Last Thursday, executives from Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital laid out the current state of construction in a meeting that was surprisingly subdued, at least compared to the recently tumultuous fights over helicopter noise.

The construction is now in phase five of seven, and the current phase will last until late 2015. Included in that work is the demolition of the north wing and construction of a building to link the original hospital with the newly completed patient pavilions. When that building is completed in 2014, the Reeves Building, Central Building, and West Wing of the hospital will be demolished.

Neighbors expressed some concern over unsafe traffic conditions on Junipero Road around the construction site, but the conversation quickly shifted to helicopter noise. After meetings earlier this year that devolved into screaming and legal threats, Cottage’s COO Steven Fellows was well prepared to ease the concerns of neighbors.

Responding to a question about noise at night, Fellows boasted that only “20 percent of flights have been between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.,” and explained that CALStar’s new helicopter, which is 50 percent quieter, will account for more than 72 percent of future flights. Fellows said that 95 percent of flights have followed the designated path of travel along Highway 101, which reduces noise and is also the required by the NTSB for all private aircraft.

Because the hospital has become so strict, Fellows explained, “All the helicopter companies are scared when they get a call from Cottage. We give them two shots, then we’ll suspend their right to land.” The only consistent problem, said Fellows, has been with Santa Barbara County Search and Rescue.

One man complained about noise from outbound flights, in which Santa Barbara patients are transported to other facilities. “We’ve only had three,” Fellows responded, “They were all pediatric cases. They were all critically ill children.”

Several people at the meeting thanked Fellows personally for facilitating communication with the community. One resident said, “This meeting was a lot less aggressive than the last one.”


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