Bateman Mall to be Restored

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday May 19, 2006

Neighbors of Alta Bates-Summit Medical Center who gathered for the Bateman Mall Restoration meeting at Alta Bates on Wednesday night welcomed the city’s announcement that the grassy area that has lately been the site of the temporary road during construction at the hospital would be restored. 

Many of the neighbors had feared the road through the grass would become permanent. 

Berkeley’s Associate Traffic Engineer Peter Eakland and Deputy Planning Director Wendy Cosin told the neighbors that the path through the grass would still be used for two-directional emergency access but it would be restricted to fire trucks only. There were no plans of letting it being used by ambulances or police vehicles.  

“Our main concern is to put it back in a useful form,” Eakland said. “If we take out the emergency access completely, and there is a fire next week, then it becomes a liability issue. The emergency exit really is for fire and need not be used for anything else.” 

Eakland also added that once some kind of consensus was reached more detailed planning could be done on how to allow the vehicles to come onto the grass. There was also talk of putting the sidewalk back. Eakland also said that a “fire truck only” sign would be put up on the spot. 

Both residents and city officials agreed that drainage was one of the main concerns and needing further study. Residents were in favor of a covered concrete trench rather than a valley gutter. 

Henry Sobel, a resident of Prince Street, said that there was water coming down Dana Street during both rainy and dry seasons. Colby Street resident Marcy McGough brought up the standing water issue in Prince and Dana streets. 

“The problem lies in the antiquated dewatering system that pumps out water from below the hospital’s emergency room onto Colby and Prince streets and beyond instead of into a storm drain,” she said. “This creates serious health issues in terms of mosquitoes and other water born diseases.” 

Deborah Pitts, Alta Bates spokesperson for the Bateman Mall project, told The Planet that apart from hospital water, the drainage problem was also being created by the presence of a creek in the area. 

“We are looking into new drainage methods that would pump the water straight down Ashby,” she said. “However, we can say that the hospital water is not coming from the emergency room.” 

Residents at the meeting were also strongly in favor of a detailed study of the drainage problem as they said that the volume and source of the problem could not simply be solved with the help of a trench. Cosin and Eakland both said that the drainage problem would need to be talked over in detail with engineers and the results would then be discussed with a smaller group of neighbors.  

The deadline for completing the current construction at Alta Bates which would determine the start of the Bateman Mall restoration project has been postponed from August to October of this year because of the heavy spring rains.