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By Cari Hachmann

The city of San Clemente and Memorial Health Services released a joint press release on June 21, announcing that the two parties have entered into an agreement to settle all claims between them in a lawsuit that has been pending in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. Memorial Health Services’ lawsuit challenged the city’s zoning of MemorialCare’s former hospital campus located at 654 Camino De Los Mares in San Clemente. The hospital complex has sat empty since it closed more than three years ago.

According to the press release, MemorialCare has agreed to dismiss the suit, and Memorial and the city have agreed to release all claims against each other pertaining to the subject matter of the litigation.

Mayor Pro Tem Dan Bane and Tony Struthers, Vice President of Memorial, issued the following joint statement: “We are pleased that the litigation has been settled on mutually satisfactory terms. While City officials and Memorial Health Services continue to have different views about potential healthcare uses for the campus, the settlement will better allow each of the parties to explore and consider solutions that will best serve the health needs of the community.”

In a statement to the San Clemente Times, Struthers said, “The settlement provides each organization with additional time and opportunity to find a solution that best serves the ongoing healthcare needs of the community. We have and will continue to offer contemporary solutions for the campus that best serve the needs of the community. We remain convinced that there are alternatives to an acute care hospital that will provide residents with access to high quality care.”

Bane told the San Clemente Times that the city is happy about the settlement. “I think it was a very fair agreement for everyone involved,” he said. “The zoning for the property remains the same. It remains zoned for a hospital with an emergency room. We were able to avoid trial, which was supposed to start last Monday, and we saved anywhere from $200,000 to $300,000 dollars in legal fees in not having to go forth to trial.”

The city’s settlement with MemorialCare calls for a one-year period in which the city and the hospital provider can discuss their own deals for the land. If nothing has been decided after one year, the city has six months to try to take the land through eminent domain. Memorial has agreed not to fight the action, but it can contest the price of the property. Bane said there is still opportunity for the city to look for other hospital providers that may be interested and willing to operate the hospital.

If there’s not, he said the city can either return the zoning so that Memorial can find some other use for the property, or keep the zoning the same. Then the city would be responsible for paying maintenance costs on the property at up to $15,000 per month.

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