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BOYLE HEIGHTS : Input on Hospital Expansion Studied

August 29, 1993|MARY ANNE PEREZ

County officials working on the proposed expansion of County-USC Medical Center are going over public comments made at four hearings earlier this month on the draft Environmental Impact Report and will prepare a final report for public review.

Additional hearings on the final report are likely to be scheduled for November, said hospital spokesman Harvey Kern. Officials hope to have the report reviewed and approved by the Board of Supervisors by the end of the year.

Residents who stand to lose their homes in the $1-billion expansion say they hope county officials consider their complaints when drafting the final report. At the hearings, some residents said they were excluded from the planning stages for the project, which will displace more than 200 families to the east of the hospital. The expansion project will close the County-USC hospital building and consolidate the four hospitals at the site into one large building.

County planners say the expansion is necessary to replace the aging hospital, which was built in 1932 without many of today's building requirements, such as fire sprinklers. Much of the funding for the project has come from a state bill aimed at capital construction projects at public hospitals with large percentages of indigent patients. The first phase of construction is expected to begin in 1995, with the final phase ending in 2002.

"As far as the residents are concerned, they're really in limbo because the county is not doing anything as far as interfacing with them actively," said Al Juarez, whose family home on Cummings Street is one of the first targeted for acquisition.

Juarez complained that an advisory board created to oversee the development project does not include any residents.

"I feel that people are being dealt with in an insensitive and bureaucratic manner," Juarez said. "Much as the bureaucracy tries to put a happy face on this, there isn't much interest in helping them through the anxiety of all this. They're not dealing with what I feel is necessary, and that is the sensitive and compassionate feelings of the neighbors."

Juarez and other neighbors complained that an office set up on Marengo Street to answer questions about the project is on the second floor and difficult for senior citizens to reach. Kern said he and project director Fernando Vizcarra, as well as others working on the project, were looking into moving the office.

Issues brought up at the meetings will be reviewed and addressed in a report that will accompany the final report, Kern said.

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