Plans downsized for San Carlos medical site

Denying they were bowing to the pressures of angry neighbors, officials of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation announced a scaled-back version of a new medical facility and building Tuesday.

While the original proposal on the 18.1-acre site at 301 Industrial Road called for a 339,500-square-foot campus with 110 hospital beds, the new proposal would be 272,200 square feet with 91 beds. It reduces the number of doctors and nurses on staff by 30 percent and lowers the height of the buildings from five stories to four.

Despite considerable protest from neighbors who said the project would bring significant traffic to neighborhood streets, an environmental review of the PAMF original plan won unanimous approval from the San Carlos City Council in April. The project is scheduled for a number of public hearings this year, followed by another vote before the Planning Commission and City Council to approve construction of the facility.

“Was this done due to some public pressure to downsize? No,” said Cecilia Montalvo, vice president of strategy and business development at PAMF, who said polls show 70 percent of residents support the medical center plan.

PAMF changed course now because “the City Council has a discretionary vote whether to approve the project,” Montalvo said. “I don’t think we’re going to satisfy absolutely everyone, but this addresses some concerns.”

Consultants who developed the original environmental study have not yet determined whether another review will be required, PAMF spokesman Ben Drew said.

Project challenger Sol Kutner, who lives and owns a law office in San Carlos, called the changes “a step in the right direction.” However, the changes do not address whether the mid-Peninsula needs another hospital, Kutner added.

“What’s driving PAMF is market share. Right now if they have to send a patient to a hospital they have to send people to Peninsula, or Sequoia, or Stanford,” Kutner said. “The need is not there.”

To offset the estimated $30,000 a year in property taxes from which the foundation would be exempt because of its nonprofit status, PAMF has proposed a $9 million endowment guaranteeing the city at least $630,000 annually, along with a one-time $1 million contribution toward the city’s athletic fields and facilities, and another $1.5 million to the San Carlos Educational Foundation.

Whether the facility is a fit in San Carlos will remain to be seen, Mayor Tom Davids said.

“[The new design] is more compatible with us. … To the credit of the process, it’s probably a better design and product,” he said.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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