Tuesday, November 18, 2008

HMNMH Countdown: Reasons 2 and 1 To Say No

Reason 2: Friends Watching Out for Friends

Santa Clarita is growing into a bigger city by the day. However, the power players remain few, and they are all well-connected and interested in looking after each other. It’s all a bit incestuous, really.

Unsurprisingly, the Master Plan never had a chance of being fairly evaluated in this environment.

*City Staff. Do you remember the word “collusion” from way back in 2007? You know, the scandal around some advice that City staff planned to communicate to a former boss turned hospital lobbyist[1]? Perhaps you do. Well, that was one sign that a lot more “chatting” may go on behind the scenes than we ever normally hear about, which is troubling.

*The Signal. This paper has never given the expansion much in the way of fair, balanced coverage. Several of its stories have run like ads for the hospital and prompted me to ask “Who needs P.R. when you have The Signal?” more than a year ago[2]. An editorial[3] from this weekend was typical: “There are no guarantees in life, but thanks to critics of the hospital’s growth, there is a greater guarantee of a new hospital wing in the current version of the development agreement than there ever was before.” (Rejoice at will--we've got a chance!)

*City Council. We know that the Master Plan has two unfailing advocates on C.C.—Laurie Ender and Frank Ferry. So committed are they to the plan, in fact, that there was a movement to have them recuse themselves from the proceedings for being so unfairly biased.

Here I may break with the pack a little. I don’t think Laurie Ender's recusal would have been warranted. Sure, she got $30K worth of supportive election mailers from G&L Realty (albeit indirectly). But while she has expressed her support, she didn't cross certain lines. Mayor Pro-Tem Ferry, on the other hand, made it very clear that nothing would change his mind about approving the Master Plan. He should have recused himself, and could still save face by doing so.

In short, I don’t think the Master Plan has been weighed objectively. There are too many overlapping interests, and the City Council should recognize these are a driving force behind Master Plan support.

Reason 1: It’s Never Been About the Hospital

Despite appearances to the contrary, the Henry Mayo Master Plan has never had much to do with hospitals. HMNMH was in a financial crisis, so they sold land they had received as a gift to for-profit G&L Realty. G&L wants to make the most money it can from its land holdings. But rather than play by the rules and build medical offices that comply with zoning ordinances, they wanted more. They proposed a much bigger, denser project than was ever envisioned for this area of Valencia, one that would require special approval by the City Council. And for years, they have tried to use the proposition—not the promise—of a new Inpatient Building as leverage for getting what they want from the City of Santa Clarita.

Sure, there have been a few reductions, but the project remains much too large. 4 parking structures. 3 medical office buildings. 2 helipads. 1 inpatient building (maybe). 15 years or more of construction. It’s too much. To show that the Santa Clarita City Council expects applicants to respect the people of Santa Clarita, nothing less than a firm, unanimous NO to the Master Plan will do.

[1]Those kinder, simpler days of collusion
[2]Old post

No comments: