Tomorrow night will be the third in a series of community meetings about the Broadway/Valdez District Specific Plan. If it seems like it’s been a long time since you heard anything about that effort, well, that’s because it has been. The last community meeting, which covered existing conditions (PPT) and market demand (PDF) in the area, was held in early July.
Since then, project staff have been developing a set of alternative development scenarios to present to the public for feedback. From these, the community will select a preferred alternative, which will then be studied and assessed further. All alternatives are designed with a specific goal of creating a major retail destination along Broadway between 23rd Street and 580.
For planning purposes, the area has been broken up into two parts – the area south of 27th Street, the “Valdez Triange,” and the area north of 27th Street, called, less imaginatively, the “North End.” See below.
In all of alternatives, major retail efforts are concentrated in the Valdez Triangle, accompanied by a mix of residential units, a hotel, and lots and lots of parking. North End alternatives imagine a larger format style of retail, plus at least some residential use and a medical office space component. In general, the Plan locates taller buildings and more density in the Valdez Triangle area.
This is an important moment for the Broadway planning effort, so if you’re at all interested in this neighborhood, I strongly encourage you to attend the meeting, where you will be able to find out more about the plans yourself. For those who can’t make it, I hope that the alternatives information will be on the project website soon, so you can also check it out. But really, go if you can. This is the likely the point where you will be able to have the most concrete influence in shaping what we ultimately decide this stretch of town is going to look like in the future (unless, of course, you’re against having retail there, I suppose. In that case, it’s pretty much too late). The meeting will take place tomorrow, Thursday, January 28th from 6 to 8 PM at the First Presbyterian Church, 2619 Broadway. I hope to see you there!
There’s really not a ton more for me to say about the Specific Plan without documents to refer you guys to, but I don’t want to just put up an event announcement either. So while we’re waiting for Thursday’s meeting, let’s talk about something else being planned in this part of town – the new Alta Bates/Summit hospital rebuild! It’s more exciting than it sounds.
So, quickly. State law requires that all hospitals soon must meet significantly higher seismic safety standards by 2015. (Kaiser is in the process of doing this now as well.) The Alta Bates Summit Medical Center wants to accomplish this by building an 11-story, 230,000 sf new hospital plus a new 7-story parking garage. It would look like this:
So, the Draft EIR came to the Planning Commission last week, and while it wasn’t exactly the night’s big fireworks item (I’ll get to that one later this week, I promise!), it did generate more comment than I expected it too. I guess I should know better by now. There’s no such thing as a non-controversial big project in Oakland. (Oh, except for those SWIG skyscrapers on the Lake, which for some reason nobody cares about.)
So first, there was a doctor and a nurse from Alta Bates who got up and went on and on about how great the new hospital and facility is going to be for the doctors and the patients, who are apparently all crammed in there too tight right now, and will all be like a zillion times better off in these awesome new rooms they’ve designed.
I don’t know anything about hospital rooms, and I’ve never been to the Summit ER, so I really have no way of knowing if the current room situation is as inadequate as they say or not. I have no reason to doubt their assessment. Still, their comments did strike me as really bizarrely enthusiastic about the new rooms and also oddly defensive, so I guess at that point I should have figured that there someone out there against these great new rooms, and a few minutes later, I got to learn who.
This guy from the California Nurse’s Association got up and complained forcefully that the new hospital, although twice the size of the old facility, will have 36 fewer beds than the existing facility. I guess because these great new rooms take up a lot of space? Then he started complaining about some kind of lab that Alta Bates was closing somewhere else and Kaiser was closing at their Oakland hospital and how now this facility would have all the traffic from it – I don’t know, I couldn’t really follow that part. And then about how Alta Bates is reducing beds all over California and it really was a little much and didn’t seem that relevant to the discussion at hand. I mean, like I said, I don’t know anything at all about hospitals, so maybe the dude has a legitimate point. I’m just saying he didn’t do a very effective job of making his case. It sounded kind of nuts.
The Commissioners totally did not care about this bed dispute. Well, I suppose that’s not exactly fair. It’s entirely possible they were all deeply concerned about the number of beds and special design of the rooms, but held their tongues for now, because they didn’t think the issue was relevant to the Draft EIR, because it’s not. What they were concerned about was – can you guess? Traffic! The City of Oakland requires Alta Bates to design a Transportation Demand Management program, and so of course Alta Bates is going to do one, and the Commission was basically like “Yeah, watch out. You’d better do a good job on that, we’ll be watching closely.” And also asked for more study of how to enhance bike/ped and bus access.
Also controversial is the proposed removal of this historic building – 418 30th Street (PDF), currently used as medical office space. Personally, I don’t find this building anywhere near so exciting as some people seem to, and it wouldn’t bother me very much if it were to go away (I really think preservationists in this town would get a lot more sympathy from the general public if they had higher standards about what we should be preserving.) But I also don’t see any point in demolishing it if it isn’t necessary, and it kind of doesn’t sound like it really is.
Anyway, two speakers showed up to advocate for saving 418 30th Street, although one of them seemed a lot more interested in how much she dislikes the whole concept of the hospital rebuild than how much she cared about the historic building:
Already the campus, Alta Bates is already 20 point something acres. So we’re really concerned about, you know, how big can you go? And why is this big bigness, so, so, why is this being so emphasized?
She did kind of hilariously suggest a bribe of sorts – apparently, she’d be okay with Alta Bates buying the empty Courthouse Athletic Club property on Telegraph, moving the building from 418 30th Street to there, and turning it into a new Preservation Park. Hey, it can’t hurt to ask, I guess. The Commission was a lot more receptive to the concerns about 418 30th Street than they were about the beds, at least.
Okay, that’s enough hospital talk for now. If you’ve got comments on the Draft EIR, you have until 4 PM on February 3rd to submit them – contact information is here (PDF). Oh, and I think you’ve got a chance to complain about the historic building on February 8th, when the Draft EIR goes in front of the Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board (6 PM), but I’m not 100% sure on that since the agenda isn’t posted yet. Perhaps one of my readers more familiar with LPAB goings-on than I am can confirm that?