A rendering shows the planned expansion and renovation project at Dominican Hospital.
(Dignity Health)

Santa Cruz County Planning Commission OKs major Dominican Hospital renovation, expansion

A proposal that includes an 85,000-square-foot addition on Dominican’s Soquel Drive campus and a 409-spot parking structure nearby got unanimous approval Wednesday from the Santa Cruz County Planning Commission.

Plans for a major expansion and renovation of Dominican Hospital — including a new surgery department and a three-story parking garage for employees, patients and visitors — took a step forward Wednesday, garnering support from the Santa Cruz County Planning Commission.

With an eye toward modernizing and upgrading facilities, hospital officials are proposing to build an 85,000-square-foot addition on Dominican’s Soquel Drive campus and a 409-space parking structure off adjacent Mission Drive.

The five-member planning commission voted unanimously in favor of the proposal Wednesday and lauded the project, which heads to the county board of supervisors on June 8 for approval.

“This is an excellent project,” Commissioner Melanie Shaffer Freitas said of work that would begin in 2022 and is projected to finish in 2029. “As a resident of Santa Cruz County, I’m looking forward to this very much, to the modernization — and my only disappointment is that it’s not going to happen for a couple of years just because of the construction and all the different details.”

The hospital’s plan is to build 10 larger operating rooms to accommodate additional equipment and staff for procedures, construct 60 new, private patient rooms and renovate the existing emergency room.

But the expansion won’t mean more beds for the hospital, which is currently licensed for 222 patient beds. Instead, the proposal would take rooms that now accommodate two patients and turn them into single rooms, providing for more privacy and space for each patient.

“This is really just an upgrade of existing spaces and services that are at the facility to again get with modern health care trends, as well as seismic upgrades mandated by the state that have to be completed by the beginning of 2030,” Dudley Campbell, the project architect, told commissioners.

The proposed parking garage aims to improve parking at the hospital for employees, patients and visitors. “I think that the addition of the parking structure will greatly help to reduce the congestion of parking at the hospital site,” Deidre Hamilton, a planner hired by the hospital, told the commission.

A rendering shows the planned parking garage at Dominican Hospital.
(Dignity Health)

County projects planned along Soquel Drive, including signal upgrades and dedicated turn lanes, will meanwhile reduce congestion along the corridor, county officials said Wednesday.

If approved by supervisors, construction of the parking garage is expected to start in mid-2022 and take about a year.

The other elements of the project, which didn’t draw any public speakers Wednesday, are expected to take longer; construction for the hospital addition would start in 2024, and all construction activities would be completed by 2029.

“We see this modernization project that you are reviewing as an opportunity to enhance the excellent care that we provide,” Dr. Nanette Mickiewicz, president of Dominican Hospital, told commissioners, “as well as to improve the patient experience when we are able to go from two rooms into one larger room, and of course to expand the services and build on the advanced technology that we’ve already introduced to this community over the last several years.”