County Board Advances Planning for General Hospital Renovation Project

Empty delivery room at hospital inn a sunny day

Photo: Getty Images

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday moved forward with an effort to overhaul the historic General Hospital building in Boyle Heights, including using the mostly vacant structure to provide hundreds of units of affordable housing.

The board approved a motion authored by Supervisor Hilda Solis that calls on various county departments to move forward with plans for structural upgrades to the building and to identify nearly $195 million in county funding to advance the effort.

"We have the opportunity, in my opinion, to hopefully house more than 500 residents, and that work will not go unnoticed," Solis told the board prior to the vote.

She walked through the storied history of the building, and its promise to provide care for all residents regardless of their financial status.

The 19-story, 1.2-million-square-foot building opened in 1934 and was considered at the time one of the most robust medical centers in the country. It is also an architectural gem, with its art-deco design and ornate ceiling artworks.

But the building suffered structural damage during the 1994 Northridge earthquake, prompting construction of what is now the Los Angeles County- USC Medical Center. Most of the General Hospital structure sits unused, expected for a Wellness Center clinic on the ground floor and some county office space.

In 2018, the board ordered a feasibility study to consider possible reuses of the historic structure. Among that study's findings was the possibility of creating hundreds of affordable-housing units, while expanding the Wellness Center's operations to provide more complete services for those who would occupy the building and others in the community.

The motion approved unanimously by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday calls on the county CEO to report back in four months on a plan and financing options for structural upgrades needed in the structure, along with a possible timeline for the work. It also calls for a reallocation of millions of dollars in funds from various accounts to put toward the project, including $10 million from the county's Care First, Jails Last program and $50 million in state funding included in this year's California budget.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl initially said she planned to abstain from the vote, saying she was concerned about the sources of funding that will be used for the renovation work. But after further board discussion, she changed her mind and voted in favor.

Board Chairwoman Holly Mitchell said she shared Kuehl's concerns about funding and how it might hamper the county's overall budget. But she supported the motion, noting that for now it is an effort to identify potential funding sources.

Solis sought to reassure her colleagues, noting that everything will be "negotiable" as the proposal moves forward.

"Everything is not cemented," she said.

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