Mark Ridley-Thomas
Mark Ridley-Thomas

Fanfare, excitement and colorful balloons greeted Crenshaw residents on Tuesday, Oct. 20 when administrators from Kaiser Permanente held a groundbreaking ceremony to announce that a new medical facility is scheduled to be constructed near the corner of Marlton Avenue and Santa Rosalia Drive by the spring of 2017.

The 90-million dollar, state-of-the-art four-story medical office building, which will begin construction this month, will have 60 world class providers on staff to treat Baldwin Hills Crenshaw members.

Comprehensive services offered will include primary and specialty care services, including family/internal medicine, pediatrics, optometry ophthalmology, obstetrics/gynecology, health education classes, laboratory, pharmacy and mental health services.

The new facility will also feature technology advanced exam rooms, conference rooms, 2.5 acres of green space that will include a two-mile walk path, a farmer’s market, and an outdoor event space that will be available to local community groups.

Herb Wesson
Herb Wesson

The event kicked off with the soaring strains of “America the Beautiful” sung by the Crenshaw High School Elite Choir, followed by an invocation from Bishop Charles Blake of the West Los Angeles Church of God in Christ.

Students at the Hillcrest Elementary School’s LA’s BEST program delivered a riveting dance routine to the delight of the audience.

Also attending the ceremony were Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, California state Senator Holly Mitchell, Los Angeles City Council President Herbert Wesson, Assembly member Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

“My father grew up in South Los Angeles,” said Garcetti. “I am so pleased to be here. For too long, this community has not gotten its fair share and I thank Kaiser Permanente for their dedication to South Los Angeles.”

Garcetti also thanked civic leaders for their efforts to bring forth the project and added that the new facility will serve as an anchor to attract new business to the area. “We’ll see new restaurants open,” he pointed out. “The Metro Line is a third of the way finished, which will bring more residents to the area. Am I optimistic about where South Los Angeles is going? I am. This is an amazing day to see.”

“Kaiser Permanente is proud to be part of the new economic development and revitalized energy in this area,” said Dr. Howard J. Fullman, area medical director for the West Los Angeles Kaiser Permanente Center. “This facility will bring great health care to this community. We are going to make sure that every person gets a preventative health test and access to great doctors and health plans. We will work to earn a place of respect in the chapters yet to be written for this beautiful community.”

“Kaiser, you know us and we know you,” said state senator Holly J. Mitchell to the capacity crowd. “You not only serve the community, you are part of the community. Welcome to the ‘shaw.”

“This is a phenomenal day and I am pinching myself that this is not a dream,” said Wesson. “This has been a group effort. I want to say to the community that I love you and I thank you for all the work you did to make this vision a reality. We will all be able to look at this location with a unique sense of pride because we helped to make this facility a reality.

“Years ago, from the very beginning, this facility was the dream of a young councilman, Mark Ridley-Thomas,” Wesson pointed out. “I also give a shout out to Bernard Parks, who tried to make this dream come true. Wherever you are, Mr. Parks, we thank you for your service.”

Wesson also thanked Garcetti and his office for their efforts to bring the Kaiser facility to the community.

“Let’s smile, let’s dig a hole and let’s have a good time,” Wesson continued. “We’re looking forward to coming back and cutting the ribbon on a state-of-the-art medical facility that will serve our community. When it is finished, I will be the first person in line to get a blood pressure check,” Wesson quipped.

“We began this journey 20 years ago,” said Mark Ridley-Thomas. “We look forward to celebrating the completion of this project.

“I’m proud to be a 35-year member of Kaiser Permanente,” Ridley-Thomas continued. “This is the age of Obama care. We have more people in this community that now have the capacity to avail themselves of health care than ever before and can choose their health care provider. Health care is a right, not a privilege.”

Dr. Benjamin Chu, Kaiser Regional President, said he was excited about the ribbon cutting. “Behind that ribbon will be a big, bright, beautiful facility that will be surrounded by parks, banks, wonderful restaurants and thriving schools,” he pointed out.

“I am thrilled and honored to be here,” said Georgina Garcia, executive director of the West Los Angeles Medical Center. “This is important to us. We are committed to this community and this new building will take our relationship to a new level.”

“This is a long time coming,” said Loretta Jones, the CEO of Healthy African American Families II. “I have been in this community since 1979 waiting for this. Kaiser will be an anchor and it will help to move and change things and other good things will follow. Kaiser will have to be in partnership with the community—and they need to be legitimate, transparent, and respectful.”

“I must commend Kaiser for keeping its promise to provide a comprehensive medical center in the Crenshaw area,” said former 33rd district congress member Diane Watson. “There is no more urgent need than to have a health facility in the Crenshaw community. We have an aging population, and I am happy that they will be able to walk right over to Kaiser to get access to medical care.”

Kaiser administrators further demonstrated their commitment to the community by inviting representatives from a number of local nonprofits on the stage where they were presented with a check for $203,500.

Kaiser also hired Turner Construction to build the facility. “They are committed that 50 percent of all newly hired employees will be local residents,” said Alana Prisco, communications specialist for Kaiser Permanente.

The Dorsey High School Drill Team and Drum Line provided music as civic leaders and Kaiser administrators donned hard hats and jovially gathered to take photos during the shovel digging ceremony.