Representatives of Barlow Respiratory Hospital appeared Wednesday night before the Echo Park neighborhood council planning committee to gather support for the building of an 888-unit housing project on the hosptial grounds near Elysian Park. The presentation was made only hours after Echo Park Now reported that the office of Councilman Ed Reyes had voiced its opposition to the density and size of the development. But that news had little impact on Barlow officials, who offered no indications last night that they were scaling back their project, which they said is needed to help finance the construction of a new $125 million hospital. Instead, hospital consultants said they still need the development rights to build as many as 888 units to generate the money to close a projected $70 million gap between what is needed to build the hospital and the funds they can raise from other sources.
The hospital does not plan to develop the property, a city historic landmark, on its own. Instead, Barlow wants to win the development rights from the city, making the land more valuable and helping Barlow seek a higher price from potential buyers. The property would then be sold to a developer or developers to construct all or part of the project. Barlow officials said they will keep a small section of the 19-acre property to build a new medical complex that meets the state’s seismic standards for hospitals. But they emphasized they must raise money fairly quickly if construction is to get underway by 2013 as mandated by state officials.
While a few residents last night spoke out against the project and raised concerns about its impact, none of the members of Planning, Public Works, Parks & Land Use Committee who spoke said they were opposed to the size of the development on the hospital’s park-like grounds. However, some members did voice concerns about traffic and the design of the development . The members indicated that they want to find a way to accommodate the needs of the century-old hospital, which employs 300 workers, and residents.
“I want to support this project,” said committee chair Francisco Torrero. “There is a benefit for the community.” Committee member and Council President Jose Sigala offered to allow Barlow to post a slide show about the project on the neighborhood council website.
Barlow officials are expected to return to the planning committee meet for at least one more presentation before any vote is taken.