December 14, 2013 Meeting Summary


E-mail and phone reminders


8 members


Susan brought scones


Agenda Items:

The meeting began about 11:17 am

  • Development proposed for former St Luke property
    • A new development plan for the former St Luke property, at 2632 Washington Blvd, has been publicly revealed.
    • A little history:
      • St Luke Hospital served the community from the early 30s until it was closed in 2002.  It was said that they were losing too much money, and the state requirements for earthquake renovation of the old building were too expensive to surmount.
      • The main hospital building and its chapel, built in 1933, are designated by the city as an historic resource.
      • A newer medical office building on the eastern portion of the site has remained open, but no new leases have been signed in the intervening years and it hasn’t been kept up well, so there is lots of empty space in it.
      • The site was sold to Caltech in 2003, which intended to use it for research and development space.  Caltech made some use of it, but circumstances changed and Caltech sold the site for a huge sum during the mid-2000 real estate bubble.
      • The new owner at that time put together a plan that would have put up many huge buildings including thousands of apartments.  The adjacent neighborhoods were appalled and began to fight.  But then the bubble burst, the economy tanked, and that development company went bankrupt.  The old buildings remained vacant and unmaintained all these years.
      • Last year the property was purchased out of bankruptcy by a different company.
    • On November 21, a community meeting was held in the vacant hospital building to describe new development plans and get community feedback.
    • On December 9, a Preliminary Plan Review (PPR) of the proposed development, with much the same information, was presented by City Staff to the City Council.  Here are links to the Staff Report and Maps and Diagrams.
    • The new owner, a father & son owned and operated development business, were present at both meetings.  Their names are something like Neddy Balour and David Balour (not sure of spelling).  They said at the community meeting that their company tends to hold onto their properties and manage them for the long term.
    • The new plan:
      • The property will be used for medical care, but not a hospital.
      • The existing hospital building and chapel would be renovated in accordance with historical preservation standards.  Plans are being developed to use it for an urgent care center, state of the art radiology center, outpatient surgery center, 23 hour birthing center, doctor offices, rehab services, potentially senior oriented services including fitness activities and/or senior day care.
      • There would be no overnight stay facilities and no emergency ambulance lights and siren deliveries.
      • The  two story Annex building, built in 1945, and a one story office building located behind (south of) the hospital building will be demolished.
      • Roughly where the Annex building is currently, a three story parking garage would be built.  It would be 30 feet tall (about the same height as the current Annex building) with 280 spaces.  Vehicle access to the structure would likely be primarily from the east on Washington Blvd.  Details about traffic flow and management would partly be determined by the results of a traffic study that must occur as part of the environmental study.
      • The existing surface parking lots would largely remain intact, providing 480 parking spaces, and providing a buffer with the single family neighborhood to the south.
      • The medical office building still in use to the east is not affected by this plan.  The new ownership will be fixing it up and signing new lessees.
      • An onsite power plant building would be retained and have a small receiving facility added to it.
    • Details of the new plan are not yet definitive.  The developer has been working with the City’s planning and permitting to develop their plan, but has not yet submitted a formal proposal to the city.  The presentation to the City Council was for information only, but a required step to notify the community of upcoming significant projects.   Once plans are formally submitted, the project will then proceed through the formal review process, including Design Commission review of the parking structure design, environmental study for the whole project, and Hearing Officer issuance of a Conditional Use Permit.
    • Some additional informal information provided at the meetings by the developer and their consultant:
      • The owner intends to retain the chapel as is, just restoring and maintaining.  It might be used for classes or meetings. It might be available for lease to one or more congregations.  They invited suggestions/proposals.
      • While the building will be strengthened and restored, state law does not require the same level of earthquake readiness as would be required for a hospital.  Therefore the expense is not as prohibitive as it would have been to continue use as a hospital.
      • The owner contracted GE to do a study of health needs in the community to determine what services are most in demand.
      • The site will not be under the control of any single medical group or management.  But the owner intends to manage the development and leases to have a synergy between the tenant uses.
      • The medical consultant said that the Del Mar urgent care center is already full every day with an average 2 hour wait and that more urgent care availability is needed.
      • They have been working with a young pair of “emergency room doctors” to plan the Urgent Care Center.  Those doctors were at the community meeting and led a tour of the former emergency room space, which is where they plan to set up the urgent care center.  They are hoping to set it up so there is better continuity of care including coordination with primary care physicians, labs, radiology, etc.
      • The radiologist planning to set up the radiology lab led a tour of the former x-ray department.  He commented about how the new digital equipment takes so much less space then the old equipment.  The intent is to have all state of the art x-ray, cat-scan, mammography.
