Judge rules in hospital’s favor 

A 50-year lease agreement for the new Peninsula Medical Center, the subject of a months-long lawsuit, is legal, according to a Tuesday San Mateo County Superior Court ruling.

The ruling by San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Marie Weiner dismisses the main argument of a lawsuit filed by the Peninsula Guardians, a nonprofit watchdog group.

The group filed the suit in response to a deal struck between Mills-Peninsula Health Services and the Peninsula Health Care District for the reconstruction of the Burlingame hospital, which it alleged was a bad deal for taxpayers.

Mills-Peninsula, a Sutter Health affiliate, is building at its own expense a new, $528 million hospital to replace the current one located at 1783 El Camino Real. The current facility does not meet state seismic standards for acute-care hospitals that must be in place by 2013.

At the end of the 50-year lease, the district will have the option of buying back the hospital using $1.5 million paid annually by Mills-Peninsula to the district in rent.

"We’re thrilled," district board chairman Donald Newman said. "[Not halting construction in response to the lawsuit] turns out to be a very smart thing to have done."

The Guardians asserted in a lawsuit filed this summer that the 50-year lease agreement went way beyond a state-imposed 30-year limit.

District lawyer Doug Straus argued successfully that the limit did not apply because the agreement is a ground lease, not the lease of a standing district-owned hospital.

Straus said the final ruling was particularly good news, considering Weiner’s tentative November ruling that the Guardians had a legitimate lawsuit on their hands and could pursue it further.

Peninsula Guardians lawyer Mitchell Green said his clients plan on appealing the ruling "much sooner" than the 60-day deadline.

"We respect the judge’s ruling," Green said. "But we think it’s just dead wrong."

"It’s unfortunate," Guardians member Dan Andersen said. "But this isn’t the end of it."


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