Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Wednesday, Jan. 25: Hospital Letter, green hospital at Leveroni

In the last week I’ve had moments of clarity in the hospital dilemma, and some of those moments have been a clarity about how complicated this is. Except for the architects’ in-town version, the remaining three alternatives all have great advantages.

The Romberg site would clearly be more accessible to all the people north and west of the town of Sonoma, some 2/3rds of the people of the district. It would not destroy pristine land. It would be replacing a mixed use set-up, a set up that could better be called rural hodge-podge than “green belt,” with a unified medical center. I can see now why and how the hospital board could pick this site.

That being said, to bring sewer and so much building to this site could easily lead to more sprawl.

The in-town alternative ( community) option is at first very appealing. It keeps Leveroni green and Romberg as it is. It is very convenient for the one third of the district’s population who live in town, minus those who live near where it would be built, who would now be dwarfed by 2 and 3 story buildings. These buildings, though not as cramped as the architects’ version on in-town, would still leave almost no room for the healing affects of nature in the medical/hospital environment.

Which leaves Leveroni, an agonizing choice. Most obvious, it is a marvelous, unbuild piece of class-A farm land, one of the few left in the Valley. It provides a rural buffer as we drive from 5th West out of town. The oaks are magnificent.

In short, it is beautiful.

And, here is the agony to me, it also offers two advantages to my mind, and my mind is not interested in room for future expansion. ( My take on modern medicene, in spite of all it’s technology is: the less you let into your life, the healthier you are likely to be). The main advantage to me is the possibility of building a truly connected-to-nature center, where views, healing gardens ( organic food for the patients, as well as organic beauty gardens of fruit, flower and meandering pathways), and nature pathways along the creek, would create healing natural beauty for staff, patients and community. This could provide healing of the sort I think is the most effective: the healing of returning to a slower, more nature connected rhythm and awareness.

The second advantage is to save the crowding and disruption of the neighborhood that would be swallowed up if the hospital were built in town.

Of course, the downside is the ruining of 16-20 acres of beautiful, untouched farmland. ( It’d say, use 20 acres to guarantee an extra four for gardens and pathways and greenbelt). This destruction of pristine land is why, for me, this is so complicated. Still, with immense reluctance, and only if the board comes to deep and irrevocable commitment to a nature oriented campus ( heliport on a roof, minimize the footprint, ironclad agreement that all future expansion be up not out, a guaranteed percentage of land in gardens, pathways and natural space), I would support this alternative. This is the way I’m leaning, just one person who loves the green.

Chris Elms



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