Information session on proposed Elk Grove CNU hospital leaves residents frustrated, untrusting

Dr. Alvin Cheung (left) and former Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis attempting to answer numerous questions
on the proposed  California Northstate University's hospital. |  

Even though the information session to answer questions about a proposed hospital in Elk Grove went one hour over its two-hour schedule, many of the 200-plus participants left the meeting frustrated with the lack of clear answers to their questions. 

The session, which was organized by Elk Grove City Council Member Darren Suen, was held on the evening of Friday, February 22 at the Asian Sports Foundation in Elk Grove. The forum included Suen, three Elk Grove city staff members, and four representatives from the for-profit California Northstate University who is proposing a $750 million teaching hospital as part of its medical school in Elk Grove Stonelakes neighborhood on the city's west side.

Since the December 18 announcement of the proposed hospital, residents in the nearby Stonelakes neighborhood have organized an opposition group called NEST - Neighbors Ensuring Stone Transparency. Their primary objection is that the hospital will be built on an existing shopping center owned by the school that will be demolished and its location in a neighborhood is inappropriate.  

After a description of the process by Elk Grove city planning staff that the school will undertake, which will include a full environmental impact report, former Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis pitched the benefits of the hospital. Davis, who resides in the Stonelakes neighborhood, has been hired by CNU in a public relations capacity.

The questions from the audience were submitted in writing and read by Suen. The audience asked a wide variety of questions, and at times openly expressed frustration that Suen, Davis, and CNU president Dr. Alvin Cheung did not answer their inquiries.

One recurring theme expressed by audience members was the lack of trust they had in the Elk Grove City Council and CNU. Cheung did acknowledge the school's handling of the initial announcement of the planned hospital was flawed.

During the meeting, it was discovered that CNU also purchased a nearby
vacant parcel at 2410 Maritime Drive (click image to enlarge). 
"We have not done things exactly in order," Cheung said. "It wasn't a perfect launch in terms of information." 

One question about property adjacent to the Stonelake Landing Shopping center revealed the school has also purchased vacant land on nearby Maritime Drive. When asked, the school's legal counsel Paul Wagstaffe declined to discuss plans for that parcel. 

Along with several questions about what health insurance plans might be accessible to the hospital, there was keen interest in financing plans for the $750 million project. Again, Cheung was vague in his response and was pressed out loud by the audience.

"That is not a question, at this time, that we can address," Cheung said. "At this time we have no preference if it is domestic or international." 

Although the majority of questions focused on the proposed hospital and implications for the Stonelakes neighborhood, questions about local politics surfaced. One participant asked if Suen, and Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly, who was present for a portion of the meeting, had accepted campaign donations from the school.

After both said they had not received anything from the school, a follow-up question from the audience asked both if they had received donations from Cheung. Ly acknowledged he had received a campaign contribution from Cheung, while Suen said he could not recall.

"Yes, he has to both of us, and it is all public information," Ly said. 

Suen said, "I don't think Dr. Cheung donated to my campaign." A review of Suen's financial disclosure for his 2018 mayoral campaign showed on October 17, 2018, Cheung donated $2,000.

After the meeting, members of NEST, who helped organize and conduct the session said many of their questions remained unanswered. 

"I still think that there are a lot of questions that haven't been answered," Daisy Hughes said. 

Echoing Hughes, Kathy Engle said, "I think there were a lot of questions that were dodged, particularly about financing, and I am leaving here having the exact same impression regarding financing which I had before is that it is non-existent, or its secret."

During the meeting, it was noted that the application submitted by the CNU in December was incomplete and returned to the applicant for more detailed information. Although Davis claimed construction would start in 2020 with a 2022 completion, controversial projects like this typically face several hurdles, and this one is not expected to be an exception. 

As people were leaving the meeting, one lady who asked not to be identified summed up the frustration of many participants about the lack of substantial information conveyed to the audience.

"We learned something," she said of the city and CNU representatives. "They are a bunch of liars."

Below are recordings of the two sessions. They are divided based on an intermission during the meeting. 

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Eye on Elk Grove said...

It is very interesting to note when Gary Davis first moved to Elk Grove, and immediately sought exposure in the community in beginning his political career by taking on Elk Grove City Council incumbent Dan Briggs, he ran as the “Leader of the People.” Many, at the time, called him an opportunist and much worse.

One thing for sure back in 2005, Davis sized up the political climate at the time and took full advantage of circumstances. It appears now that Davis’ expedient actions were guided primarily by his self-interested motives. And they continue to this day as a private citizen.

And now all these years later, the self-described Mayor Emeritus is now a paid consultant who approached CNU for a nice fee to work against the very people he was once elected to serve.

Has Davis abandoned his relevant ethical or political principles, or did he ever possess them from Jump Street?

How many times did we hear Davis tell us at city council meetings that it was the “People’s House?”

I hope the voters remember this if Davis ever wants to re-enter the political scene, namely the sought-after seat currently held by Sacramento County Board of Supervisor Don Notolli, among others including the seat currently held by Assemblymember Jim Cooper.

Randy Bekker said...

I sensed he was uncomfortable in a situation as community spoke person for CNU. No free following of sentences, stumbled over his words. I wonder even though he is being paid to be a spokesperson that he believes in the project. It’s one thing to make money to feed your family an another that the job you do makes your heart filled full. I think he is in for a bumpy road forget about any future political plans his fate is sealed. He is a former Mayor and represents the hospital....

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