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Future Needs for City Hospitals:

Officials from both St. John’s Health Center and Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center discussed their land use needs with Santa Monica’s Planning Commission through a joint presentation.

The Commission was interested in their input because the City is in the midst of updating its land use and circulation elements which are both part of the City’s General Plan. The land use element delineates the distribution of different types of buildings (housing, business, industry, open space, etc.) while the circulation element sets out the location of existing and proposed roads, highways and other modes of transportation. The zoning ordinance translates the land use element’s goals and objectives into standards and procedures. They were last updated in 1984.

At the November 1 meeting, Lou Lazatin, President and CEO of St John’s, noted that Santa Monica has a “larger population of seniors than the rest of Los Angels County” and a larger number of residents who are between 50 and 64, which means “over the next 15 years” there will be more of a demand for healthcare in the community. Currently, there is a shortage of nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the City, which has resulted in a “bottleneck for hospitals” when it comes time to discharging patients. They also “anticipate Santa Monica residents competing with other Westside residents for hospital services, especially emergency services, if vulnerable Westside hospitals are permanently closed.” Therefore, hospital officials suggested the City “plan for an increased hospital care and post-hospital care demand from a proportionately higher Santa Monica geriatric population.”

Facilities planning to meet these needs could include increasing licensed bed capacity and more ambulatory care facilities such as medical office buildings, outpatient surgery facilities and more detoxification/substance abuse programs.

Posey Carpenter, the President and CEO of SM-UCLA Hospital, stressed there was a real need for “affordable workforce housing” because of all the employees at both hospitals. “Only 8.8 percent of the employees live in Santa Monica, and of the 1, 914 physicians that we share between the two hospitals only 16.7 percent live in Santa Monica.” They contend that having more healthcare workers and physicians who live locally will improve the healthcare received by patients, especially those in need of immediate treatment such as heart attack victims.

Other needs include “health care-related parking and health care-specific public transportation” as well as “ensuring safe traffic and pedestrian flow and adequate lighting” around both hospitals “to ensure employees and patients are safe.”

In other business, the Commission heard suggestions for integrating City policies and good tree management practices into the land use update from Walter Warriner, the City’s Community Forester and Public Landscape Superintendent. His recommendations include the need to “identify neighborhoods with significant trees, set design standards to assimilate trees, establish tree preservation requirements [and] require new trees as part of development.”

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