SANTA CRUZ -- Expected traffic around a new medical clinic planned for Mission Street will be analyzed more closely by the Public Works Department after neighbors complained the new facility likely would create problems on their residential streets.
After a lengthy discussion Tuesday, including testimony from a crowd of Westside residents, the City Council directed public works officials to analyze closing parts of Van Ness Avenue and Laurent Street, making Trescony Street a two-way street, building sidewalks on Seaside Street and putting in a three-way stop at Acadia and Seaside.
Residents cited safety as their main concern with the projected 160 or so additional cars on their streets each day that public works officials said the project would generate.
"We don't think we should have 100 percent of the traffic for this project," Van Ness Avenue resident Wendy Baxter said.
No vote was taken. The issue is expected to be brought to the council again in November.
"I do understand where the neighbors are coming from," Councilwoman Lynn Robinson said. "We have to have that discussion."
The Palo Alto Medical Foundation plans to build a new 18,000-square-foot facility on Mission Street between Van Ness Avenue and Laurent Street. Plans were approved by the city Planning Commission in June.
Planners recommended the council evaluate traffic circulation in the neighborhood.
Controversy centers on parking for the medical
Public works officials voiced apprehension toward closing streets due to the "unintended consequences" of pushing traffic to other streets.
Tom Hart of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation said the foundation is spending $200,000 on traffic impact fees and up to $80,000 on other measures to mitigate traffic, including bulb-outs and signs that restrict turns around the facility.
"The signs could be installed before occupancy to benefit the neighborhood now instead of a year from now," Hart said. "This is going to create increased medical access to thousands of patients who won't have to drive to the Eastside clinic."
Councilwoman Katherine Beiers said she would support closing part of Van Ness and Laurent from cars going to and from the medical clinic.
"We have pockets of this all over town with streets either closed or one-way," Beiers said. "We need to do whatever we can to make sure we have safe streets. Any increase in traffic can have an impact."
Vice Mayor Hilary Bryant praised the unified neighbors and Palo Alto Medical Foundation, saying there's a need to balance the interest of the foundation with keeping children safe.
"Part of this is going to be a work in progress," Bryant said. "We still have a lot of work to do."
Mayor Don Lane was excused from the discussion because he lives on Van Ness Avenue, which disqualifies him from having a say in what the city decides.
The new medical clinic is expected to be completed next fall, Hart said.
Follow Sentinel reporter Shanna McCord on Twitter at Twitter.com/scnewsmom