Is Echo Park’s Barlow Hospital development moving forward or stuck in neutral?

By Tony Cella

Barlow Respiratory Hospital is working under an exclusive agreement with a developer interested in building hundreds of housing units on the leafy grounds of the Echo Park hospital, according to the hospital director. But some neighborhood residents say they don’t believe the project has attracted a developer, claiming the hospital is trying to buy time.

Barlow CEO Margaret Crane announced the agreement at this week’s meeting of the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council, which was considering sending a letter to city officials asking them to dismiss the hospital project’s environmental impact report that was filed back in 2009.

The hospital has proposed rezoning the nearly 25-acre property next to Elysian Park to allow the construction of at least 600 housing units as part of a plan to permit Barlow to sell off the land to finance the construction of a new hospital on a corner of the site. The project, which became an issue in the recent City Council races,  has met with opposition from several community groups and prompted the L.A. Times to publish an editorial against the zoning change.

In her remarks before the council on Tuesday night. Crane  asked  board members for more time because officials planned on making changes to the report instead of creating a new one. Crane said the alterations focused on minor changes to details the developers had made. The CEO said the changes related to minor things like the type of gravel and soil used in the project but didn’t mention specifics because she hadn’t brought the information to the council meeting. Re-doing the entire report would cost the hospital a considerable amount of money, she said.

Crane attributed the slow pace of the project on her company’s “conservative nature.” “We don’t want to get halfway through and find out it won’t work,” she said.

In an interview after the meeting, Crane declined to discuss what parts of the environmental impact report that she wanted to change or release the name of the developer, saying they’re under an exclusive agreement.

Echo Park activist Christine Peters said she thought Crane was trying to buy time for the project and asserted that the environmental report, filed in 2009, was outdated because traffic patterns and air quality conditions had changed during the waiting period. Peters suspected the hospital hadn’t found a developer and didn’t want the report dismissed for monetary reasons, which some members of the council believe are related to filing fees associated with the city planning department.

After the discussion, the Echo Park council members decided to postpone the matter until their next regular board meeting. Board member Tad Yenawine, who asked the council to hold off on the measure, said it was unprofessional to pass the motion without a letter drafted and wanted to meet with the developers.

Officials for Barlow Respiratory Hospital, which has tried several times in recent years to find a buyer for its property, says it has no choice but to tear down the century-old buildings, built as a tuberculosis sanitarium in the early 1900’s, and build a new hospital to comply with earthquake safety codes. To finance the project, the hospital seeks to build high-density housing units on a portion of its property, which has been met with ire by local residents who claim the proposed residential project will change the nature of the neighborhood.

Stakeholder Luiza Padilla-Mavropoulos threatened to chain herself to the green area around the hospital and risk arrest if construction began. Mavropoulos, who was appointed to the board later in the evening, said no one in the community could afford to live in the proposed condos, which she called a means of gentrifying the neighborhood.

“The project makes me sad, very sad,” she said.

Tony Cella is a freelance reporter who has covered crime and grime in Los Angeles, New York City and the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska.  Click here to contact Cella with questions, comments or concerns.

Jesus Sanchez, the publisher of The Eastsider, is a board member of the Echo Park Historical Society, which is opposed to the Barlow development


  1. Haven’t we heard everyones blah blah blahs about this already?

    • I wish if you had nothing constructive to add to the conversation or topic that you don’t post nothing at all. or maybe your just doing it to be the first ignorant comment on this page. All you do is cloud up this topic that matters to some people with useless comments like your self.

  2. This is kind of a long-winded report that says a lot less than it perhaps tries to.

    I find it very likely that Barlow is working in an exclusive contract with a developer who is interested. That makes all the sense in the world, and even explains why we have not heard of them putting the project up for a bid earlier this year as had been expected — because they already had this contract, or perhaps put it out to developers quietly and got this contract. They had said they intended to do that by the early months of this year, so it appears they are simply on schedule.

    Yes, it is very likely a developer is interested — the economy right now is in prime time for housing developers to be ramping up seriously, and they are, so it is no surprise at all that any number of developers could be interested in this now.

    I think that to say they are lying about having a developer interested in order to gain more time is a ridiculous assertion. They gain nothing by delaying. If that assertion was referring to Barlow hoping to change the inevitable decision by the neighborhood council, they know that will not change the decision. In fact, they are expediting things by having a short delay now so the decision can be made on what will be the final EIR rather than having to go over it all again after the few changes they mentioned are made.

    But from the language reported in this story, it sounds to me like the developer is not locked in, is working with them, and IF all the pieces fall into place, the developer will do it. It sounds like they will be moving on those pieces soon.

  3. This is kind of a long-winded comment that says a lot less than it perhaps tries to.

    • That’s kind of a dumb comment. Frankly, Mark’s comment seems like a good explanation that puts things in proper context.

  4. I was recently asked to clarify the status of the EIR. We are continuing to work on the project and the EIR and do not believe there is a basis for dismissing the current EIR as was discussed at a recent meeting. After extensive research the draft EIR was released around April 26, 2012 for public review and comments. The public comment period concluded June 11, 2012 which is less than one year ago.
    During this time, some members of the public suggested a need for housing near downtown, but they also preferred to see the project include more medical uses and less residential development.
    Barlow has been working on a revised plan which could potentially take into account these revisions. We are currently working on finalizing the project program, and once we have the final program, we will determine whether any of the aspects of the draft EIR will need to be revised.
    Once we have the finalized project, it will be presented for public input.

  5. The Chavez Ravine Evictions promised those evicted they would develop accessible housing, which until this project came along, never surfaced. This housing can be made accessible if the community starts to advocate for affordable, accessible housing! We can all say we are against, but what are we for? Jobs?, Housing? Convalescent homes? We also can advocate for a smaller project…why don’t we begin to speak for the people who are voiceless, who need these jobs, who need senior resources? This project can be molded into something our community can benefit from!

    • Preservation and development of green space. That’s what I’m for and it’s become an increasingly urgent need considering how every vacant lot or space is being targeted for rampant multi-level development. I already avoid the freeways because of chronic traffic. Are residential streets next to become clogged with increased traffic? These neighborhoods weren’t built for this. Increased housing before increased public transportation infrastructure to handle increased traffic is an ass-backwards recipe for temporary boom and inevitable Bust. Nobody is gonna make a long-term commitment to that lifestyle.

  6. “Affordable housing,” right.

    Old Angeleno here, or should I say aqui? Live close to Barlow, have driven through the area forever, have voted there many, many times. Should it go I will miss it dearly — comforting to see the old place though some units in poor shape.

    Tons of big-box apt/condo monsters going up all over town: Sunset-Gordon, Sunset-Broadway, monster boxes, but really — “affordable housing”?

    • Affordable Housing is not the proper term they should be using. for what price bracket will it be for those who can afford to live there and are not even part of the community? The senior housing over on Glendale and park ave isn’t affordable at all. I know seniors there already who are contemplating on looking for another place to live because they cant afford the rent there at $1,500 and above.

      the proper term that should be used is Low Income Housing for our community members who are already struggling if that’s what they really want to project.

  7. what a shame to see such a Historic Piece of LA history go away, I would like to thank our newly elected mayor for allowing this to happen. LA brace your self this is going to happen all over LA times 10.

  8. i’d like to thank the owners for irresponsibly managing this complex, while lining their pockets, for running it into a state of phony crisis. It takes a special set of onions to claim that a profit can’t be made out of this country’s outrageosly overpriced medical system.

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