The Beach Cities Health District has found support for its proposed Healthy Living Campus, after four years of largely negative public reaction.

A district-commissioned poll of 600 registered voters in the three beach cities, conducted Sept. 29 through Oct. 5, showed 61 percent in favor, or somewhat in favor, of the Healthy Living project and, and 21 percent opposed or somewhat opposed. 

Unsure were 19 percent.

The $43,750 poll was conducted by FM3 (Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates), based in Los Angeles. The results were reported last Friday by Adam Sonenshein, FM3 vice president, during a half-day, BCHD planning meeting. 

Sonensheim noted “broad favorability” in sub-groups; those living closer to, as well as farther away from the former site of South Bay Hospital. 

In a follow-up segment of the polling phone call, after more information was relayed to the subject on the line, the margin increased to 71 percent in favor, or somewhat in favor, to 21 percent opposed or somewhat opposed.

The further information noted that the 1960 hospital building fails to meet current seismic safety standards, which led to the idea to replace it with the Healthy Living Campus. 

Overall awareness of the Campus, the poll found was “relatively low,” Sonenshein said. “A lot of folks really aren’t paying attention to the plans and probably need to know more.”

The Campus would replace the old, four-story hospital with a six-story building, to house assisted living units, medical offices, community health and wellness services, youth mental and physical health programs; a possible aquatic center and two acres of open green space for public use.  

“I’m confident that in 10 to 20 years, we will not only think about the pandemic that defined this time, but that it was when the district began to turn to what happens with our Campus, and what’s next for the district,” BCHD CEO Tom Bakaly said in an interview following the Friday conference. “… If the board goes forward with a plan, we think the awareness is gonna go up.”

The BCHD board meets again Oct. 27, at which time they may choose a version of the Campus to continue with.

“To approve a master plan with a project in it for moving forward,” said Bakaly. 

 

Participants in the virtual, semi-annual planning event numbered 79 at the start, with smaller groups, made of many BCHD employees and volunteers, splitting off later. 

In breakout sessions, sample comments included “almost too many options” (Nicole Lunde, BCHD School Health Programs Coordinator – Substance Use Prevention), and questions about an alternative for the property.

“Taking your toys and going home doesn’t really solve the problem,” said Karen Blanchard, a BCHD volunteer.

In other comments, the aquatic center part of the project was said to be something schools and the city should take on, not the BCHD.

Submitted public comments included Torrance residents’ complaints about noise, trucks and more.

“There is much more that has not been addressed or answered,” read one.

A woman in a breakout group questioned this. 

“Where have you been when the malls are getting built? I live on Rosecrans Boulevard. They tore down one restaurant and built four,” she said. “I just feel like the BCHD needs a little bit more freedom and respect.”

The BCHD staff will compile the information gathered from the meeting to put together a 2022-25 budget recommendation to the board.

In May or June of next year, the board expects to release its next, three-year budget and a list of health priorities. ER