Hospital could face voter referendum

Controversial plans to bring a large-scale hospital and medical clinic to town may have reached a major hurdle Monday, but the project could face a bigger showdown in the future.

The San Carlos City Council was set to vote on whether to approve the Palo Alto Medical Foundation proposal Monday, but deliberations went well into the night. Early council discussion Monday focused on the development agreement, which would pay the city $91 million over 50 years.

PAMF proposes building a 97-bed hospital, medical center and parking lot in 478,500 square feet of space at 301 Industrial Road, near the intersection of Industrial Road and Holly Street. If the City Council approves the plan, representatives from the San Carlos Citizens for Healthy Open Debate are already hatching plans for a voter referendum.

“So many people are against this proposal. We’re hearing, increasingly, that this is something the people in town should be voting on,” said April Vargas, a representative of the citizens group and an independent contractor working with the Service Employees International Union, United Healthcare Workers.

Her group’s primary objections to the PAMF plan include its potential to snarl traffic through the Holly/U.S. Highway 101 corridor, and its potential to exacerbate local nursing shortages, Vargas said. It would take roughly 1,800 valid signatures for a referendum to go forward.

As if competing with a referendum petition, PAMF Vice President Cecelia Montalvo presented the City Council on Monday with 5,500 signatures supporting the hospital plan.

If the council approves the PAMF project, it must then receive local and state approvals for various pieces of the project, PAMF spokesman Ben Drew said. Construction could begin in 2009.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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