Children’s Hospital of Oakland (CHO) is pursuing plans to construct 327,000 square feet of new space for patient rooms, administrative services, and parking near their existing sites at 52nd Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard in North Oakland. The City of Oakland is accepting comments for the ongoing scoping session through August 28. If approved, the expansion is expected to open in 2019.

The entire text of the proposal and its completed public reviews is available online.

Current Proposal

The $475 million retrofit and expansion project has two phases.

Phase 1 would:

  • construct a six-story outpatient care building with helistop and a central plant building
  • create a new entrance to the existing parking garage on Dover Street
  • renovate over 85,000 square feet in existing buildings
  • demolish four CHO-owned residential buildings south of 53rd Street

Phase 2 would:

  • demolish the seismically noncompliant B/C wing, the existing helistop, Bruce Lyon Memorial Building and several trailers
  • construct other buildings, such as a three-story family resident building, five-story acute care patient pavilion with a second new helistop, and a 334-space parking garage
  • renovate the existing gymnasium at the Children’s Hospital of Oakland Research Institute four blocks away
  • make major interventions to Dover and 52nd Streets to improve traffic safety
  • demolish six CHO-owned residential buildings south of 53rd Street

In total, the project would increase CHO’s number of beds by 20, daily patients by 71, and employees by 205. The project would construct 327,017 new square feet of usable space and add 158 parking spaces.

“Phase 1 allows them to move some medical services from their main buildings, basically rearranging,” explains Heather Klein, the City of Oakland’s case planner for the project. These new spaces will “allow them to meet the requirements of SB 1953’s Seismic Retrofit Program.

The reorganization in Phase 1 takes the existing structures from the current ward situation with two or more children per room to a single-room facility. The bed count isn’t increasing much given the new square footage, but it does make the hospital more amenable to the situations happening now with children and their parents. Phase 2 is the big construction phase, and includes the construction of the Acute Care Patient Pavilion, which provides space for non-intensive care medical/surgery beds.”

Phase 1 is expected to take 42 months to construct, and Phase 2 is expected to take approximately 36.

The current project is a scaled-down version of CHO’s last proposal, which Oakland voters rejected on the ballot in 2008. That design, part of Measures A and B, featured a 12-story tower, to the consternation of many vocal neighbors. That ballot failure was particularly disappointing because, at the time, SB 1953 required CHO to complete its seismic upgrade by January 2013. An amendment at the state level pushed that deadline back to 2020, which allowed the hospital to reevaluate its plans, engage community partners more thoroughly, and generate the current project’s lower profile.

Multiple Comment Opportunities

The City of Oakland invites the public to comment in two ways:

Comments received through tomorrow, August 28, will guide the City as they evaluate the project during the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) process.

Under California’s Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), all development projects that can reasonably be expected to impact their surrounding environments are required to study and estimate those potential impacts. That study is called an Environmental Impact Report (EIR), in this case is conducted by city staff, and involves both a draft and final version.

The public will be invited to comment on both of those versions at future planning commission meetings. The planning commission only actually votes to certify the EIR after the final version is completed, but can raise questions and direct staff.

As during the current scoping session, the City will present the draft and final EIRs for public comment at the Planning Commission, Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board, and Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. Klein “anticipates not having the EIR complete until the beginning of 2015.”

The CHO project, as it is currently planned, will also require an amendment to the City’s General Plan and the rezoning of CHO-owned homes from residential to institutional uses. These actions will require both Planning Commission and City Council approval, presenting additional opportunity for the public to engage. These will items will follow the approval of the final EIR.

Principle Neighborhood Concerns

Hospital expansions are nearly always controversial. No one seriously disputes the need for pediatric care providers like CHO, but living adjacent to a busy hospital comes with significant drawbacks, such as noisy emergency vehicles and jockeying for parking and automobile space with visitors and staff.

Klein identified general themes among the several comments already received: “traffic circulation and parking, noise associated with the helistops, the demolition of the residential properties, and construction impacts, both noise and air quality.”

A significant portion of public comments received center on the opportunities raised by this evaluation of the neighborhood’s street. One comment reads: “I think a sensible mitigation would be the remove of the 10-15 spaces there with a bike lane (possibly painted green).” Another calls for the striping of bike lanes to connect nearby Shattuck and to the West / Genoa bikeway through the project area.

About CHO

Children’s Hospital of Oakland is the only Level 1 Pediatric Trauma Center in Northern California, and the oldest independent pediatric hospital between Los Angeles and Seattle. Originally called the “Baby Hospital,” CHO first opened its doors at 51st and Dover in 1914. In 2011, CHO had 11,000 inpatient, 200,000 outpatient, and 50,000 emergency room visits.

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3 Responses

  1. Naomi Schiff

    The issues include removal of a gigantic 120-year-old magnolia tree which stood on the original grounds of the Baby Hospital, unclear intentions with regard to a historic wing of the old hospital, demolition of 10 old homes, which are contributors to a historic area of secondary importance, substantial questions about traffic, parking, helicopter noise, air quality, how the hospital might be able to buffer its buildings and activities from the surroundings such that they don’t destroy the immediately adjacent residential area, and how to address longterm maintenance improvements and zoning for the Dover St. park behind the Old University High campus. While it is too late to comment for the scoping, there will be other community meetings, neighborhood discussions, and further public process on this very large project.

  2. Josh Levinger

    Are people really complaining about traffic and helicopter noise from a freaking children’s hospital? I guess NIMBYism trumps “think of the children!”.


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