It’s been a while since last we’ve checked in with the Community Holiday Tree (he goes by CT for short). CT is the Deodar Cedar who stands proudly on a grassy knoll in front of Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital. In previous interviews, he has expressed some deep misgivings about the campus expansion. There is good reason for CT to be nervous: he and dozens of his leafy kin will be hacked down to widen McBean and build a subterranean parking structure.
The developers say they’ll put in a new community holiday tree, but we heart CT! Offering the people of Santa Clarita a CT replacement is like telling the kids “We’ve decided it’s in our best financial interest to snuff out Scruffy. But hey, we’ll buy you a new puppy tomorrow!” How about this instead: CT and the other trees stay, approval for the Master Plan goes.
Richard Gottlieb (the G of G&L Realty) would rather have a parking lot than a beautiful holiday tree. The man who would steal Christmas from the children of Santa Clarita…bah humbug!
Reason 4: The Common Claritan Counts
Here I’ll be brief. Many, many Santa Claritans have come before City Council to give testimony on the hospital. Throughout the meetings on the HMNMH Master Plan, passionate voices of opposition have always out-numbered voices in support. The speakers have come from many backgrounds, but whether we heard Dr. Gene Dorio, Reena Newhall, David Gauny, or Cam Noltemeyer, the sentiment was the same: our community deserves a top-notch hospital, not to be sold out to real estate interests. The City Council would do well to listen to the community, something the Master Plan applicants have elected not to do.
Reason 3: “Overriding Considerations” = Blindly Optimistic Speculation Run Amok
If you read the HMNMH item on the Wednesday’s City Council agenda, you’ll find this statement:
“As a result of the significant unavoidable impacts of the project, if the City of Santa Clarita approves the Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital Master Plan, the City shall be required to adopt findings in accordance with Section 15091 of the CEQA Guidelines and prepare a Statement of Overriding Considerations in accordance with Section 15093 of the CEQA Guidelines. The Council must find that each of the unavoidable, adverse environmental impacts of the project identified in the section above is outweighed by environmental sustainability, economic, social, technological, and other community benefits.”
Whoever writes these things then endeavors to provide ten such “overriding considerations” to justify the significant, unavoidable negative impacts of the plan. Most of these arguments are laughable. Take consideration the first:
“The proposed HMNMH Master Plan project will provide needed hospital facilities […] The proposed expansion would allow for additional acute care hospital beds, additional technologies and medical service capabilities and specialties such as Centers of Excellence”
This is utter crap (or, if I choose to be polite, it's speculation run amok)! It is reckless and irresponsible to make it seem as though centers of excellence are coming when there is no binding provision for them in the development agreement. We can't just say that positive things that may happen justify negative impacts we are certain will happen. And that’s not even the silliest argument (this coming from someone who talks to trees, I know). Considerations 8 and 9 say the architecture and landscaping associated with the campus expansion will fit in well with the community. How, one wonders, does camouflaging a huge new project with shrubs and paint “outweigh” the fact that the project is too big to begin with?
These overriding considerations should be the crux of the approval process, clear justification for erecting concrete towers, over-building the hospital campus, and changing the face of a whole neighborhood. Yet, they are empty and meaningless. The only considerations I find valid and reasonable are those that say campus expansion will make some new jobs and that the helipads will help in emergency responses. But these alone are woefully insufficient reason to approve the Master Plan. I suggest you read all ten "overriding considerations" for yourself, and I offer you the letter below as additional, excellent meditation on this and other expansion-related subjects.
Read the agenda here
I very much recommend that you read this excellent letter. It's written by Christopher Townsley.