Dignity Health’s plans for a $50 million wellness center on riverfront property behind the former Raley’s supermarket on Hartnell Avenue picked up steam Tuesday with a unanimous Redding City Council vote to OK a non-binding letter of intent for the sale of city land.
The four parcels in question are not large, and their appraised value—about $552,000 in total—is not great, but the project is significant considering the growing scarcity of public land along the Sacramento River and hundreds of hours of work volunteers have put in to rid the 35-acre Henderson Open Space of invasive, non-native vegetation.
A key to this project’s success, council members said, has been Dignity Health’s ability to work with the city in designing a campus of offices and clinics that actually protects the open-space work that has been done and improves public access.
Equally important is Dignity’s investment that will create between 120 and 180 high-paying jobs and further enhance Redding’s status as a health care hub for Northern California.
The council’s vote directs City Manager Kurt Starman to negotiate a binding sale agreement with Dignity Health (the nonprofit corporate owners of Mercy Medical Center) that will return to the council for a final vote.
Tentative conditions of the sale include a provision allowing the city to repurchase the land for $1 if Dignity has not completed the wellness center within 10 years. Additionally, Dignity will agree to fund Henderson Open Space improvements, including a kayak and raft launch, if the transaction reduces or terminates three state grants already secured for those projects.
Dignity Health will also provide space for the historic Dobrowsky House, a 1920s-era Craftsman bungalow on Yuba Street that must be relocated to make room for the new courthouse at the intersection of Yuba and Oregon streets.
Randy Smith, a retired doctor who has been spearheading the Henderson Open Space restoration project, spoke in support of the sale. He said the wellness center would attract more people to the riparian trails, improve security and establish an environmentally friendly parking lot where there currently rests “a train wreck of broken concrete and rusted rebar.”
The wellness center also is supported by the Shasta County Board of Realtors, the Greater Redding Chamber of Commerce, Shasta Voices and the Trails and Bikeways Council of Greater Redding.
Steve Woodrum, a philanthropist who donated $50,000 toward the Henderson Open Space project, spoke in opposition, complaining that the project will “smother a section of riverfront.” He said Dignity could just as easily develop a wellness center at its Mercy Oaks property in east Redding. The riverfront footage is a preference, not a requirement, he said.
In other action Tuesday, the council:
Utility Rate Hike
–Voted 4-1, with Councilman Gary Cadd dissenting, to OK a 1.5 percent electric utility rate increase effective March 1. Barry Tippin, the assistant city manager and Redding Electric Utility director, said the increase is needed to keep pace with inflation and to help offset rising energy costs attributed to the drought-influenced reduction in cheap hydroelectric power.
For residential customers, the increase will take the form of a $2 bump in the “network access charge” from $13 to $15. Even with the increase, Tippin said Redding ratepayers still enjoy a considerable savings compared to their neighbors in unincorporated Shasta County who rely on PG&E for their electricity.
Councilman Brent Weaver said he reluctantly supported the increase out of an obligation to protect a city utility dealing with increasing costs and a stagnant demand. Any consideration of a rate hike “is like trimming your nails with a cheese grater,” Weaver said.
–Voted 5-0 to approve a use permit and make the necessary general plan amendments to allow former State Sen. Maurice Johannessen to develop a 103,632-square-foot Veterans Clinic complex across Knighton Road from the Veterans Home of California-Redding.
Johannessen, a former City Council member who went on to serve in the state Senate before being appointed secretary of the state Department of Veterans Affairs, said the clinic project has been a labor of love for the past 20 years.
–Voted 5-0 to apply for a federal grant that would help fund the purchase of 540 acres of undeveloped land in southwest Redding to preserve the area for public recreation. Collectively, the four parcels on Kenyon and Aloe Vera drives are known as Oregon Gulch.
The scenic land includes a creek, has abundant wildlife and is connected to the Westside Trail network. The Community Services Department’s open-space preservation project is supported by the Audobon Society, the Native Plant Society, the Trails and Bikeways Council of Greater Redding and the Sierra Club.