Village Matters


Keeping Efforts in Sync

Ann Christoph

 Tears welled in the eyes of at least one attendee 52 years ago, on June 28, 1959, when our local hospital was dedicated. “When the South Coast Community Hospital made the deadline…it was a miracle of achievement over difficulties. The dedication ceremonies were impressive throughout—almost emotionally so for me,” wrote South Coast News columnist Connie Wells. “…it was a big day for all of us.”


After years of community work, fundraising (bake sales, dinners, performances, and just plain pledges), plus substantial donations for the site ($60,000) and grading ($55,000) by Myford Irvine and the Irvine Foundation, the community patched together the 50 percent matching funds needed for a federal Hill-Burton grant.  Construction cost for this initial 74-bed hospital was $1.5 million.


Even after the original construction was completed and the hospital was open for business, the community was asked for and responded with additional donations for the nursery, the laundry, and a myriad list of specialized equipment as well as funds to meet the hospital’s operating expenses. 


Years passed and the hospital continued to struggle financially, yet they were strong in community support. Volunteers, donations, a foundation were all dedicated to keeping our needed hospital going.


Somehow in later years the board of directors found it necessary to change the name from community hospital to medical center, removing the named tie to the community that had founded it. Then Adventist and now Mission became owners of the hospital. Despite all its investments, the community no longer holds an ownership interest. Yet we are still asked for financial support and certainly we all have an interest having a viable, highly-regarded hospital within our city.


Our city has gone the extra mile in helping to assure the continued success of the hospital.  Council members worked to assure that the sale by Adventist would be to an entity with a substantial track record and commitment to continued operation of the hospital. When Mission Hospital was the result we were all optimistic. 


Mission has moved forward with substantial projects to upgrade and improve the hospital and has contributed lunch for the homeless at the alternative sleeping center.


Yet there have been disappointments. 


Mission officials refused to respond to requests to meet with the local community association. At neighbor meetings they punted on questions related to their hillside property uphill of Sunset Avenue.


Mission officials decided on who would be asked to serve on the state-required community advisory committee and then kept the names of its appointees secret. 


How was the community to find a venue for explaining to Mission officials the importance of the open space preservation efforts that have gone on in Laguna Beach for the past 40 years?  Was our passion and dedication to open space preservation understood?   


Was the community advisory committee asked about whether it was a good idea to intervene in the city’s planned purchase of the open space parcel uphill of Sunset Avenue, inland of the hospital’s property? Apparently neither council members nor advisory committee members knew of the Mission plan to purchase the property.


How unfortunate that the hospital, an institution that resulted from dedicated community effort and sacrifice, has now been converted to an entity that doggedly pursues its own agenda, even when that agenda thwarts the community’s other beneficial goals.  We can only hope that Mission will set this right and pursue a cooperative course.


Ann Christoph, a former mayor, works as a landscape architect.




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