The San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday morning to sue the state, and the Stockton City Council voted later that afternoon to sue, both citing detrimental impacts the project could have.
The prison hospital, for medical and mental health patients, is designed for 1,734 beds and 3,000 employees at Arch and Austin Roads, about 2 miles east of Highway 99.
The hospital is expected to have 75 to 100 people visiting inmates daily and will be surrounded by a 12-foot-high electrical fence to secure the area, along with eleven 45-foot-high guard towers every 700 feet, according to the state.
State officials announced their plans to build the hospital on state-owned property in Stockton on Oct. 20. Construction of the
$1.1 billion project is expected to begin in 2010 and last two years.
The county claims that two agencies — the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and California Prison Health Care Services — failed to adequately address several issues in the hospital’s environmental impact report, according to Deputy County Counsel Mark Myles.
“The question is whether or not the state of California and the California Prison and Health Care Services have sufficiently complied with (the California Environmental Quality Act),” Myles said. “That’s the issue.”
The environmental report fails to address topics like traffic, how the hospital would affect surrounding areas and other county services, and how it would affect air quality, Myles said.
“It’s a broad perspective,” he added.
One of the most significant impacts outlined by the state EIR is an increase in demand for local hospital services, which would result in decreased service and increased waiting times for area patients.
The document also reports that the hospital would hurt local businesses and property values, spread urban decay and cause potential shortages in qualified employees to work at the prison hospital and existing county medical centers.
According to state officials, however, the prison hospital could be a local boon.
Luis Patino Jr., spokesman for California Prison Health Care Services, said in a written statement that the prison project would give the economically depressed county a jump-start.
“The people of the Central Valley need jobs, not more lawsuits,” Patino said. “The project can pump hundreds of millions of dollars worth of jobs and economic activity into the Stockton area, both during construction beginning in 2010 and for many years thereafter.”
The Stockton hospital is one of up to seven prison hospitals planned throughout California, with 5,000 beds to be available for medical patients and another 5,000 for mental health patients, according to the report.
State officials are ready to work with elected local elected officials and business leaders about their concerns, Patino said. The lawsuits are bound to interfere with productive dialogue, he added.
The EIR also states that about 70 acres of the 144.2-acre site is designated as “important farmland,” which state officials consider to be “a significant and unavoidable impact.”
The report adds that there will be significant environmental impacts, but they are in conjunction with major growth planned in Stockton.
The hospital, along with planned residential growth, will have significant effects on traffic, air quality and possible climate change caused by greenhouse gases.