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Articles / 2010

Ventura council approves plans for new CMH

Ventura County Star
Monday, 12/06/2010
By Kevin Clerici

The Ventura City Council on Monday overwhelmingly approved plans for a modernized, six-story Community Memorial Hospital that would be constructed next to the existing hospital campus, which would be used as offices.

The council gushed about the proposal, which it sees as a catalyst for other investment in the city's midtown area that already features the existing hospital, Ventura County Medical Center and several nearby medical offices.

"I think it will really revitalize the whole medical district," said Councilwoman Christy Weir, who described the hospital as the largest project in terms of financial importance in her seven years on the council.

Councilman Brian Brennan called it a "world-class facility" both inside and out, because it includes street and landscaping improvements.

The hospital will sit alongside Cabrillo Drive parallel to the existing campus. Its creation was fueled by state requirements mandating hospitals meet earthquake standards by 2013. The project, along with anticipated retrofitting at Ojai Valley Community Hospital, could cost upward of $275 million.

Construction could begin next year. The existing hospital building would remain and might be used for office space, administration, laboratories and other services not covered by seismic regulations.

"I think it's the best design that I have seen, and I have visited scores of hospitals," Community Memorial Hospital CEO Gary Wilde told the council before the vote, adding he obtained an extension from the state to 2015, if necessary.

The replacement hospital will have private rooms, an amenity one doctor said was a big improvement on the semi-private rooms offered now. Last year CMH recorded more than 50,000 patients days, 2,600 births, 38,000 emergency room visits, served nearly 378,000 meals and completed nearly 1.6 million loads of laundry, according to hospital statistics.

The council's 6-0 decision, with Councilman Neal Andrews absent, changes the zoning to allow a hospital campus, accepts a study into the project's environmental impacts and creates a new form-based development code for the area that was created by city staff in parallel with the hospital proposal.

Numerous public meetings have been held over the past three years as the project has wound its way through the city's approval process. No one spoke against it Monday.

The city's Planning Commission last month also unanimously approved the proposal. Demolition of buildings in the area has already begun. A new street will be created as part of the project as will new landscaping along adjacent streets. A second phase will incorporate a parking garage.

Final action on specific design details, including landscaping, will be considered in January or February by the city's Design Review Committee, officials said.

"I think everyone agrees this is going to be a wonderful asset to our community," Deputy Mayor Mike Tracy said.