Hospital nets unanimous approval

Palo Alto Medical Foundation leaders are riding high after winning approval to build a much-contested new medical center and hospital.

Plans for the center, four years in the making, earned unanimous approval from the San Carlos City Council on Monday despite concerns from some residents about the hospital’s potential to increase gridlock, and over the city’s entry into the mercurial health care world.

However, opponents are weighing whether to gather the 1,800 signatures required to put the decision on the ballot, said April Vargas, a representative of the San Carlos Residents for Healthy Open Debate.

“I felt that, all things considered, this was a high-value use of the property. We could put in another auto mall or big-box retail site, but with this, we get a better economic package that we could expect from another use,” said Mayor Tom Davids.

PAMF proposes building a 97-bed hospital, medical center and parking garage in 478,500 square feet of space at 301 Industrial Road, near the intersection of Industrial Road and Holly Street. In a development agreement with the city, PAMF would pay $91 million over 52 or more years to offset the fact that, as a nonprofit, it will not pay property taxes on the 18-acre site.

Some health care experts, including Sequoia Hospital CEO Glenna Vaskelis, argued that building more hospitals drives health-care costs higher. Others disagreed.

“Health care costs are going up because Americans are getting older, sicker, lazier and fatter — not because of a new PAMF hospital in San Carlos,” said resident Ron Collins.

Real estate agent Tom Slade said the hospital plan is “the best thing that could happen to San Carlos’ east side,” and is already sparking a turnover in businesses throughout the once-industrial neighborhood.

Pre-construction work has already begun on the property, and soil remediation will take place in 2008 while PAMF obtains the local and state permits required to construct the campus, said spokesman Ben Drew.

If all permits are secured, construction would begin in 2009 and the facility would take its first patients sometime in 2012.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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