NEWPORT BEACH : Expansion Plan for Hospital Debated

The Planning Commission opened the first of up to three nights of public hearings on the long-discussed Hoag Hospital master plan to a overflow crowd of supporters and opponents Thursday.

The master plan is a framework for development of hospital property over the next 20 years. It describes the sizes of buildings on the hospital’s 38 acres but does not detail designs or uses.

The plan has been criticized by environmentalists, who want to save Cattail Cove wetlands on the hospital’s property, and neighboring residents, who say additions would spoil views and surround their homes.

Supporters, who include residents in other parts of the city, have welcomed the proposed changes and say the hospital’s needs are more important than other issues.


Most of the development would occur on the lower campus, 22 acres of land on a narrow strip that parallels West Coast Highway. A row of buildings--at two to four stories, up to 10 feet higher than the existing Cancer Center--would be built for outpatient services.

On the upper campus, the plan calls for a mix of new buildings and redevelopment, including inpatient beds, the Emergency Care Unit and some medical offices.

Responding to concerns from environmentalists, Hoag President Michael Stephens said wetlands that would be eliminated for the project would be duplicated elsewhere, as required by law. Responding to residents, he said most public views would be enhanced by the development.

Still, occupants of Villa Balboa, a condominium complex about 75 feet from the hospital’s property line, asked the commission to consider at its next meeting an alternate plan devised by the residents that would shift some of the development to the upper campus.


“We have a presentation that will prove to you and to Hoag that (this alternative plan) will meet (Hoag’s) objectives, is environmentally superior and is economically feasible,” resident Gil Martinez said.

Other residents raised concerns about methane and hydrogen sulfide gas fields on the lower campus and questioned whether the environmental review addressed those matters.

Steve Osterman, a board member of the nearby Newport Beach Townhomes, said his group supports the hospital’s plan but wants the commission to study further whether the development would affect the gas fields and what effect that might have on nearby homes.

Resident Jan Vandersloot, a doctor who practices in Newport Beach, unraveled a computer printout that he said came from Hoag’s library, containing information on the dangers of hydrogen sulfide to people, ranging from respiratory irritations to asphyxiation.


“It’s wise for the city to know what it’s getting into when it approves a development on a hydrogen sulfide gas field,” said Vandersloot, who asked the commission to make further inspections of the land.

Commissioner Gary W. Pomeroy also asked staff members to prepare a chart showing where supporters and foes of the plan live in the city.

“I would like to know if any of the 55 letters of support (on file at City Hall) come from anyone in those residential areas contiguous to the hospital,” Pomeroy said.

The Planning Commission is scheduled to continue the hearing in January. The plan will go to the City Council for consideration regardless of the Planning Commission vote. If approved by the council, the plan would then need to be approved by the California Coastal Commission.