      • The question was raised about why a big parking structure while keeping the surface parking.  The answer given was for convenience of patients.  They wouldn’t have to walk as far from the structure.  In reality, city code requires more parking for medical offices then it was for an inpatient hospital.  The number of patients coming and going is higher.  (And the neighbors should want there to be plenty of parking on site.)
      • A community member pressed for numbers of employees and patients.  The answer was it is too early, but the consultant provided some initial estimates:  8 physicians in urgent care, 4 patients per hour per provider, 4-5 physicians in the surgery center (doing things like colonoscopy and eye surgeries), 10-20 physicians with offices, on any given day 30-40 physicians total.
      • Planned hours of operation would initially be something like 9 am to 6 pm.  Greatest demand for urgent care is from 6 to 10 pm, and would expect to gradually expand to that.   Would have to have lots of demand to go overnight and don’t currently plan to do it.
      • Somebody mentioned intent to have a compounding pharmacy on site.
  • Curbs on corners of Santa Paula painted red
    • The city recently painted red on either side of the curb corners of lower Santa Paula Ave with the intersecting streets
    • This was in response to neighborhood resident’s complaints about people parking right on the corner, making it harder to harder for traffic to safely turn the corner.   PCC students had been parking on the corners for years, but it had become much worse when Kaiser employees were using our neighborhood for parking.
    • Why the red was painted only on either side of the corner and not on the curved portion is unknown.  Seems to extend further back from the actual corner then is necessary.
    • Receiving reports that now, after a few weeks, people seem to have stopped parking on the corners.
  • Local Crime Summary
    • For the last month, from
      • Sat Nov 9, 11:04 pm, 3000 block La Tierra St (stub of street adjacent to PCC parking lot), Assault – battery
      • Thurs Nov 28, 1:21 am, 600 block Sierra Madre Villa, Grand Theft Auto
      • Mon Dec 2, 6:23 am, 3100 block Del Vina St,  vehicle burglary (lock cut, tools stolen from work truck)
      • Sat Dec 7, 4:55 pm, 400 block Sierra Madre Villa, Vandalism – felony malicious mischief
      • Tues Dec 10, 7:16 pm, 3200 block E Foothill, Vandalism – misdemeanor malicious mischief
  • anything else attendees wish to discuss
    • Problem houses
      • Southwest corner of Santa Paula and La Tierra – Neighbors report this vacant house is deteriorating rapidly again, including apparent vandalism. Code compliance should be called to report the new problems to try to get the owner to protect it. Online permit records show the new owner/contractor attempted to get permits to rehab the house. But the plan was rejected in early August for multiple reasons but primarily the city wants the un-permitted converted garage to be rebuilt back to a garage that meets current code requirements. The online record doesn’t show any permit activity since August 5.
      • Boarded up house at 3175 Alameda St.   It’s going on 8 years since Code Compliance passed the case of an illegal garage conversion to the City Attorney after the owner ignored Code Compliance.  Condition of the whole property declined to totally appalling by 2009.
        • After requests for help were ping-ponged between city agencies and ignored for years, the attention of authorities was finally reached.  On October 8, 2009, the city’s CRASH unit descended on the house, investigated crimes that may have been occurring there,  boarded it up and fenced it off.  Thus the city “took possession”.  The owner was/is no longer allowed on the property except by permission of the city.
        • It has remained in this state ever since.  About once a year, after the neighbors have to complain again and again, the city sends a MASH crew to whack the overgrown weeds and haul away trash and debris. Neighbors have reported the property is repeatedly broken into and police have to be called.  There is no evidence the City Attorney’s office has taken any legal action beyond possibly filing a lien on the property for the costs of the city’s sporadic cleanups.  Reportedly any city legal action was put off at least once by the owner promising to sell the property.  Though Zillow shows a listing in late 2010 to early 2011, it wasn’t on the MLS and the price listed was at least double what it could possibly have sold for.  Somebody has paid the property taxes, at least through last year.
        • One recommendation that has been made by police and other city officials is to use the city’s Safe Streets Now program to take legal action.  Someone willing to put in time and effort to coordinate needs to contact everyone who is negatively affected by the property and then arrange for those interested to meet with the Safe Streets Now program coordinator.  Under Safe Streets Now, a city employee who is trained as a facilitator holds a workshop with interested neighbors to explain the program and determine if its a feasible course of action.  If the neighbors decide to proceed, the facilitator leads them through the process of putting together a portfolio of claims and sending legal demand letters.  All of this part is without monetary cost.  In the best of circumstances the targeted nuisance is abated to avoid the threatened legal action (unlikely in this case).  If the problem continues, then a Small Claims case is filed by each participating neighbor for a $75 fee.  The more individuals participating, the better.  Eventually, a judge could order the house to be sold to pay judgements. Then that has to be enforced somehow.  Obviously resolution through this route could take a very long time, but there is no evidence anything else is going to happen to resolve the situation.
          • The city’s Safe Streets Now program is under the Neighborhood Connections office.  Neighborhood Connections has a fairly new director, William Syms, [email protected], 626-744-7295
          • The Safe Streets Now facilitator is Nancy Tafoya-Gutierrez, [email protected]

Next meeting is January 11, 11:15 am, at Hastings Branch Library

Adjourned about 12:20 pm