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Medical Center potential taking shape

By Sam Richards

Staff writer


Friday, February 16 (8:30 a.m.): The GRF Planning Committee on Thursday talked about an early iteration of what the former John Muir Health medical building could look like after renovation to include most of the offices now housed in the outdated, overcrowded Mutual Operations Department facility on Rockview Drive.

The earliest results of the “Space Use Study” (https:// by ELS Architecture and Urban Design reveal a plan that may require some changes or updates, but that moves in the next few years many offices and functions from inside Rossmoor to the property located just outside the gate.

“It’s really something to start the conversation,” said Dana Bazzi of ELS. “This is not the final plan.”

This was the latest of many discussions about the GRFowned medical office building, which has been empty since 2019, when John Muir Health vacated the building. Twice, GRF tried to sell the property, only to have sales fall short of the finish line.

In April 2023, the GRF Board voted to commission a $160,000 study by ELS to determine whether it’s practical, or possible, to convert the building near the Rossmoor Shopping Center into GRF-related office space – most notably as a potential replacement for MOD.

David Masenten of ELS said replacing MOD’s “agedout portables” with a more modern structure could cost an estimated $15 million, while renovating the old medical building would likely cost “significantly less than that.”

Intheory,the30,000-squarefoot building could be refurbished to host not only MOD but other GRF departments as well, possibly including most now based at Gateway and some at Creekside. The building likely will require extensive renovations for any use GRF would have for it.

The design the Planning Committee saw included proposed uses only on the ground floor, which may or may not be enough space for all the proposed uses. Bazzi reiterated that the current floor plan map can be changed to meet specific wants and needs.

Committee Chairperson Leanne Hamaji said she is encouraged by this first version of a floor plan, calling it a “great first step.”

Food and beverage study

The process to begin understanding what various food and beverage service options are possible or practical within Rossmoor, and what Rossmoorians want, will likely take at least six months, Director of Community Services Ann Mottola told the committee.

That process, committee members and consultants said, will include various forms of community outreach with different resident groups. General feedback could come from a town hall-type meeting, but a focused and consistent group of people also will be tapped to offer feedback over the course of the entire process.

The GRF Board in December agreed to pay Newport Beach-based Synergy Restaurant Consultants up to $70,200 to conduct a market study for various food-related services – restaurants, bars, caterers and coffee bars, for example – and Rossmoor’s capacity to accommodate such services.

The Synergy study is expected to include an evaluation of the current restaurant lease (Creekside Grill) and studies of lease agreements involving similarly sized facilities in communities demographically comparable to Rossmoor, community education and engagement components; and prospective next steps, including a possible market survey of what kinds of food-related vendors Rossmoor residents would support.

Mandy DeLucia of Synergy said that among the most important pieces of the firm’s work in Rossmoor will be to find out what food-related services they are hungriest for, and which of them are possible and sustainable.

“There are many ways to think about what ‘food service’ can look like,” DeLucia told the committee. And, as Synergy Managing Partner Danny Bendas put it, “We have to find the right blend of what sounds great and what is possible” from both economic and facility points of view.

Phone book deliveries

Despite increasing costs, Planning Committee members gave non-binding “straw poll” approval for the Rossmoor News to remain involved with delivering the annual Rossmoor phone book and distributing sign-up cards for residents to have their numbers appear in the annual books.

News Managing Editor Ann Peterson told the committee that American Directory publishes the Rossmoor phone book, and that the Rossmoor News helps with delivery and signup cards that residents fill out to have their names, addresses and phone numbers included in the following year’s phone book. The finished books are delivered by Rossmoor News carriers in January and February to Rossmoor manors.

In return, Rossmoor receives about 35 pages in the “Rossmoor Community Pages” of the phone book, which it uses to include basic resource information about bus service, the facilities, recycling and emergency preparedness and Rossmoor clubs.

For the past two years, the costs of inserting the card into the newspaper and delivery of the phone books has risen, coinciding with news carrier wage increases approved to fight a significant staffing shortage.

In addition, the bulky, heavy phone books take longer to deliver, Peterson said, driving up the total cost of delivery to the homes and area businesses to $3,241 in 2024, a cost that could go higher in the future. American Directory pays that delivery fee but expressed concern this year about the escalating cost. Peterson told the committee her department anticipates losing between $200 and $300 on phone book deliveries this year because weather and a staffing shortage could lead to overtime pay.

In the very informal poll of the committee members Thursday, three of the four committee members said they favor GRF retaining some control over the phone books (including which numbers get in and how the books are delivered) rather than having American Directory handle the phone books without some staff involvement.

Peterson is expected to return to the committee in May with more specific information about costs and other variables.

Opposition to yield study

A proposed study of whether to sell two Rossmoor-owned parcels – one of them the current Rossmoor Garden off Tice Valley Boulevard – for housing development wasn’t on the Planning Committee’s agenda this month. But that didn’t stop eight people from speaking during Residents Forum about the proposed preliminary study.

Just in case their message hadn’t been heard before, including during public comments at the January Planning Committee meeting, it was reiterated again on Thursday.

“Our members really don’t need this dark cloud hanging over their heads,” Garden Club President Barbara Wightman told the committee. “Find a way to make money without displacing us.”

The GRF Board returned to the Planning Committee for further analysis of a proposal to conduct a “yield study” for housing development potential of both the Garden Club parcel and another off Terra Granada. New housing built off Terra Granada would be in a new Rossmoor Mutual.

The Planning Committee will add discussion of a yield study on a future meeting agenda, Hamaji said.