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Hospital says suit won’t stop expansion

Situation with SCOPE described as ‘at a standstill’

Posted: April 4, 2009 8:21 p.m.
Updated: April 5, 2009 6:00 a.m.

Settlement of a lawsuit filed after the City Council signed off on Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital’s 15-year master plan continues to elude Santa Clarita officials and local activists.

“It’s just basically at a standstill,” said Lynn Plambeck, president of the Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment, which filed the suit last December along with Community Advocates for Healthcare SCV.

“We thought we made reasonable requests,” Plambeck said Thursday. “We continue to hope to hear something.”

The lawsuit was filed Dec. 22 in Los Angeles Superior Court by SCOPE and Community Advocates for Healthcare.

The suit claims the master plan’s environmental impact report is insufficient and that it contains insufficient assurance that hospital inpatient rooms will be constructed. The road to expanding the Santa Clarita Valley’s only hospital has been paved with years of controversy.

Residents have claimed the plan calls for too much development on a Valencia campus surrounded by residential neighborhoods, that it calls for too much medical office space versus hospital space, and that it does not address the needs of residents of the east side of the valley.

So far, there has been an initial settlement meeting with the parties involved, Assistant City Attorney Joe Montes said.

“Those talks are continuing,” he said, and added there is a status conference scheduled for April 22.

“We do think that there’s ways to solve the issues that we have,” Plambeck said. “I think we had a good discussion to try to understand each other’s point of view.”

The suit also claims the EIR does not comply with the California Environmental Quality Act and that the city’s approval of the project violated its own code and ordinance, which require the zoning regulations for master plans to conform to the underlying building regulations for that zone.

Earlier this year, City Attorney Carl Newton said in a worst-case scenario, the hospital could theoretically be forced to re-submit a master-plan application. Alternately, the court could find only certain parts of the EIR need to be addressed. Nothing in the lawsuit prevents the hospital from moving forward with its plans, and Newhall Memorial officials have said they intend to keep the ball rolling.

The $300 million expansion calls for three medical office buildings, a central plant, four multilevel parking garages and an inpatient building.

Hospital officials plan to begin construction on the first parking structure this year.



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