HANNAH HEINEMAN, Mirror Contributing Writer
Saint John’s Health Center’s New Howard Keck Center is now fully operational.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new center was in July, and by September all non-patient-care departments had moved in. Patient care was delayed at the new center as the State’s budget crisis had delayed the licensing of the new facilities. Many of the remaining departments completed their move in December, and the final departments moved in early January. The new center houses all of the departments that were previously housed in the hospital’s South Tower.
Gregory Harrison, the health center’s Director of Marketing and Business Development told the Mirror that now that the hospital’s construction is complete there would be less traffic and parking issues because a smaller crew will be needed for the demolition of the South Tower. Preparations for the demolition will begin at the end of January. The tower’s site will then be configured to hold a plaza, park, and drop-off area. The plaza and other facilities are projected to be complete in the spring of 2011.
“The hospital had done parking studies on their parking needs for now and for up to three years out,” according to Harrison. That report was then submitted to the City of Santa Monica. Originally, the hospital planned to build a 442-space subterranean garage under the old South Tower site. Now, the hospital has asked the City to defer the garage partially for financial reasons. The cost of the proposed garage was at least $30 million.
Another issue the hospital has dealt with is the unpleasant odors that hospital neighbors were dealing with when the hospital’s sewage system tanks were being cleaned. According to a letter sent out to the hospital’s neighbors in December, “the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) mandates that hospital sewage systems must be capable of storing sanitary waste for 72 hours in case of disasters such as earthquakes.” Therefore, sewage is held in the hospital’s storage tanks before being emptied into the City’s sewer system, and this results in sludge build-up in the tanks. The City asked the hospital to empty the holding tanks once per month to clean out the sludge.
The letter also states that the hospital has improved its ventilation system, installed a chemical treatment system, and made mechanical improvements to its sewage system in order to eliminate the odor. In addition, now that construction is complete “on the new hospital, pumping trucks are parked farther onto the hospital campus to minimize the odor in the neighborhood.”
Harrison also said that the hospital would soon be hosting a community meeting regarding its new emergency room operations which are housed in the Howard Keck Center. Its Development Agreement (DA) with the City requires this meeting. A DA is entered into when a project contains parameters that are outside the limits permitted in the City’s zoning codes. The developer is permitted to exceed these limits in exchange for providing public benefits. The hospital’s DA required that ambulances only take certain routes into the emergency room so siren noise does not disturb nearby residents.
Construction of the new Saint John’s Health Center means demolition of its South Tower.
According to Harrison, demolition begins at the end of January and will last roughly six months. The Health Center is consulting with Pacific Environmental, a demolition engineering expert, to help ensure that everything goes smoothly, safely and according to the law.
The first step of the demolition process is abatement which helps prepare the tower to come down and includes putting up fencing, scaffolding with screens, signage along with the appropriate noticing, constant oversight and monitoring.
Harrison pointed out that, “No explosives are going to be used to bring down the tower. However, heavy equipment will be in use and dust controls will be instituted.” Water will also be used to control dust.
Asbestos removal-related work will be conducted within regulated areas, utilizing the wet methods that are required by law. Only a licensed and certified asbestos abatement contractor will perform any asbestos abatement activities, Harrison noted. During all abatement activities, he said a certified third-party consultant will perform compliance inspections and air monitoring to ensure the effectiveness of the work controls.
The Health Center will also be taking steps to mitigate traffic problems during the demolition process. Harrison mentioned much of the work will be contained in the Health Center’s campus and many of the building materials from the demolition will be reused to fill in the site, reducing hauling.
Noise from the demolition will be mitigated by the Health Center following the construction hours permitted by the City of Santa Monica.
Contact Hannah Heineman