Kaiser hospital at design review

So, after a somewhat longer than originally intended summer hiatus, I’m back at the Oakbook, with a report on the discussion of the new Kaiser hospital at Wednesday’s Planning Commission meeting. You should click through and read it, but if you’re too busy, the short version is that both the neighbors and the Commissioners hated the design presented (PDF), and Kaiser gets to come back for a do-over in mid-October.

Ann Mudge and Michael Colbruno got some pretty entertaining (and borderline cruel) digs in about the design (details here), to the point where I thought they may have gone a little overboard. I mean, I’m not in love with the design either, and I do think making Kaiser try again was the right call, but I don’t think it was nearly so awful as they seemed to. But I’m loathe to criticize the Commission for being too harsh, because on the whole, I think we need people in this town to be a whole lot more critical, not less.

Anyway, I was talking to an acquaintance yesterday about the meeting, and his assessment was that the building was just not that bad and that the Planning Commission was being ridiculous. I’m on their side on this one. The way I see it, I’m just happy that we get to build the it at all. If the neighbors are willing to take the damn thing and not fight it tooth and nail like it seems we have to with every other damn project (to be fair, that part did happen, but it’s over now), then the least we can in exchange is ask that the building be as pretty as possible.

I doubt I’ll ever like it all that much (I’ve already discussed how I feel about this particular form), but hopefully Kaiser will come back with something a little more exciting to look at than what they have now, which really doesn’t have all that much going for it beyond the fact that it’s an improvement over the huge concrete wall on the current hospital.

Unlike certain other projects, this is a case where the building is legitimately really big for the neighborhood, and so it seems fair to me to ask Kaiser to make every reasonable effort (demanding that the hospital not have signs, BTW, falls into the category of an unreasonable request) to put together a building that at least minimizes (to whatever extent that’s possible) the visual impact on the surrounding area. I do think that Kaiser should get at least some minor props for producing a much less hideous building this time around than they brought to the Design Review Committee in May.

Anyway, renderings below. What do you guys think?

Old design: View of main entry from Mosswood Park

New design: View of main entry from Mosswood Park

Old design: View from Piedmont Avenue

New design: View from Piedmont Avenue

View of MacArthur entry from Howe St.

View of corner at Piedmont and MacArthur

6 thoughts on “Kaiser hospital at design review

  1. Max Allstadt

    Well the first thing that strikes me is that the little umbrella lounge on the corner is a great compliment to the park across the street! It will make that corner much more pedestrian friendly.

    The view from Piedmont Ave is deceptive. The camera setting in their 3d program has been tweaked to fit everything in. No-one will perceive that thing as a whole from that vantage point. Likewise with the new design view from mosswood park. That camera is 10 to 15 feet in the air.

    Still rather decent. My only concern is what that green stuff is. If it’s stucco, they better keep it clean or it’ll be very ugly within six months.

    Overall, the most significant changes seem to be a widening of sidewalks at Broadway, and truncating that corner. Good. Fine. They could have ceded more of the corner, frankly. I get the feeling they submitted the original blocky spacehog design as a straw demand, knowing that they’d have to give a little up…

  2. anon

    While I definitely see lots of room for improvement in the plans and design for the new hospital, I was astounded by some of the vitriolic messages that came through on our neighborhood list (we live in an adjacent neighborhood) in the last couple of days. Folks seem to forget that the neighborhood that the hospital is in the heart of has been actively working with Kaiser and its designers for a couple of years now to try to find a compromise design that works for everyone. While the neighbors there haven’t gotten everything they’ve asked for, they’ve gotten some *really* big wins for Oakland—the active frontage along Piedmont, which was originally designed as a back alley garage space; the elimination of a plan to light the entire hospital building at night; moving the emergency entrance to minimize noise for residents; other concessions Kaiser really didn’t want to make—and have been fighting hard to make this project a benefit for the neighborhood. That’s not to say Oaklanders shouldn’t continue to press Kaiser to provide a design that fits Piedmont Avenue even better, but some of the emails that are circulating paint this as a Kaiser-city conspiracy that they didn’t let the neighbors in on. Definitely not the case, and we owe our Mosswood/Glen Echo neighbors a debt of gratitude for all of the hours they’ve put into this project thus far.

  3. dto510

    Commissioner Mudge shouldn’t be too snooty about hotels in Ohio. If the proposed building were a Days Inn, it’d be the biggest hotel in Oakland.

  4. Californio

    It’s not an exciting design, but almost anything’s better than the MB Center there now. What a monstrosity that is.

    One of my concerns is that the neighborhood becomes too “medical.” Kaiser at one point circulated a suggestion list for retail on the ground level. I was thinking along the lines of cafes, grocery stores, restaurants, and the like, in other words, not a drugstore, not medical or dental offices, no uniform shops, no orthopedic brace shops. I even thought a bar would be nice, but you know that isn’t going to happen. There’s something kind of, well, sterile about hospital neighborhoods.

    I’d like to see “warmer”materials in use at the ground level: brick, wood, stone. As well as more trees.

    Another concern that came up at the signage meeting was traffic: Kaiser claims it needs to move some huge number of people in and out, like 80,000 a month. What effect is that going to have on neighborhood streets?

  5. jarichmond

    Considering how large Broadway and MacArthur are through there, I can’t imagine that the hospital would have all that large of an impact on the neighborhood streets, especially considering that they’re probably already moving huge numbers of people through the area. I live nearby, but I definitely haven’t noticed much through traffic coming down my street. Also, that new building across the corner has a big garage; is this one going to have a garage as well? The other looks like it should open onto Broadway, so it should be easy to get in and out.

    Also, it might not be the greatest looking building ever, but as was pointed out before, almost anything is better than that awful MB Center. I’m just hoping that this construction doesn’t cause as many headaches for getting around our neighborhood as the building across the corner is. Trying to squeeze the buses through the construction zone during the day can be exciting sometimes, and both MacArthur and Broadway host some pretty highly used lines.

  6. Art

    I’m kind of meh on the building itself, but it is worth noting that—while this is bigger than Kaiser’s current space—they do already have a hospital here that this is replacing, so it’s not like all of the traffic generated is *new* traffic. It’s just that it’s moving down a few blocks. In my view, that’s a good thing—they’re mere feet from the freeway ramp, so people won’t be driving through and clogging up Howe and Piedmont. Personally I’m excited about the new location, since I think it has the potential to activate Upper Broadway in ways that the current hospital doesn’t. (A lot of the Piedmont Avenue restaurants rely on the hospital lunch crowd; now Broadway will be equally accessible to staff.) I’m also a little bit confused by the opposition to having Kaiser contribute to Mosswood Park improvements. I get that we want to be careful about how retaining historic buildings and design, etc., but generally, I say let’s welcome private partnerships to support our public amenities wherever we can, given that the city certainly doesn’t have the funds to give Mosswood the facelift it needs. It shouldn’t be too complicated to do a master plan for Mosswood improvements to make it clear where funds should be applied.