The growing Bay Area population is putting the squeeze on El Camino Hospital, maxing out parking and pushing maternity and outpatient services to the limit. The cure, according to hospital officials, is a new seven-story medical building and two new parking garages.
On Tuesday, Mountain View City Council members reviewed the proposed project, which has yet to begin a year-long environmental review. The plans call for a new 230,000-square-foot, seven- or eight-story tall medical office building next to the main hospital in the center of the campus. Next to it would be a new, 320-stall parking structure.
The project also includes an expansion of the northwest parking structure, and a new two-story Behavioral Health building with nearly three times the square footage of the current building. El Camino Hospital, all told, would increase the number of parking spaces by 485 -- a 25 percent increase -- and hospital officials expect the new office space to bring hundreds of new patient visits every day.
Council member concerns were focused squarely on traffic. Council member Mike Kasperzak said he didn't have any real issues with the overall plans proposed by the hospital, and that his biggest concern was on managing traffic in the area.
The only way to get to the hospital is along through Grant Road, which connects to North and South Drive on the hospital campus. Grant Road is congested throughout the day, and more hospital employees and patients could make it even worse.
"Grant Road is a subject we should be talking about. It's a fiasco out there," said council member Ken Rosenberg. "It's as bad as Shoreline going into North Bayshore in the morning."
Rosenberg said the city's new shuttle system, which currently makes a stop at the hospital, could be part of the solution. If initial ridership data is minimal, he said, the city could work on outreach and advertise the shuttle as a way to get to the hospital.
About 20 of the hospital's 1,300 employees are using the shuttle in "varying ways," according to according to Ken King, chief administrative services officer at El Camino Hospital. King said the hospital would be willing to figure out ways to expand use of the shuttle service for its employees, patients and visitors. Alternative forms of transportation may not be a good fit for everyone visiting the hospital though.
"If you're sick or injured, I don't know if you're going to get on your bike or take the shuttle," said council member John Inks.
Council member Lenny Siegel said Grant Road is a special case in that traffic is bad in both directions, unlike North Bayshore, and boosting the number of parking spaces by 25 percent indicates the hospital is going to be exacerbating the traffic conditions.
Inadequate space in the Women's Hospital is one of the primary problems fueling the need for the project, according to King. He said the young, high-tech workforce drawn to the area are defying population projections, which originally predicted the number of women of child-bearing age would decrease in the coming years.
Instead, the number of births are increasing, and the hospital delivered an average of 4,300 babies each year for the last three years. King said the building was only designed to handle 3,600 deliveries a year.
"There are days where we are virtually busting at the seams with the higher number of births," King said.
There actually is enough space in the Women's Hospital to accommodate the higher demand, but the second and third floors of the building are currently occupied by medical and physician offices. The indirect solution, according to King, is the relocate those upper-level offices to the new medical office building. He said the shifting means that of the 230,000 square feet of new office space, overall hospital office space would increase by only about 60,000.
Parking is also tough on the hospital campus right now. A parking count last year showed 92 percent occupancy of its thousands of parking stalls during peak hours. The project would add a four-story, 360-stall addition to the north parking garage as well as a 320-stall parking structure near the main hospital building.
Council member Chris Clark cautioned the hospital to consider pedestrian circulation at the hospital. The hospital is already "kind of a pain" to get around, he said, and the north garage addition means there needs to be a good way for pedestrians to get where they need to be.
"Once you're actually on the campus its really hard to get from one end to another without running into a building or having to go through a building," Clark said.