Saint John's Health Center (Photo by Daniel Archuleta)
Saint John’s Health Center (Photo by Daniel Archuleta)

MID CITY — Officials at Saint John’s Medical Center have 99 concerns, but parking, they hope, isn’t one.

As rumors about the future of the hospital swirl and offers to purchase it from its owners, the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System, percolate, officials have quietly been proceeding with its other constant battle — parking.

Hospital administrators have formally identified 210 new parking spots and beefed up contract provisions on others, changes they believe will satisfy City Hall’s requirements that the hospital provide the “functional equivalent” to a 438-space subterranean parking structure that was promised in a 1998 contract to rebuild the hospital after the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

Fail to do so and the City Council could force the hospital to invest $25 million to build the structure, something residents have long called for to end competition with hospital employees, patients and visitors for scarce parking in and around the neighborhood.

The hospital has also agreed to provide an analysis of its parking operations after the new entry plaza and west lot have opened to make sure everything is working out as planned, although administrators made it clear in a May response that they did not feel the city was “legally entitled” to such a report.

The new spaces include 85 at the Colorado Center, formerly the Yahoo! Center, roughly half a mile from the hospital at 2600 Colorado Ave., and an additional 125 spaces at the adjacent Held Parking Structure.

Those spaces, along with spots at Saint Anne’s Catholic Church, all include 10-year leases, wrote Stephen Sharrer, vice president of Human Resources at the hospital, bringing the total 90 spaces above the 210 required by City Hall.

Between the new spots and the entry plaza and west lot — supposedly open in March, but now delayed until July 2013 — the parking situation at the hospital will be “substantially improved,” Sharrer wrote.

The submission comes in response to an April 29 missive from Planning Director David Martin informing the hospital that its plan to provide parking for the 266-bed facility was not up to par after the hospital was booted from its 450-space lease at the Colorado Center.

The hospital was informed of the change at the end of 2012 and began identifying new parking spaces even as it contested the eviction with the Colorado Center.

An analysis performed by Walker Parking Consultants concluded that although the hospital had lost a huge number of the spaces that it had been leasing — sometimes illegally — for years, hospital workers had never used more than 94 of those spaces at any given time.

The Walker report showed 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 all Colorado Center parking but including 125 extra spaces at the Held Structure — would guarantee.

Martin’s response indicated that the total number wasn’t enough to meet the hospital’s obligations under its contract with City Hall, and that it needed to find 210 spaces that were at least as secure as those previously under contract at the Colorado Center.

He also requested a new parking study after the entry plaza and west lot, both on the Saint John’s campus, were completed.

In his May response, Sharrer said the hospital would do it, but City Hall would have to wait three months after the entry plaza and west lot opened to get the information, putting the report out until roughly October 2013.

“Since Saint John’s has demonstrated it will have sufficient parking to meet its peak parking demand, and since Saint John’s has now satisfied the city’s request for 210 additional functionally equivalent spaces, Saint John’s doesn’t believe the city is legally entitled to request this report,” Sharrer wrote.

City Hall has 60 days from the end of April to respond.

The Saint John’s parking question has recently taken a backseat to news about the hospital’s potential sale. The L.A. Times reported Friday that the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System entered exclusive negotiations with Providence Health & Services, another Catholic hospital company.

If the sale goes through, Providence will have beat out competing bids from multi-billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong, who had the backing of the Saint John’s Health Center Foundation, doctors and the nearby John Wayne Cancer Institute, and the UCLA Health System.

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