

Controversial Addition to Break Ground

One of the longest awaited groundbreakings in recent memory will take place May 12, when construction will commence on the controversial 101-bed South Addition of Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills. For more than two years, Community Advocates for Responsible Expansion at Providence Holy Cross (CARE) has requested that the hospital complete an environmental impact report for the $146 million expansion project, a move Providence isn’t legally obligated to make. In spite of the environmental concerns about the project, the City Council decided late last year not to overturn the Planning Commission’s July 2007 approval of the hospital’s expansion, clearing the path for construction to begin. Now, Holy Cross faces just one problem: The CARE coalition has filed a lawsuit against the city to stymie the project. The first hearing is set for July 14 and, depending on its outcome, construction on the project could be halted months after ground is broken. For now, though, the hospital is approaching the groundbreaking with an upbeat attitude. “It’s very exciting construction is beginning,” Holy Cross spokesman Dan Boyle said. If construction continues uninterrupted, the project will be finished sometime in 2010. “It’s a big project, and we’re ensuring everything is being done correctly.” Once complete, the addition stands to be the first “green” hospital building in the state. To earn such a designation, it will be certified through the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Grand Building Rating System. There are currently just three LEED-certified hospital buildings nationwide. The celebration of the project’s groundbreaking, to take place at 10 a.m., will feature a bevy of local dignitaries, including Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. Councilman Tony Cardenas has also been invited to appear. Holy Cross officials, such as Administrator Kerry Carmody, Bishop Gerald Wilkerson and Dr. David Solarte, who will serve as medical director of the project’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, will also be on hand. Though the suit against the city could eventually affect construction, Boyle feels that the hospital’s expansion project is just one of many issues involved in the court order. “This trial has a lot to do with city protocol, with how they approve projects,” he said. “It’s regarding much more than the Holy Cross construction project. It’s regarding protocols through the city Planning Commission and appeals through the City Council.” Because the CARE coalition did not request an injunction to stop construction, building will go on indeterminately until a ruling is given. Wayde Hunter, president of the North Valley Coalition of Concerned Citizens Inc., a CARE member, said that an injunction would have been filed but the group didn’t have enough money to make such a move. “For them, at this point to break ground, especially when an appeal has been filed and it is in Superior Court, it’s very risky for Holy Cross to go ahead and start doing what they’re doing,” Hunter said. “We’re talking about air. We’re talking about the parking, the traffic, the whole series of problems they’re not addressing.” Hunter, who lives in nearby Granada Hills and is a member of the Granada Hills North Neighborhood Council, believes that Holy Cross has not been a good neighbor. When CARE requested that the medical center build a parking structure to remedy what the group perceives as a parking shortage, Holy Cross officials told CARE that it had created more parking spaces than mandated by the state, according to Hunter. But CARE believes such standards are out-of-date and inadequate. Hunter said that many community residents who don’t know that the hospital is expanding already complain about how hard it is to find parking in the area. If Holy Cross had performed an environmental impact report, as CARE had requested, hospital officials would have had to find ways to minimize the project’s environmental effects, such as the perceived parking problems. However, performing an EIR would have delayed the project by 18 months, Holy Cross administrators argued. Moreover, the city Planning Commission only required the hospital to perform a mitigated negative declaration, which required it to revise the project to ensure that the environmental impact would be insignificant. CARE “is asking for an EIR no matter what, and we’re not legally required or recommended to have one,” Holy Cross Administrator Carmody told the Business Journal last year. But the EIR issue is not the only reason CARE opposes the project, Hunter said, for the group isn’t against the expansion itself. “That is my hospital,” he explained. “I live in Granada Hills, which is a few miles over, so why would I do anything to jeopardize my health services? I would like them to expand but not irresponsibly.” By breaking ground, he added, “They’re thumbing their noses at all of us.” Holy Cross officials maintain that, by completing the expansion, the hospital is adding much-needed beds during a period in which hospital closures are straining resources. “If CARE wins their lawsuit, the judge could basically rule that construction would have to stop,” Boyle said. On the other hand, the judge could rule that construction could continue, but the city would have to change its protocol for approving such projects. For now, “There’s no way of stating what effect (a ruling) would have on construction or whether we would appeal,” Boyle said. “There’s so many different scenarios that would have to happen.”

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