Right project, wrong place

The medical center being considered for eastern Pasadena is not enough to fill the St. Luke ‘gap'

By Gene Masuda , Marvin Schachter 09/18/2008

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On Aug. 26, the front page of the Pasadena Star-News reported that the City Council was "fast-tracking" the consideration of building an urgent care center at 3160 Del Mar Blvd. While the need for such a medical facility in northeast Pasadena has been painfully evident ever since the closing of the St. Luke Hospital, we hope there is no rush to judgment about putting the project in what is clearly the wrong place.

The proposed site is in the middle of Eaton Blanche Community and the Neighborhood Association vigorously opposes the project because of serious safety and traffic concerns. The City-Wide Pasadena Neighborhood Coalition, representing every community association, unanimously supports that opposition.

The Del Mar site is in a residential area that already has too much traffic:

• A heavy flow of children, parents and seniors walk to Eaton Blanche Park, just west of the site.
• On the same block is Willard Elementary School, to which many children walk. Across the street is Wilson Middle School, with even more foot traffic.
• Directly across the street is Ability First (formally the Crippled Children Society), which parks its vans in front of the building to pick up and drop off clients.
• One block east is Las Encinas Hospital, currently in the process of a huge expansion, increasing assisted living beds from eight to 60 and independent living units from 87 to 187.
• Expanded outpatient services at Las Encinas will increase psychiatric offices from 15 to 32.

It is obvious why the residents of Eaton Blanche are worried. City planners and the Health Department are proposing to add three separate activities to the small city-owned lot at 3160 Del Mar: a fire training facility, a police outpost - and the urgent care center. A congested and dangerous situation will become worse; a monumental example of bad planning.

The Pasadena Department of Transportation met with residents at Willard Elementary on Nov. 27, 2007. Most of the comments at the meeting were about too much traffic and cars going too fast. Three months later on Feb. 28, there was a three-car accident in front of 3160 Del Mar Blvd.

The Pasadena Health Department has, most commendably, been working with community partners in planning for an eastside health facility, filling the St. Luke "gap." That gap is most evident north of the Foothill (210) Freeway, where more than 4,000 residents have signed petitions supporting a northeast urgent care center.

We urge the Health Department and its partners to go back to the drawing board. Why can the funding grants and cooperative relationships not be transferred from the more than questionable location on Del Mar, where the community is opposed (and where the soil is reportedly toxic), to a site north of the 210, where the need is greatest and the local community actively supports the placement of a nonprofit community health center?

The Pasadena Police Department is currently using the Del Mar location, and a training facility for the Fire Department may present acceptable, low-traffic alternative uses for this city-owned property.

We hope the City Council will recognize the validity of the community's concerns. We expect that a required Environmental Impact Report will make "fast-tracking" impossible, and bring about reconsideration of the safety and environmental issues that should concern all of us.

Gene Masuda is president of the Eaton Blanche Neighborhood Association. Marvin Schachter is chair of the Senior Advocacy Council of Pasadena and a member of the executive council of AARP California.

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