saint johns logoCITY HALL — Planning Director David Martin told a local hospital to find some way to improve lease conditions on hundreds of parking spaces or risk violating its contract with City Hall.

In a letter released last week, Martin told officials at the Saint John’s Medical Center that its proposed plan to manage parking at the 266-bed facility was not up to par in the wake of the potential loss of 450 leased parking spots at the Colorado Center, an office complex near the site.

If it can’t, it may be on the hook for a $25 million parking structure, something nearby residents are demanding it build because they say hospital employees and patients crowd their streets and take up scarce parking spots.

Saint John’s may not be in the position to build the structure as it struggles to increase revenues following two years of operating in the red.

Although the letter identifies a deficit of 210 spaces, that doesn’t mean that the hospital will have to replace those spaces one for one, Martin said Tuesday.

Instead, Saint John’s could either find new off-site spaces, renegotiate existing leases so that they satisfy conditions in the development agreement between Saint John’s and City Hall or some combination of the two.

The hospital has until April 29 to respond to the letter, and would not for this article.

“What they come back with in response at the end of April may include new spaces they hadn’t previously had access to, or an improvement of existing terms,” said Roxanne Tanemori, a planner assigned to work on Saint John’s development agreement.

City Hall will then have 60 days to file a new response to that plan.

The back and forth between City Hall and the hospital is part of a process to determine whether or not Saint John’s parking proposal is “functionally equivalent” to the 438-space subterranean parking structure that the hospital avoided building by renegotiating its deal with City Hall.

The structure was part of a development agreement signed in 1998 as part of a massive overhaul of the hospital campus after it sustained damage in the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

The City Council agreed to waive the requirement for the structure in 2011 as long as the hospital could ensure that it would provide “functionally equivalent” parking in off-site lots.

It also permitted the leases at the Colorado Center, then the Yahoo! Center, which had been going on for years without the permission of the City Council.

Saint John’s officials received word in December that the Colorado Center planned to end its lease of 450 spaces by March 31. Hospital officials began looking for replacement parking, while still holding that the eviction was improper.

It filed a report with City Hall on Feb. 18 complete with a commissioned parking analysis conducted by Walker Parking Consultants, which concluded that even with the loss of the 450 spaces Saint John’s had plenty of parking to meet its needs.

The Walker report shows a peak parking demand of 1,160 spaces on its busiest day of operation, which is under the 1,208 spaces that the proposed arrangement — sans Colorado Center parking but including 125 extra spaces at a different off-site lot — would guarantee.

The Planning Department has requested more information about the study, but signed off on the preliminary methodology behind it.

It also promises to follow up with a second study looking at on-street parking within 120 days of the opening of the new Entry Plaza, which will provide valet parking for visitors and patients.

The on-street parking study will examine whether or not hospital employees are avoiding the $10-per-pay-period parking fee assessed by the hospital by finding places to stash their cars at meters or in nearby neighborhoods.

That has caused much distress amongst neighbors, who accuse employees and hospital visitors of gobbling up street parking and forcing them to find spaces far from their homes, despite the residential parking placards that they purchase from City Hall.

Steven Sharrer, acting vice president of human resources at the hospital, said last week that City Hall is considering other changes to parking around the hospital, including extending active hours of meters past 6 p.m. or raising prices to prevent long-term parking.

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