California Northstate University, a for-profit medical college, is attempting to build a massive medical complex in the residential neighborhood of "Stonelake", which backs up to Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in West Elk Grove. Earlier this week, CNU submitted to the City a detailed proposal, including a request for rezoning and a Conditional Use Permit, which would allow for the development of a biodistrict. Though the ability to finance the project has yet to be proven, the new plans now include:
- 12-story hospital with a helistop and a penthouse
- additional 7-story patient tower which would increase the bed count from 250 to 400
- 29,300 sq. ft. central plant
- 3 parking structures, two of which would be four stories in height and one of which would include basketball, tennis and volleyball courts for student use on the roof level, nearest to homes in the Stonelake community
- 4-story out-patient clinic
- 5-story medical office building
- 5-story dormitory to house 300 students with only 150 parking spaces allotted for them.
Additionally, CNU representatives have confirmed their purchase of a nearby parcel off Maritime Drive. They claim they have no plans for how to use that property.
CNU quietly bought several acres of land where a commercial retail center, Stonelake Landing, currently resides. It was purchased from Ethan Conrad for a reported $12.65M. No advanced warning was given to residents near or tenants of the proposed location prior to a press conference on December 20, 2018, which was hosted by city leaders and CNU. Even then, tenants who would be displaced were not contacted. In fact, several of them, including Dreaming Dog Brewery, Razor Sharp Kutz and Stonelake Vine & Spirits were themselves forced to reach out to the in-house attorney for CNU, Paul Wagstaffe, to get information on the matter. They still have no solid answers and are in fear of losing their small businesses. A large number of the residents in Stonelake are upset about this project and feel blindsided, as well.
Though city and county leaders insist this is a brand new development plan and that they haven't known about it for very long, CNU initially proudly proclaimed they would fast track the process and hoped to break ground at the end of 2019, indicating otherwise. There are already surveyors painting lines in the parking lot of the retail center and soil testing has been taking place since mid-January. Mayor Steve Ly championed this project as one of his campaign promises coming to fruition, yet he neglected to mention anything about the proposed plan and its location at any time during the most recent mayoral race. Quite possibly, he didn't want to create controversy before he was sworn into office. The same is suspected of other city leaders.
Several Stonelake residents and small-business owners have attended City Council and Planning Commission meetings in recent weeks. Though the subject of the hospital was not on the agenda for these meetings, it was the main focus of the public comment portion of them. (See “Media” page here.)
At the first such meeting, Mr. Alvin Cheung (CEO and President of CNU) was the first to speak, talking of how he was making great efforts to reach out to the community. He claimed he would hold a community outreach event and would invite "neighborhood leaders" to encourage discussion on January 15. However, when questioned for details, Mr. Cheung could not provide a specific time or place for this meeting, nor could he explain who these "neighborhood leaders" would be. He then left the meeting, leaving his lawyer and other staff behind.
Shortly after Mr. Cheung's presentation, there were several residents who took to the podium in opposition to this hospital project. They spoke with passion, conviction and emotion as they expressed their specific concerns. One owner of Dreaming Dog Brewery also made a passionate and scolding presentation to the council members. The final speaker was a gentleman who doesn't even live near the Stonelake neighborhood but was fired up about how our community was being mistreated and betrayed. He told the council that "this is going to be a fight", that they need to decide which side they were going to be on and that they need to realize that the community "owns their seats".
Just days before the alleged community outreach meeting, there was still no word of when or where it would take place. Former mayor, Gary Davis, who has recently been hired by CNU to facilitate community outreach, later informed residents that the community meeting proposed by Mr. Cheung had been changed to a “private meeting” consisting of community “leaders”, who were specifically chosen by CNU to attend, and a handful of residents who managed to get an invitation. Once again, the citizens were left to wonder what was taking place.
Word of the private meeting’s details quickly spread through social media. Several sources who attended the meeting relayed the following information on Facebook and NextDoor:
- Former EG Mayor, Gary Davis, has officially taken on “the role of facilitating community dialogue on behalf of CNU”, per his own words.
- Mr. Cheung states that they began the purchase of the surrounding property at the end of 2017 and closed escrow in early 2018. He also claims they weren’t certain at that time how the property would be used. This was later contradicted, as can be heard here in Mayor Steve Ly's speech at the intial press conference.
- Mr. Cheung confirmed that all statements made in favor of CNU with regard to “needs assessments” were based on speculation by their operators and NOT the City of Elk Grove
- Mr. Cheung claimed he and others were constantly “misquoted” and that ground-breaking would not likely occur in 2019, as they are much earlier on in the planning stages than previously indicated. This was later confirmed by Councilman Darren Suen.
- When asked about insurance and/or hospital affiliations in an effort to understand the clientele to which they would be catering, Mr. Cheung did not respond.
- When asked if CNU has purchased, are in the process of purchasing or are considering purchasing the surrounding land, Mr. Cheung said he couldn’t discuss that.
- Mr. Suen states that they are at the very beginning of this process and it will be a lengthy one to include the following: Application deemed complete, submission to different departments of Public Works, EIR (which will be performed by an outside group hired by CNU), Noise study, posting online re: public hearing, public hearing/comments, Planning Commission Meeting
- An EIR and traffic and noise studies have yet to be conducted
- There is no plan in place as to how to acquire a helicopter to service the proposed hospital
- The hospital will be a 12-story building with a helipad instead of a 7-story building as originally reported by several news agencies (now reported to be 13-stories with 55' in additional height with a helipad, along with several other structures including a dormatory and two 5-story parking structures)
- The meeting ended with Mr. Davis committing to reaching out to the public.
- After the meeting, a question was asked about the alleged 24,000 jobs CNU claimed would be created in the next 10 years because of this project. Mr. Wagstaffe (in-house attorney for CNU) said that the original number was a bit inflated. Mr. Suen added that the actual projected number of jobs that would be created over the next 10 years was closer to 1,400 - including temporary labor.
Are you interested in what we're doing for the community? N.E.S.T. is always looking for new members to help us make our city a better place to live. We'll keep you updated on current events and happenings in regarding the proposed CNU hospital project. We'll inform you of special community meetings and outreach programs. We'll help you find a way to volunteer that best suits your lifestyle, talents and availability.