ENCINITAS — After months of working to appease surrounding neighbors, officials from Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas received approval from the Planning Commission to expand the facilities.
The decision came after six hours of public testimony and discussion by the commission as the clock struck midnight April 3. The standing room only crowd flowed into adjacent rooms at City Hall with doctors and nurses as well as neighbors of the hospital.
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.
Built in the 1960s, the aging hospital has not been able to accommodate the growing need for services according to officials who spoke at the meeting. “With triple-digit population growth it is no surprise that the hospital needs to expand,” Ron MacCormick, the Scripps Memorial chief of staff told the commission. “This is truly for the greater good.”
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 roof-top 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. Neighbors questioned the hospital’s plans last year during public meetings and demonstrations. Cheryl Steward, who lives near the facility, doubted 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.
In November, the “Neighbors of Scripps Encinitas” group offered 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,” Gina Renteria said. The hospital erected a 6-foot wall separating a portion of Devonshire.
At least a dozen nearby residents joined Renteria in requesting the commission delay the decision and require the hospital to mitigate increased traffic by lengthening an internal road.
However, the commissioners declined to make further concessions saying the hospital has already reduced the impact on the surrounding neighborhood. “They’ve made major steps to appease the neighborhood,” Commissioner Paul Van Slyke said.
The commission did place conditions on the permits. The medical office building will have to meet certain guidelines for energy and water efficiency. Also, the acute care building will have to go through the design review process before it receives a permit.
Neighbors are planning to appeal the decision to City Council.