L.A. County General Hospital is set to become affordable housing

Los Angeles County officials are working on a plan to convert the mostly vacant General Hospital building on the LA County-USC Medical Center site into affordable housing units.

The board of directors on Tuesday approved a motion to begin preparing construction and financial plans for the project. According to a press release from Supervisor Hilda Solis, the application directs district departments to report within four months on a possible timeline and allocate up to $194.7 million in funding for the project.

“Solidifying our commitment to its restoration and reuse can support our response to our area’s housing crisis and provide exceptional healthcare services — thereby continuing the hospital’s more than 150-year-old mission,” said Solis, who introduced the movement.

The General Hospital project is part of the Restorative Care Village proposal, a county initiative that began in 2017 with the goal of pooling resources for homelessness, unemployment, mental health and substance abuse on the county-USC campus. Under the proposal, the General Hospital could be remodeled to accommodate 184 units at market rates and 371 units at affordable rates.

Exterior view of the Los Angeles County General Hospital art deco building

The historic Art Deco building could be renovated to accommodate 184 marketable units and 371 affordable units.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

“When people come through the ER and get back on the road, they can now afford inpatient treatment where they can stay for a couple of months and hold hands while they recover,” Waqas Rehman, director of planning and development for Das, shared Solis’ office in a press conference on Wednesday.

The Restorative Care Village project consists of three phases. Phase 1 was recently completed with the 96-bed Recuperative Care Center, which will provide temporary supportive housing to some people released from LA County’s health care facilities, and the 64-bed Residential Treatment Programs, which will serve patients discharged from psychiatric facilities were treated intensively.

Phase 2 includes the construction of community resource and recreation facilities, employment services and emergency mental health care.

The refurbishment of the General Hospital, construction of which could start in 2024 with a projected completion in 2026, constitutes phase 3.

The project will also provide the opportunity for community and commercial space, Rehman said.

“Child care, a grocery store, a gym, a doctor’s office, restaurants and all kinds of commercial space — that’s also being considered,” he said.

Developers will reach out to local communities to obtain applicants for General Hospital’s affordable housing units.

“It’s a holistic model that we’re trying to achieve that breaks this cycle of acute crises that we have,” Rehman said. “The endgame is living with skill development.”

A woman stands in a disused hospital operating room

A visitor looks around an operating room in the General Hospital building.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

General Hospital’s 19-story, 1.2 million square foot Art Deco building opened in 1934 about a mile and a half from downtown Los Angeles. Due to its proximity to Skid Row and other underserved communities, the hospital became a provider of medical services to homeless and low-income people.

In January 1994, the Northridge earthquake damaged the hospital and violated fire and earthquake codes.

The new LA County-USC Medical Center complex was constructed next door and operations were relocated in 2008.

Most of the original General Hospital building remains unused, although the lower floors house the Wellness Center, a US Navy medical training center, and several district departments.

In November 2018, Solis wrote an application leading a feasibility study for reusing the building. The results of the study, presented to the board of directors in April this year, recommended that the hospital be repurposed to accommodate hundreds of affordable housing units and expand the spa’s services.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-07-27/los-angeles-county-general-hospital-affordable-housing-project L.A. County General Hospital is set to become affordable housing

Alley Einstein

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