Beach Cities Health District’s Tom Bakaly calls for Healthy Living Campus detractors to meet
by Garth Meyer
Beach Cities Health District CEO Tom Bakaly last week publicly called for a meeting with those behind the “STOPBCHD” signs seen in Redondo front yards in recent months.
The invitation is the latest in a series from Bakaly to the group, led by Mark Nelson, a former member of the 15-person BCHD Healthy Living Campus working group – which disbanded at the onset of the pandemic as its work was largely complete.
The Healthy Living Campus is the proposed project to replace the 1960 former South Bay Hospital.
The BCHD board approved an Environmental Impact Report for it last September, all the while drawing criticism from surrounding neighbors.
From the project’s inception in 2017, BCHD has adapted plans due to public comment, though not as far as STOPBCHD seeks.
“We’re a public health district. We’re very interested in meeting with the community and figuring this out together,” said Bakaly. “My experience is, very little is ever going to get solved by not talking.”
Nelson and STOPBCHD put out a statement earlier in June explaining the decision not to meet: “After discussions with other neighborhood quality-of-life groups and proponents, STOPBCHD.com is declining a meeting with BCHD and continuing our efforts to gain a valid, impartial forum at the Cities of Redondo Beach and Torrance using their required discretionary permit hearings.”
One particular charge of STOPBCHD is that the Healthy Living Campus would impact “safety and character” of the neighborhoods. The old hospital is on North Prospect Avenue, at the edge of Torrance.
BCHD’s original plan has been pared down to a current version in which the main building’s tallest point is 82.2 feet. The original hospital’s tallest point is 76 feet, built in 1958, before the surrounding neighborhoods.
“Safety and character, those things are very important to us,” said Bakaly. “Let’s figure out a solution. I don’t know exactly what their concerns are (in this realm) but I would like to hear them.”
He noted that, as seen in the environmental impact report (EIR), “visual impacts are mitigated,” including that the project’s height was changed to not break the crest of the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
The EIR covers Phase I of the Campus; a 217-unit assisted living facility, youth mental health center and two acres of green space. Phase Two would bring back the BCHD’s Center for Health and Fitness to the location, a parking structure and a possible pool.
Phase One construction, if the project is approved by the city council, may begin in late 2023, to finish in 2026.
The BCHD now prepares a conditional use permit to go to the city planning commission this September. The commission will make a recommendation, which then goes to the city council.
“We’d love to proactively address people’s concerns,” said Bakaly. “I’d really like to see if we can get out of the fighting mindset and get to a mutual solution.”
Overall, the project’s impetus comes from the condition of the existing property and BCHD’s general mission – which focuses on preventive health measures.
“It’s been almost 65 years since construction of the hospital, it’s starting to cost money, it needs seismic work. The Healthy Living Campus would raise funds for our programs,” Bakaly said. “If we don’t do something with that site, it will impact our programs.”
Efforts to reach Nelson for this article were unsuccessful.
“We are listening and making changes,” Bakaly said. “It may not be what every individual wants. But we really are trying.” ER