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COMMUNITY NEWS: EAST

BOYLE HEIGHTS : Report Due Soon on County-USC Project

January 02, 1994|MARY ANNE PEREZ

County-USC Medical Center's expansion plans are slightly behind schedule, but officials hope to present an environmental impact report to the county Board of Supervisors at the end of the month.

The $1-billion project calls for displacing 200 families east of the hospital compound and replacing the 1930s-era General Hospital. The new center is expected to be completed in 2002, generate 6,000 jobs and consolidate the four hospitals on the site into one large building, said project director Fernando Vizcarra.

Many longtime residents fear they will not receive a fair settlement for their houses and have criticized plans that will turn their neighborhood, essentially, into a garage. The first phase calls for demolition of the homes this year and construction in 1995 of a 3,000-space garage on Marengo Street.

Vizcarra said the county cannot appraise the properties until the supervisors approve the environmental report. Residents will have the opportunity to hire their own appraiser if they disagree with the county's assessment.

Hospital officials had meetings on the environmental impact report last summer. They have spent the last few months answering some of the concerns raised in those meetings and incorporating them into the final report to be submitted to the supervisors.

For example, residents asked that construction-related traffic be kept to a minimum or regulated so that it does not clog streets. They also asked that during construction the hospital refer patients to hospitals where staffers speak Spanish and other languages.

Residents also asked that local residents be hired for a majority of the estimated 6,000 jobs created by the project. And they requested that 50% of the contractors hired for the work be minority- and women-owned businesses.

Vizcarra said the hospital's staff is trying to figure out how to satisfy that concern. "Legally we can't set quotas; we have to go for the low bid," he said. "We're trying to reconcile what the community wants and what we can do legally to help minority- and women-owned firms as much as possible."

An office on the second floor of a building on Marengo Street to answer residents' questions was moved across the street after residents complained that some senior citizens could not get to it easily. The office is now in a trailer.

The county is also offering crisis counseling for people who feel traumatized by the pending moves, Vizcarra said.

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