Sunday, August 19, 2007

Happenings: Henry Mayo "Revises" Expansion Plan

Your days are numbered, Community Holiday Tree. Pending approval of the newly revised Master Plan for Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital (HMNMH[1]), Parking Structure 4 will soon occupy the land to which your roots cling. More than 130 of your brethren shall also be required to not-exist-anymore to make way for three new Medical Office Buildings, four new parking structures, and a new Inpatient Building on the Henry Mayo campus[2].

Cross the annual tree lighting off the community calendar if the expansion of Henry Mayo is approved; faux picket fences offer little protection against Master Plans.

While few Claritans would willingly go to Henry Mayo Hospital with Holy Cross and UCLA less than an hour away, most agree that bringing more medical offices and hospital space to SCV is a good thing. After all, the community is growing. We need places to treat those who O.D. on meth in Canyon Country or get shanked in Newhall, and Henry Mayo will do just fine in a pinch.

What people don’t agree upon is how appropriate such a massive building project is at the present hospital site. There are residential neighborhoods immediately abutting HMNMH that might not be thrilled with multi-level parking structures and noisy medical copters replacing the quiet bank of trees they presently enjoy. Furthermore, McBean Parkway would become even more congested with traffic than it is at present with the doubling of hospital/office square footage proposed under the revised Master Plan[3]. At what stage in that plan the hospital makes itself more attractive to local residents I’m not entirely sure.

The revised Master Plan—shown below—hasn’t made (m)any local residents’ concerns go away. It’s essentially just focused on improving parking and ease of entry/exit at the hospital. Whether enough has changed to allay the fears of the City Council remains to be seen.

Try not to be distracted by the green vs. gray tree paradigm. The things that have really changed between the old (left) and revised (right) Master Plans are the location of structures in the lower right-hand corner and the alignment of McBean Parkway. These are available here on the City Website.

The expansion plan has, predictably, been the cause of a considerable amount of turmoil in the City. All the big names are coming out and calling out. The Newhalls, for example, have actually joined protests in front of Henry Mayo. This June, members of City Planning were publicly accused of colluding with the hospital[4]. All the while, Lynne Plambeck is in overdrive writing letters to set the City straight[5].

No one, however, has stood out more than Council Member Frank Ferry. In July, he memorably bellowed “You don’t attack city staff who has [sic] given their life for this community! You kill me, dude.” This was in response to fellow Council Member Tim Ben Boydston’s suggestion of inappropriate cooperation between hospital officials and the City[6]. But the quotable Ferry doesn’t stop there. Showcasing typical brilliance, he said of homes near the hospital "I would bet the home values of the nearby homes would increase, not decrease”[7] . The always possible escape of Pitchess Detention Center inmates from the hospital, however, might slow Frank’s anticipated rise in property value. (In 2004, one area man was rewarded for his proximity to Henry Mayo by being beaten with a steel barbecue brush wielded by an escaped maximum-security inmate wearing only flip flops and a hospital gown[8].) It’s hard to say if Ferry’s ignorance is willful or natural, but regardless, it seems that he might just be a little bit pro-expansion.

If one stays well away from the distracting minutiae of the hospital project, it’s really not that complicated of a problem. Determining an ideal solution, however, is impossibly complicated. It requires striking a balance between the hospital’s profit motives, the need to serve the community, and impacts on residents, traffic flow, and the environment. This, of course, means that the expansion plan will win out in the end.

The community will need a lot of healing after the dust has settled on Henry Mayo’s Master Plan. Luckily, the new HMNMH comes equipped with a healing garden—I imagine it’s being installed to prove that Henry Mayo is not entirely anti-vegetation. I’ll leave you to admire an artist’s rendering of the garden. Note that it includes two people very much in need of healing having both, by the looks of things, suffered third degree burns and lost their feet.

Also from the Planning Section of the City Hall website. Go there.

[1]That’s a palindromic acronym! Interestingly, the acronym for the phrase “a palindromic acronym” (APA) is a palindromic acronym itself! I’ll stop now.
[2]The Master Plan is summarized in this
[3]See No. 2
[4]From a June 14, 2007 Signal article by Kristopher Daams,
"Hospital Plan Stalls in Council"
[5]Plambeck's clear, reasonable arguments against the expansion can be read in this PDF, for starters. Look at the other Background Documents provided by the City if interested in the hospital issue.
[6]Jeff at SCVTalk provides the quotation and coverage here; also note that he obtained copies of the emails at the heart of the issue. Even though this happened a while ago, it's not at all a forgotten issue.
[7] From a June 13, 2007 Signal article by Kristopher Daams, Residents Flood City Hall for Henry Mayo Hearing
[8] Details here

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