CARDIFF-BY-THE-SEA — Residents concerned about the increase in traffic and roadway safety along the narrow streets bordering Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas gathered early Nov. 17 to protest the proposed expansion.
The “Have a Heart” demonstration was designed to alert more of the community to the potential impact of the hospitals’ proposed expansion according to nearby resident Gina Renteria.
“They are only required to notify residents within 500 feet, so a lot of people aren’t aware of the significance of the construction on the entire community,” she said.
The plan calls for an expansion from the current 333,380-square-foot facility to 874,692 square feet on the 28-acre hospital campus. Hospital officials have said that the current facility does not meet the demand for services.
The five-phase expansion includes a parking structure and medical office buildings, increasing the size of the emergency department, reconfiguration of the main entryway on Santa Fe Drive with new lanes and gates, a rooftop helipad atop a three-story critical care building and a three-story acute care building.
The hospital is bordered by Devonshire Drive to the west, I-5 to the east and Santa Fe Drive to the south.
During the last phases of construction, two buildings would reach 59 feet above grade level, making them the tallest in the city. In phase four of the construction, a westward expansion of the main hospital building with a three-story, 78,000-square-foot critical care building is planned.
Phase five of the plan calls for a 92,000-square-foot acute care building. Neighbor Cheryl Steward questioned the hospital’s claims that the main reason for the expansion is to increase urgent care when that is the last element in the construction plan. “If they need more hospital beds in the area then, why not build those first?” she asked.
Hospital officials did not return calls for comment.
Renteria said the “Neighbors of Scripps Encinitas” group is offering a solution to the anticipated increase in traffic and off-street parking by hospital staff, patients and visitors. “We would like the entire campus to be surrounded by a physical barrier,” she said. The hospital erected a six-foot wall separating a portion of Devonshire Drive.
Because the city considers arterial roads able to maintain 14,000 trips per day, Renteria said the environmental impact report did not reflect a significant increase in traffic despite the 162 percent expansion of the hospital. “We’re also trying to work with Scripps to reroute traffic to a street that is dedicated to serve the hospital so that neighboring streets will feel less impact,” she said.
Encinitas resident Patricia Burnand said she came out to protest because of the size and scope of the project. “I’m just astounded that they (City Council) would let this happen knowing the traffic impact and how dangerous it could be,” she said.
The project will go to City Council after the Planning Commission’s Nov. 20 ruling, which was not available as of press time.
Bill Welch, a resident who lives just east of Interstate 5 overlooking the hospital, said he supported the solutions proposed by the group. “We keep dumping on this neighborhood in Cardiff,” he said, referring to the hospital expansion and the Hall Park proposal. “We see this disconnect between what the City Council and the residents (want),” he said. “I’m afraid they (City Council) will once again overrule the Planning Commission’s decision and do whatever they want without taking the scope of the project and the impact on the neighborhood into consideration.”