Seattle Children's expansion plans shot down

August 20, 2009

A billion-dollar battle in Seattle is raging between a children's hospital and some locals over expansion plans.

A billion-dollar battle in Seattle is raging between a children’s hospital and some locals over a big expansion.

Seattle Children’s Hospital has been planning a major expansion, from 250 beds to 600, to account for the Seattle area’s population growth over the years. Seattle Children’s also receives children from neighboring states: Oregon, Montana, Idaho, and Alaska.

But it’s also drawn the ire of the Laurelhurst Community Club, a powerful civic group from the wealthy Laurelhurst suburb who oppose its expansion. The LCC recently scored a legislative victory when the city’s Hearing Examiner recommended denying the proposed expansion plan. The LCC, which is being sued by some of its members for misrepresenting their views, claimed the 160-foot hospital would be an eyesore and cause traffic.

If expansion is truly off the table, Tom Hanson, MD, Seattle Children’s CEO, said that the hospital would "consider all options," including relocating, which would add an estimated $1.5 billion to the already billion-dollar price tag of the expansion. The hospital has repeatedly revised its plans to accommodate community concerns. The hospital and the LCC have clashed in the past: it turns its ambulances' sirens off and has rerouted its helipad flight plans to accommodate the LCC’s complaints of excess noise.

Many Seattle residents don't want the hospital to leave the city limits, and held a rally on Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 19. A local radio station sent its DJs to mingle with the crowd of a few hundred, who carried colorful signs and balloons in support.