Sacramento City Council approves private psychiatric hospital project

Despite the protests of some residents of a nearby neighborhood, the Sacramento City Council voted Tuesday to approve the construction of a 120-bed psychiatric hospital in a North Sacramento business park.

The council voted unanimously to approve the project after more than two hours of debate.

Signature Healthcare Services plans to construct the facility on Expo Parkway, which sits between Highway 160 and the American River Parkway. The hospital site is across the highway from Woodlake, a leafy residential neighborhood.

The hospital site currently is a vacant lot. The planned 70,860-square-foot facility would have a 24-hour intake counter and outpatient care space, according to a city staff report.

Woodlake residents have staged protests – including a small gathering outside City Hall on Tuesday night – and placed signs on front lawns throughout the neighborhood voicing opposition to the plan. Public meetings on the proposal have drawn as many as 100 people.

A group of neighborhood residents said they had compiled a list of nearly three dozen concerns with the project. They said they are worried the hospital would affect the public safety of Woodlake and voiced concerns over recent legal troubles facing Signature Healthcare, including a federal lawsuit charging the company provided “minimal, substandard care” to patients in a Pasadena facility.

Thomas Powell, who leads a neighborhood group opposing the plan, described the hospital as “a medium-security” facility. Powell also rejected an argument by city officials who said the hospital will have less of an effect on neighboring communities than a previous plan to build an office park on the site.

“An office park is not a 24/7 operation; an office park does not have people living on the premises,” he said.

To address public safety concerns voiced by some Woodlake residents, Signature Healthcare offered to pay for 24-hour security on the hospital site and off-site patrols of the neighboring area. A proposal to have the company pay for a city permit that would allow private security to enter Woodlake Park was removed from the agreement approved by the council.

Signature Healthcare will organize cleanups of the American River Parkway twice a year.

Medical officials told the council that the hospital would address a need for psychiatric care facilities in Sacramento. Dr. Aimee Moulin, an emergency room physician at UC Davis Medical Center, said the shortage of care in the region “is at a crisis level.”

“We have an obligation to speak to the needs of all of the constituents in our city,” said Councilman Allen Warren, who represents Woodlake. “Mental illness in our community needs to be addressed. I believe this project is a step in that direction.”

Gregory Thatch, an attorney representing Signature Healthcare, said the location is appropriate for the hospital. The planned site is in a business park near two other medical facilities, he said.

Thatch said the facility will help “seniors to a large degree” and those suffering from depression. He said it would not house patients who are “criminally insane.”