City of S.P. Planning Commission approves Hospital Hill zone change

December 03, 2004
Santa Paula News

The first step in converting a major portion of hillside Santa Paula Memorial Hospital property was taken by the city’s Planning Commission, which approved the zone change at Tuesday’s meeting.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesThe first step in converting a major portion of hillside Santa Paula Memorial Hospital property was taken by the city’s Planning Commission, which approved the zone change at Tuesday’s meeting.Planning Commissioner Jennifer Matos excused herself from the discussion due to a conflict of interest.The City Council will consider the zone change at their Monday night meeting - to be held at the Community Center - starting at 6:30 p.m.The zone change and General Plan Amendment converts about 16 acres of hospital property from industrial/civic to medium density residential. The zone change means that building 8 to 15 dwellings per acre would be possible.The Santa Paula Community Healthcare Authority – created by and consisting of members of the City Council – filed the application to change the property’s zoning.The property is currently being used as an avocado orchard and was recently bid on by a handful of developers at an auction conducted by the hospital Creditors’ Committee; Comstock Homes came out on top with a $13.1 million bid.The County of Ventura has offered $2.75 million for the remaining 13 acres of hospital property including the structures, parking lots and adjacent office building. The county hopes to reopen SPMH, shuttered since December 19, 2003 and entered into bankruptcy several days later, and operate it as an arm of the county health system.The hospital has debts of about $15 million including unsecured creditors, a $1.875 million loan using the property as collateral and the employees pension obligation.City of Santa Paula officials didn’t waste anytime in preparing the zone change to facilitate the reorganization plan being prepared by the creditors’ attorney. The plan is being finalized for submission to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
The zoning change would allow between 128 and 270 dwelling units on the site, according to the report by Planning Director Janna Minsk.“The types of units that could be developed in this category range from single-family detached units to smaller multi-unit structures. An appropriate combination or mix of small lot single-family (detached and duplex) to more luxurious garden apartments or townhouses are desirable to maintain a predominately single-family character,” noted Minsk’s report.Leading the findings to approve the General Plan Amendment is that it is in the public’s interest, according to the report.The zoning change “would result in a community benefit given that it would provide a mechanism by which the undeveloped portion of the hospital site could be sold to a residential developer to help settle SPMH’s debts and allow the County of Ventura to reopen the hospital as a part of the Ventura County Medical Center.”Commissioners, although generally supportive, questioned several aspects of hillside development.“There are a lot of walkers,” who enjoy the area, noted Commissioner John Turturro who asked that the potential developer consider, as a “gesture of goodwill towards the citizens and the city” inclusion of a “a very small pocket park” in any future development.“I do have some concerns,” regarding traffic and flooding issues although Commissioner Jesse Ornelas said he would approve the zoning change.The rezoning is a “necessary first step,” although there are many “unanswered questions that will be answered with the specific plan,” for development, said Commissioner Gary Nasalroad. “I do think it is important at this point to allow the developers to go forward with their plans.”Bob Comstock of Comstock Homes noted that the company project in Signal Hill has over five miles of hiking trails although “we also had some Redevelopment Agency support,” for the recreational component.

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