A small band of Laurelhurst neighbors appears to be winning a crusade to stop the expansion of Children's Hopsital. A city hearing examiner issued a 37-page report today that recommends, in response to claims made by the Laurelhurst Community Club (LCC), that the city council should deny plans to expand the hospital. Hospital officials say they may be forced to relocate.
Hearing Examiner Sue Tanner notes that the city focuses its growth in urban villages and centers. But Children's Hospital is in Laurelhurst, a wealthy lakeside neighborhood, which is not designated as an urban village or center.
The LCC has been the primary opponent of allowing Children's Hospital to grow. The group spent $34,900 in legal fees fighting Children's Hospital over the past two years. The group ran out of money in June and made a plea for $100,000 more to continue it's fight. The LCC argued the hospital would be too large, the impacts of traffic would be overwhelming, and estimates for more beds were exaggerated.
But hospital officials say that they need room for 350 new beds to accommodate an influx of sick kids over the next two decades. They cannot split the hospital into two locations, as providing pediatric services is best done from one campus.
Tanner acknowledges that "Children's has shown a projected statewide need for specialized pediatric care over the next 20 years sufficient to support the development area being requested... The evidence in this record does not show that other providers will likely fill the need."
“We plan to immediately appeal the recommendation to the City Council,” Dr. Thomas Hansen, CEO at Seattle Children’s Hospital said in a statement released today.
“If we are unable to obtain a favorable decision on our Master Plan in a timely manner we will need to consider other options that would be extremely regrettable, including a gradual relocation of our hospital facilities — including our downtown research campus — to a single site outside the city of Seattle,” he said.
Headed by president Jeannie Hale, the LCC has appointed itself the official representatives of the neighborhood, even claiming in legal filings that it represents "the interests of the community's 2,800 households and businesses." But one of the neighbors sued, arguing that the group did not represent her interests. She withdrew her suit and claimed victory when the LCC couldn't produce a list of members.
The organization's board of trustees comprises only individuals who are nominated by the rest of the board's appointing committee—maintaining an insular leadership. According to its bylaws, the LCC's primary purpose is to "foster the improvement, beautification and betterment of the Laurelhurst community." The group is known for fighting new play fields in Magnuson Park, opposing expansion of the 520 bridge, and successfully advocating to reduce medevac helicopter trips to and from Children's Hospital.
In her report (.pdf), Tanner recommends that the city council reject plans for expanding hospital. But if the council does approve it, Tanner says that the city should impose 43 requirements, such as capping the size of the expansion and mitigating traffic impacts.