Since 1964, Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital has stood on the corner of Hollister Avenue and Patterson Road and provided necessary medical services to the rapidly growing suburban community around it. However, the infamous Northridge Earthquake in 1994 damaged several hospitals near the quake’s epicenter, prompting the state to require all hospitals either to be retrofitted to meet certain seismic safety standards by 2008 or be fully rebuilt by 2013. Faced with that choice, Cottage Health Systems found rebuilding the hospital to be the best option. On Monday night, after a year and a half on the drawing board, Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital’s new facility came one step closer to fruition as the Goleta Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend the project for approval by the City Council.
As a result of the state-mandated upgrade and the fact that the new facility falls within certain guidelines, it is exempted from the environmental review process usually called for by the California Environmental Quality Act. A new medical building that Cottage has also proposed for the hospital’s campus does not, however, and therefore needs a full environmental review. Currently, a conceptual review of the office building-which will replace the one that now fronts Hollister Avenue-is as far as that component of Cottage’s campus plan for Goleta has gone.
Having undergone a design review process that drew input from architects, hospital employees, and city officials, the planning staff backed the design handily, reported Planning Director Steve Chase. “I’ve been in the planning business for almost 35 years, and this is only one of a handful of beneficial institutional projects I’ve been able to work on. These are the ones that make the job worthwhile.” A detailed presentation of the new hospital by its vice president, Diane Wisby, showed off its practical features, such as the placement of related medical units next to one another. Patient rooms will all be private, and “shell spaces”-undesignated rooms included in anticipation of changing needs and technology-are features Wisby said are intended to make the hospital flexible to the community’s changing needs over the next three decades. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a hospital and do it right,” she said.
Although the project enjoyed staff’s support, there were a few issues related to zoning that made it impossible for the Planning Commission to grant full approval of the project on Monday. The site-already zoned for professional/institutional use-will receive a hospital-specific zoning change, replete with a set maximum for square footage, said Chase. The project will also undergo further design review once it passes through City Council to address some exterior design elements and the temporary employee parking lot that will be located across Patterson Road on the southeast corner of the intersection with Hollister Avenue.
The commission also raised concerns about some of the design cues planned for the new building’s exterior, and these will be addressed as well. “I like your use of icons,” said Commissioner Ed Easton of the various entrances to the new hospital, “but do you have to use them all?” The rest of the commission came to the consensus that a more symmetrical feel is needed in relation to the site plan-particularly with regard to the main entrance, the emergency room entrance, and the ambulance bay-and added that as a caveat on their recommendation.
The project is scheduled to go before the Goleta City Council on December 2, with the final design review to be conducted early next year. By the current plan, construction will occur in six phases, and Cottage Health Systems has expressed its desire to occupy the new building by 2011.