HANNAH HEINEMAN, Mirror Contributing Writer
The lengthy construction of new facilities for St. John’s Health Center has created numerous concerns for residents that live near its facilities. Hospital officials discussed those concerns with residents at a neighborhood meeting on February 9.
A key resident concern was that the health center has decided to delay the construction of their $35 million, 422 space subterranean garage because their building budgets were exceeded during their other construction phases. The garage was supposed to be located underneath the new plaza that the health center would be constructing at the site of its old South Tower.
Tish Starbuck, St. John’s Health Center’s VP of Mission and Ethics, explained that the hospital had applied for an amendment to their Development Agreement (DA) with the City to defer building the parking structure. The garage was part of the DA because the newly constructed facilities were projected to bring an additional 29,000 daily car trips to the hospital area. The amendment request needs to be reviewed and approved by both the City’s Planning Commission and City Council.
Starbuck also mentioned the alternatives the hospital is considering to the subterranean parking garage. Their new plaza has been designed with 100 parking spaces and then they “want to build a 700 parking space stacked garage behind their John Wayne Cancer Center.” She also mentioned that the hospital began doing a new traffic study in November to help determine what their current and future parking needs would be.
Residents were concerned that the deferral of the garage would mean more health center users would be parking in the community. They also were concerned that the majority of the hospital-provided parking was valet and that cost would cause more hospital users to park on the city’s streets. Another resident issue was that the valets would cause additional traffic congestion because they have to drive cars several blocks before parking them.
Steve Sahagun who lives right across the street from the hospital on 23rd Street, stated that he could still smell hospital sewage. The hospital had sent a letter to the neighbors in December that claimed that issue had been dealt with by the hospital improving their ventilation system, installing a chemical treatment system, making mechanical improvements to their sewage system, and having their sewage pumping trucks parked farther onto the hospital campus.
The routes for ambulances coming to the hospital’s new emergency room located at 22nd and Arizona were also discussed. The DA specifies that 20th Street should be the primary route to Arizona Avenue and sirens should only be used when absolutely necessary so the nearby residents are not disturbed. Neighbors complained that ambulances from the Goodhew Ambulance Company and the Los Angeles Fire Department were not following these guidelines.
David Cole, who lives on 23rd and Arizona, told hospital officials he has observed “construction being done on Sundays” which is against city rules for when construction is permitted. The officials responded by saying they were unaware of this and would have appropriate staff check on this.
Residents suggested that a traffic light be placed at 23rd and Arizona to help control the additional dangerous traffic the new Emergency Room is creating. They also called for speed bumps to be placed on Arizona near the Emergency Room entrance and signage to redirect the increased traffic in that area.
Hospital officials stated that the next neighborhood meeting would be in about 60 days.
Contact Hannah Heineman