Residents along the foothills of Ventura are trying to get an injunction to stop the construction and modify the plans of a new addition to the Ventura County Medical Center.
Residents said they were not adequately informed about the details of the project, including the size and location of the main component, the Replacement Clinic.
“Nobody had a clue, not one person knew that building was going to be 90 feet tall,” homeowner John Brooks said. “Something is rotten in Denmark.”
The Replacement Clinic will be a five-story, 90-foot tall building which will house the medical center’s urgent care, residency program, pediatric department and specialty medical services. Consequently, the building will partially, if not totally, block the views of residents along Agnus Drive, Fairmont Drive, Lynn Court and Lynn Drive. Residents along neighboring streets will also be affected.
The project, known as the consolidation project, was approved by the Ventura County Board of Supervisors in 1994, includes the Replacement Clinic, a parking structure, surface parking and the demolition of some outdated buildings.
The Replacement Clinic will be nestled within a residential neighborhood on an elevated plateau located half-way up Hillmont Avenue. The site’s elevation is 20 feet higher than the center’s hospital on Loma Vista.
“It will be a towering monstrosity,” said Lynn Drive homeowner Jacqueline Moran. “It is a neighborhood of one- and two-story houses, and to have a 90-foot building — it is completely out of character. There is nothing of that size or scale around here.”
County officials contend the community has been well-appraised of the project for more than a decade and that surrounding homeowners have always been kept in the loop.
“It’s sort of surprising,” said Michael Powers, the director of the Ventura County Health Care Agency about the reaction the neighbors are having.
Powers said he could not understand how no one in the neighborhood knew the project would include a 90-foot building.
During the last 14 years, since the date the project was approved, the project has undergone much public scrutiny.
Officials have gone to court with Community Memorial Hospital — a privately owned hospital a short distance away on Loma Vista — and have complied with objections from the public regarding other projects related to the consolidation project.
Still, residents say no consideration was made to how the building would affect them or the overall appearance of Ventura’s skyline.
“I am disappointed they have such shallowness for their project,” Brooks said. “They could have designed this to not affect the parameters of the city. It was a blatant disregard for us and the City of Ventura.”
Brooks, a film editor from Los Angeles, purchased his home in 2003 on Agnus Drive for $700,000. He did thousands of dollars worth of improvements to his home to capture his ocean view, and not until two weeks ago when a 70-foot crane arrived at the site of the project did he realize some of the improvements he made would go to waste.
Brooks said they could have sprawled outward instead of upward. The 73,000-square-foot clinic could have been broken up into four 18,250-square-foot floors instead of five 14,600-square-foot floors.
He feels a little tweaking could have made the neighbors and the center break even.
But that was not the case.
Even though Brooks was not living in the area when final plans were approved in 1994, he said his other neighbors who had been living in the area for more than three decades had no idea the size and scale of the clinic.
“Nine families I have talked to knew nothing about it,” Brooks said.
Moran said it’s not just the size of the building but how the planning was done. Her overall disappointment is the fact they feel the officials for the medical center did not do the proper due diligence of being a “good neighbor” and informing the surrounding community of the details of the project.
When the Morans wanted to build a one-story addition to their property, officials for the City of Ventura required the Morans to deliver notices and seek approval from their neighbors about their lot improvements.
“I had to mail everyone within a three-block radius,” Moran said. “But the county didn’t do just a one-story addition. How they could build it without anyone knowing? Something is wrong.”
Officials for the medical center said nothing was done behind closed doors.
Everything that has been done, including relocating the replacement clinic to a lower plateau than the location it was originally slated for closer to Agnus Drive, has gone through the Board of Supervisors, said Powers.
The project has gone before the board six times for various approvals since 1994 and went to the Ventura County Grand Jury from 1996 to 1997 for a comprehensive review.
The medical center’s officials, including Powers, met with the Ventura County Star editorial board in May 2005 to announce the plans to move forward with the project, which included the fact the clinic would be five stories high.
Despite the efforts of the medical center officials, residents still were unaware of exactly what was going on.
Brooks is hoping the statute of limitations has run out for the project and that he can use that to stop the construction project until further public review.
Powers has agreed to hold two public meetings next week to discuss the details of the project.