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L.A. Clinic to Get Funds for Expansion

The nearly $6 million in a HUD grant and loan guarantees are part of a restoration at the Chinatown site.

October 14, 2003|Jocelyn Y. Stewart | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles is among seven California cities to receive grants and loan guarantees from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as part of an effort to help local communities restore so-called brownfields, land that is abandoned or underutilized because of contamination.

A $750,000 grant and $5-million loan guarantee will be used to help expand the Pacific Alliance Medical Center, once known as the French Hospital, in Chinatown. The $38-million project includes building a 129-bed skilled nursing facility for elderly residents, enlarging an obstetrics unit and adding a 350-space parking garage.

City Councilman Ed Reyes, whose district includes Chinatown, said the hospital, at Hill and College streets, plays an important role in the area. The neighborhoods served by the hospital have a poverty rate that is twice the national average, he said.

"We could not allow this clinic to go unfunded and its residents to continue to feel that they live in isolation," he said in a statement.

The hospital opened in 1860 and served the area's immigrant French population. In 1989, a group of physicians purchased the hospital.

The site qualifies because "it is located in an area that is littered with active and abandoned oil wells, as well as a number of leaking underground storage tanks that are currently being reviewed by the California Regional Water Quality Control Board," said Morella Lombardi, of HUD's Los Angeles office.

Brownfields are defined by HUD as abandoned, idled or underused real property where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived contamination. The Brownfields Economic Development Initiative is designed to transform such sites into "new centers of community renewal."

The Chinatown award is part of $29 million in grants and $117 million in loan guarantees awarded earlier this month to 21 communities across the country.

HUD does not offer loans, but allows federal block-grant funds to be used as collateral to secure a low-cost loan, said Brian Sullivan, a HUD spokesman in Washington, D.C.

Other cities in Los Angeles County also received awards:

The city of El Monte received a $1.3-million grant and an $8-million loan guarantee. The money will help turn a 44-acre site into Santa Fe Trail Plaza, a retail project expected to create 700 jobs and generate $1.6 million in annual sales tax revenue.

In Montebello, a $2-million grant and $7-million loan guarantee is expected to help create 125 new housing units and 200 jobs. And in Whittier, a $750,000 grant and $5.5-million loan guarantee will help improve a portion of Whittier and Washington boulevards.

Other cities and awards statewide include: Sacramento: $2-million grant, $11.1-million loan guarantee; San Diego: $700,000 grant, $5.9-million loan guarantee; and Stockton: $2-million grant, $12.5-million loan guarantee.

In an unrelated action, HUD has awarded the Los Angeles $2.59 million for a lead-based paint abatement program. The city also has received $514,000 to educate the public on the dangers of lead-based paint.

Lead-based paint was banned in 1978, but lead poisoning continues to take a "terrible toll on communities at highest risk -- primarily older, urban, low-income communities of color," according to the Washington, D.C.-based, Alliance for Healthy Homes. Elevated blood lead levels in children can cause a range of health problems, learning disabilities and behavioral problems.

The funds will be administered by the Los Angeles Housing Department and used to identify low-income housing units for treatment, reduce hazards in residential units and increase the number of lead certified contractors.

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