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UCLA Gets OK on Major Expansion of Medical Center

July 24, 1986|DAVID FERRELL | Times Staff Writer

University of California regents have approved a sprawling, $162-million expansion of the UCLA Center for Health Sciences, designed to bring new doctors and patients to the facility and to relieve overcrowding at the university's 682-bed Medical Center.

Details of the plan were announced Tuesday after approval by the 30-member Board of Regents last Friday in Santa Cruz.

The plan calls for about 600,000 square feet of new medical-treatment and office space to be built on 13 acres bounded by Westwood Plaza, Le Conte and Gayley avenues.

Four Buildings Outlined

The property, now used as a university parking lot, is to be developed into four multistory buildings:

A 335,000-square-foot multipurpose center to house administrative offices and outpatient-care facilities, including an outpatient surgery center and a radiation therapy treatment center.

A 150,000-square-foot Clinical Faculty Office Building, to house offices for 90 to 100 physicians who would practice at the Medical Center and take part in student training programs run by the UCLA School of Medicine.

A 110,000-square-foot Mental Health Center, to provide additional space for existing neurology treatment programs and for a clinical genetics program run by the university's Neuropsychiatric Institute.

A 2,900-space parking structure that would more than double the amount of existing parking on the property.

University officials estimate that the structures will add about 20% to the size of the Center for Health Sciences, regarded as one of the nation's leading centers for medical treatment, training and research. The center includes the Medical School, the Medical Center hospital and a number of related institutes for the treatment and study of dentistry, nursing, public health and neuropsychiatry.

'Easier for Patients'

"This is obviously a very important project," said Dr. Raymond Schultze, director of the Medical Center. "We've found that many of our clinics are becoming very overcrowded. Many of them are in parts of the (Medical Center) that are difficult to reach. We want to make things easier for the patients."

Excavation is planned to begin in the winter of 1987, and completion of the project is expected in early 1989.

Plans for the construction, in a community plagued by some of the worst traffic congestion in Los Angeles, drew mixed reviews from residents and elected officials.

City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, who has pushed through building moratoriums in Westwood to address traffic and parking problems, called the regents' approval of the plan an example of the "continuing struggle between the (problems) of our street system and the needs of one of the nation's great medical and educational facilities to provide a first-rate service to students and patients."

Yaroslavsky said he made no attempt to influence the scope of the project, which is on university land and is not subject to city approvals. He said he is concerned over the additional traffic congestion the project may create, but he said the 2,900 parking spaces are about what city zoning laws would demand for a similar private development.

"That's a dramatic shift from past practices, where the university has shortchanged itself and the community on parking," Yaroslavsky said.

The Friends of Westwood, a homeowner group organized because of concerns over development and traffic, is particularly concerned over medical treatment and office facilities, which generate more traffic than any other kind of land use, director Sandy Brown said. But the group also recognizes the importance of the expansion to the university, she said.

"Hopefully, this will keep UCLA at the forefront of medicine," she said. "The Medical Center needs it--there's no question. "(But) we're very concerned. I'm not sure I really have any answers."

Schultze said the construction would serve several important functions for the university. By concentrating outpatient services in a new building, tentatively planned to adjoin the new parking structure, officials expect to diminish parking problems and confusion among patients who now must walk long distances across the parking lot, then search to find treatment centers within the towering Medical Center hospital.

Services Are Cramped

New space in the outpatient and mental-health buildings will enable doctors to accommodate laboratories and diagnostic services that have grown because of larger, more-advanced equipment, and which are now cramped in existing buildings, according to Helene Desruisseaux, assistant director of the Medical Center.

Although most of the construction will simply provide new space for services that already exist at the Health Sciences Center, two important parts of the complex will be new, Desruisseaux said.

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