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."

tramroop@examiner.com

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