WatchSonoma Watch

Supes add greenhouse gas rules for new Sutter hospital


The list of environmental requirements that Sutter Health must meet to build its planned $284 million hospital north of Santa Rosa grew Tuesday.

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors tentatively added a condition envisioned to help further offset greenhouse gas emissions linked to the hospital’s development and operation.

Several environmental group leaders said the new requirement lacked clear standards and would fall short of its intended purpose, while Sutter officials said the extra hurdle wouldn’t delay or adversely affect their project. The 82-bed hospital off Highway 101 next to the Wells Fargo Center is set to open in October 2014.

The board’s move was part of its response to a judge’s order on a lawsuit challenging the Board of Supervisors’ approval of the hospital last year.

In his June ruling, Judge Rene Chouteau rejected many of the legal objections to the new Sutter facility lodged by hospitals in Healdsburg and Sebastopol and by an environmental group.

But Chouteau also faulted the county on two issues, the more significant of which required supervisors to reconsider the mitigation measures for greenhouse gas emissions related to the proposed medical center.

Specifically, Chouteau said the county and Sutter could not count as an offset the emission reductions expected from the closure of Sutter’s current facility, the former Community Hospital on Chanate Road.

The ruling left Sutter’s new facility far short of meeting a state threshold for emissions, even with a long list of other measures and county requirements geared toward reducing greenhouse gases.

The extra measure, approved on a 5-0 preliminary vote Tuesday, requires Sutter Health to work on developing a public shuttle for SMART that links northern Sonoma County to the commuter rail service’s planned Santa Rosa station.

Supervisor Mike McGuire, who made the recommendation, said the step would require Sutter to participate in the development of shuttle routes and schedules serving Cloverdale, Healdsburg and Windsor. Some monetary contribution would also be required, although McGuire did not put forward a number, saying the discussions about the shuttle were still in their infancy.

Sutter has paid the county $185,000 to support construction of bike lanes near the hospital. Some or all of that money could be shifted to the shuttle or an additional amount required, McGuire said.

Board members Valerie Brown and Shirlee Zane, both of whom serve as SMART directors, joined in support of the proposal. Zane initially pushed for wider changes, saying the county’s list of requirements did not have enough “teeth.”

Supervisors Efren Carrillo and David Rabbitt opposed McGuire’s proposal. They said existing emission measures were sufficient and that any new condition was an unneeded burden on Sutter and sent the wrong message to businesses looking to invest in Sonoma County. Grudgingly, Carrillo and Rabbitt voted with the board majority.

Mike Cohill, senior vice president of Sutter Health, said he was “happy” with the proposal, though Sutter representatives had lobbied the board to resist new requirements.

Sutter’s critics, meanwhile, said emission-cutting measures, including the new requirement and pair of existing provisions to address hospital traffic and transit use, would fail to deliver on the county’s long-established air quality goals.

“It’s mockery of climate protection,” said David Schonbrunn, president of Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund, a San Rafael-based nonprofit group. “This resolution is a nudge-nudge, wink-wink to Sutter. It’s not acceptable and it’s certainly not leadership.”

The group of opponents, including Transportation Solutions and the Healdsburg District and Palm Drive hospital boards, have appealed Chouteau’s overall ruling. It called the two hospitals competitors of Sutter and said they had no standing to challenge the project.

The Board of Supervisors’ response also clarifies that the hospital property will be owned by Sutter Health. The response is up for formal approval Sept. 20 and would go to Chouteau thereafter.

7 Responses to “Supes add greenhouse gas rules for new Sutter hospital”

  1. Phil Maher says:

    Yes, the areas are already served by an existing bus system. That was stupid of Mike McGuire to even bring it up.

    Part of SMART’s new self-proclaimed “vision” that’s designed as their latest attempt a propaganda is that the train will link communities, schools and health care. Sure, like the SRJC campuses in Petaluma and Santa Rosa that have no stations serving them, the Sutter Medical Center in Novato that now has no station, or even Marin General in Greenbrae that no longer has a station? You mean like those? No, forcing Sutter to buy their project by bailing SMART out with a shuttle that the rail agency wants to use as a PR tool and a way to appease the screwed over voters in the north county in front of a repeal not only gives them a convenient way to yet again push their costs off on yet another entity, it allows them to say “Look, we’re linking our riders with their healthcare needs.” Utter BS!!

    I heard that next month, SMART intends to polish their propaganda to include telling everyone that it’s for the children, gang prevention, and that every time someone signs the RepealSMART petition, a kitten dies.

  2. John Parnell says:

    So now the Supes are making Sutter bail out SMART?!? How in the world can they justify making Sutter provide the shuttle service to Northern Sonoma County?

    Supes Carrillo & Rabbitt opposed the proposal, but voted for it. That is pathetically weak. I am so sick of these “unanimous votes” where people oppose something, before voting for it. Do these Boards think this shows strength? Show some backbone instead.

  3. Steveguy says:

    They are requiring a private business to provide a bus system ? This one is off the charts of ridiculous regulation.

    Let me get this right.. In order to save greenhouse gasses, they are required to operate a bus system, when we already have a decent county bus system that can easily incorporate the hospital into their schedules. Got it.

    By the way, the SMART Train is bleeding our transit dollars dry, so soon the County Bus system will crumble. Thanks for taking our money.

    @Roger, The Chanate location is in the nice ‘hood.

  4. Steve Klausner says:

    SMART the tax that keeps taxing.

    “requires Sutter Health to work on developing a public shuttle for SMART that links northern Sonoma County to the commuter rail service’s planned Santa Rosa station.”

    What has this to do public health? If they’d make a hospital do this no new development is safe. A employer would have to be crazy to think about expanding operations in Sonoma County.

  5. Roger says:

    Sutter Medical Foundatin is not a business it is a non-profit health service provider! It is not like Sutter Medical Foundation cannot afford to help mitigate the impact of where they are moving! After
    all they are the elephant in the room as far as medical care goes in Northern California using their muscle to charge more than others providing medical care. And they did chose to build the new “county hospital” in a location near the wealthier communities who can drive their BMW’s and Mercedes to hospital while the poor folk run the gauntlet of CHP and Santa Rosa PD to driver to the ER from Roseland and other less fortunate parts of our community!

  6. Watch the Costs says:

    Zany and Brownie like teeth in their regs. In fact, they like to apply “teeth” so that too many businesses look elsewhere to locate. At the same time these two don’t have a problem with no teeth in spending taxpayer monies on the UnSMART train to nowhere.

    Zany and Brownie have a closed book on new business in Sonoma County and an open checkbook for anything when it comes to their pet project, the little unSMART train.

  7. The Hammer says:

    Let’s not make it difficult for businesses to build in this county, let’s make it impossible! Too many rules and regulations. In the end it comes out of our pockets and I for one am damn tired of my money being spent on so much B.S.

    I hope that no one tells them about the one-eyed mole that habitats in that area.