PAMF hospital’s impact report cleared 

Despite the number of groups opposed to Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s plan to build a medical center in town, any pending legal battles are waiting on the sidelines — for now.

The project cleared a major hurdle when the City Council unanimously approved the new hospital’s environmental studies Monday night. But that approval came over the objections of the United Healthcare Workers of the West union, the city of Belmont and two separate neighborhood groups, all of whom claimed the environmental studies were inadequate.

"The environmental impact report has so many loopholes in it that it’s really ineffective," said Sol Kutner, head of San Carlos Citizens for Responsible Planning. "Many of the things in it won’t be done properly."

proposes building a medical center and 110-bed hospital on an 18.1-acre site at 301 Industrial Road near Holly Street. In response to the hospital’s potential to affect local traffic, air quality and property-tax revenues, the foundation is offering a number of countermeasures, including several monetary contributions to the city of San Carlos and a low-emissions shuttle for its employees.

The environmental report, approved by the Planning Commission March 5, was due to go before the City Council in late March. That hearing was delayed after the city received a letter from Davis attorney William Kopper, representing the health care union and two local residents, that questioned the report’s treatment of air quality and water supply issues.

In the days before Monday’s vote, the city also heard from its neighbors in Belmont, who claimed the environmental study ignored the hospital’s potential to snarl traffic in Belmont, as well as the additional need for housing for hospital workers.

"It’s too bad they’re not building housing on the site. Where’s it going to go? We’re not going to build it for them," said Belmont Mayor Coralin Feierbach. Belmont will explore whether to take further action against San Carlos regarding the PAMF project, she added.

Neither Kopper nor representatives with United Healthcare Workers of the West, who represent employees with PAMF affiliate Sutter, would comment on future legal plans regarding the PAMF project.

"With a lawsuit, the time to file doesn’t start until you’ve approved some part of the project, and we haven’t done that," said San Carlos City Attorney Bob Lanzone.

Those approvals aren’t possible until later this year. The project now must return to the city’s traffic and planning commissions before returning to the City Council for a vote.

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Beth Winegarner

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