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Council approves new Kaiser hospital

Kaiser Permanente is poised to break ground on a new 450-bed hospital in Kearny Mesa in January, after gaining unanimous approval for its building plans from the San Diego City Council last week.

The 20-acre site at the southeast corner of Ruffin Road and Clairemont Mesa Boulevard will include a seven-story, 565,000-square-foot central hospital, as well as a medical office building, utilities plant and parking garage.

Existing buildings at the site, including the County Registrar of Voters, will be demolished to make way for the hospital, which is slated to open in 2017. The registrar will move to a site on nearby Chesapeake Drive.

At the peak of construction, estimated to cost around $1 billion, the project will employ between 700 and 800 workers. Once it is built, the medical center will employ 1,000 permanent, full-time workers.

Plans for the center won unanimous approval from neighborhood and city planning groups, partly because of its emphasis on environmentalism. Kaiser aims to make it the first hospital in California to earn a LEED Healthcare Gold certification for environmental sustainability, said Ed Littlejohn, chief operating officer for Kaiser's operations in San Diego.

"It's a spectacular project… (with) a beautiful campus that has gone above and beyond (meeting the concerns of local planning groups)," said City Councilmember Lori Zapf, who introduced Kaiser's plans at the City Council meeting.

Zapf noted that Kaiser's plans include widening local roads, creating bike lanes, improving sidewalks and planting more than 130 trees, which are currently being grown so they will have a more mature look when they are moved to the site.

Councilmember Marti Emerald described it as an important addition to the city's infrastructure.

"With all the talk of infrastructure that makes our community safe or more efficient or more sustainable, we talk about streets and sidewalks and parks, and public buildings," Emerald said. "We don't often include medical facilities, but our hospitals and our medical facilities are essential parts of the infrastructure that we need here in San Diego to keep us strong and sustainable and healthy."

Kaiser has 25 facilities in San Diego County, including its centerpiece acute care facility on Zion Avenue. Littlejohn said around 520,000 San Diegans are members of Kaiser, or roughly one out of six county residents.

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