BCHD weighs bond to tear down hospital, create green space

The old South Bay Hospital stands in the center of the Beach Cities Health District campus. Easy Reader file photo

by Garth Meyer

The Beach Cities Health District (BCHD) may ask district voters in Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach to approve a $30 million bond to tear down the old South Bay Hospital and replace it with green space and a parking lot, among other modifications to the BCHD campus.

The District will hold three public meetings this month to explore the question.

The proposal would take down the 1960 building, which does not meet current seismic construction standards, and replace it with two acres of “programmable open space,” with 100 parking spots. 

Bond proceeds would also contribute to construction of the allcove youth services building, on Beryl Street, making it larger and more environmentally-friendly. 

Bond proceeds would also pay for a walkway linking allcove and the upper BCHD campus.

A seismic risk assessment commissioned by BCHD shows that the old hospital will exceed acceptable risk standards in two and a half years.

“We’re planning to be out of there by the end of 2026,” BCHD chief executive officer Tom Bakaly said. 

The board needs to decide by July if it wants to put the bond measure on the November ballot.

If the old hospital is torn down, current tenants Silverado Memory Care, UCLA Health and the BCHD Center for Health and Fitness would need to relocate. allcove (the name is not capitalized), which operates today in the old hospital’s former cancer care space, will move to its new building next year, slated to start pre-construction in October. (The project is paid for in large part by $7 million in state and federal grants). 

Terms for the bond would be $3 per $100,000 in assessed value. 

“Assessed value, not the market value,” Bakaly noted. 

For a $1 million house in assessed value, the bond would add $30 per year to its owners’ property tax for 30 years.

Bakaly said that while the Center for Health & Fitness in the old hospital would need to move, BCHD is working on a plan to keep it on the BCHD campus, potentially, moving it to another building on the lot.

Revenue from current leases on the campus bring in about $1.5 million per year.

“That has decreased. And our expenses have gone up because of the aging building and tenants leaving,” Bakaly said. 

These include Torrance Cancer Care and a childcare center. If the building is torn down, the revenue loss will be complete.

“That’s something we’ll need to address,” said Bakaly, adding that he will be recommending some staff and programming reductions to the board for their annual budget discussions. The District has a hiring freeze in effect already.

As part of the exploration of a bond, this spring the District hired a public policy research firm, FM3 (Los Angeles), to conduct a survey of 650 beach cities respondents between April 13 and April 18. Results found that 66% of likely voters in the three beach cities believe there is a need to fund local community health and wellness services, an increase of 14% from a similar survey in fall 2021. 

“There’s support. People are putting a heavier emphasis on health,” Bakaly said. “We are gauging ‘how interested residents are in mental health, programmable open space and taking away a seismic risk.’”

The open space, the size of two soccer fields, would be used to enhance existing BCHD programs.

The area would include a demonstration garden (for instructing school teachers who present the lessons to students), walking paths and a park-like stretch of grass.

“It would be for health programs, like our free (fitness) on the beach, meditation, and mindfulness programs. It would not be for recreation or sports,” Bakaly said. “Creating a space for people to come to be well. That’s still the vision of the campus.”

Another use he mentioned was theater and music performances, such as Shakespeare in the Park.

“There’s definitely a connection between art and music, culture and health,” Bakaly said.

The bond’s $30 million would break down into $8 million for teardown of the old hospital, $7 million to develop the green space, $3 million for allcove building expansion, solar panels and other environmentally-friendly features, $7 million for the parking lot and allcove site link walkway, and $5 million for planning, architecture and engineering. 

Public meetings on the bond are set for May 15 at AdventurePlex, 5:30-7 p.m.; May 16 at BCHD offices, 6-8 p.m.; and June 3 at Hermosa Beach City Council Chambers, 5:30-7 p.m.

The bond consideration follows a March board decision to delay a conditional use permit application to the city for the BCHD’s long-sought Healthy Living Campus “due to financial markets,” Bakaly said. 

The District filed a pre-application three years ago for what would be a six-story, 217 unit assisted living building next to the proposed green space and parking lot. 

“We’re doing this in parts,” Bakaly said. ER 

 

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