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Medical building large enough for staff, but many questions remain

Wednesday, March 6 (8:45 a.m.): Though plans are far from firmed up, early indications are that the GRF-owned medical office building near the Rossmoor Safeway store will be able to accommodate most, if not all, GRF departments, including the Mutual Operations Department (MOD).

But concerns remain about whether there’s enough parking and whether there would be any extra space to lease to non-GRF clients. And no formal decisions have been made about what departments would relocate to the renovated building when it’s ready.

These were key takeaways from Thursday’s presentation to the GRF Board by representatives of Berkeley-based ELS Architecture and Urban Design, which is studying whether the 29,000-squarefoot medical center building, last used by John Muir Health in 2019, could serve as a new home for MOD, and possibly other departments. David Masenten referred to the completed project as “essentially a Rossmoor City Hall.”

The former John Muir Health space, at 1220 Rossmoor Parkway, was under contract for purchase twice since 2019 – most recently late in 2022 – but both deals fell through. The GRF Board voted in March 2023 to take the building off the market and evaluate whether some GRF departments – notably MOD, but perhaps others as well, could possibly move into it. 

The current 12,000-square-foot MOD building at the top of Rockview Drive on Rossmoor’s east edge is a large warehouse reconfigured into office space that is now cramped and frequently in need of costly repairs. Replacing it, at an estimated cost of $17 million, is a key project on GRF’s 10-year Facilities Master Plan. But if turning the old medical building into MOD and other offices proves feasible, that cost likely would come in well under $17 million, ELS officials said.

GRF Board members understood that the space use plan, which includes most GRF departments, is far from final. But there were still questions; Board member Carol Lehr said it looked as though restroom capacity is limited under the newest plan. “It seems like not a lot for 95 people and guests,” she said.

Dana Bazzi of ELS told the Board that restrooms and other aspects of the latest space use plans simply adhere to city codes, and that most aspects of the plan can be changed. Also, adding an elevator, at a cost of about $500,000, could open up uses in the basement, Masenten said.

The current plan, Board President Dwight Walker reminded, “is just a study of what could be.”

Insurance and the city

During a discussion with Walnut Creek City Councilmember Cindy Darling, GRF Board members thanked her, and other city officials, for going to bat for Rossmoor in seeking legislative remedies for the ongoing property insurance woes affecting both premium prices and availability of coverage at any cost.

Darling noted that Rossmoor residents, and prospective buyers, aren’t the only people being adversely affect-ed by these problems.

“We’ve heard from a number of other homeowners’ associations that they’re under the same pressures you are,” Darling told the Board on Feb. 29.

The City Council has placed the insurance problems, including how they affect Rossmoor, in the city’s 2024 Legislative Agenda of issues that it wants to keep in front of state legislators and their staffs.

Walker thanked Darling for the city’s efforts to obtain some sort of Sacramento-based answer to the insurance crisis. But Walker also took the city to task over another issue – the time it takes to get city permits approved. He and other Board members pointed specifically to how long it’s taking for permits to allow finishing replacement of the roof panels over the Tice Creek pool.

GRF General Manager Jeff Matheson said the roof project was approved in 2022. “We thought this would be a pretty simple roof replacement, but that hasn’t been the case.” Permits for some of the needed work has held up the project.

Darling said she is sympathetic to Rossmoor’s concerns about permits, and that the city is looking at ways to make the permitting process easier. “We recognize it as a problem,” she said.

Other Board actions

Also at Thursday’s meeting, the GRF Board:

 Approved adjusted GRF election guidelines and procedures to make them more transparent and well-defined, to help potential candidates for the GRF Board. These revisions were adopted to streamline and clarify the steps and requirements involved in Rossmoor’s elections.

 Appointed Mike Charter as the new chairperson of the GRF Aquatics and Fitness Advisory Committee, succeeding Harriet Crosby, who had recently resigned. The Aquatics and Fitness Advisory committees had been two separate entities before they were merged in July 2023.

 Approved $35,000 to cover costs of emergency repairs for two failed water valves that forced a four-day closure of the Gateway Complex’s restrooms in October.