Public Comment

Commentary: Support Children’s Hospital Expansion

By Joyce Roy
Tuesday January 29, 2008

Children’s Hospital and Research Center Oakland is a hospital for very sick children and serves all of Northern California. Alameda County has the good fortune of having this hospital, located in its jurisdiction and has placed two measures on the ballot to support its construction program, Measure A and Measure B.  

Both measures are asking for a mere $24 per residential parcel (seniors and very low-income families are exempted), $150 per small business parcel and $250 per large business parcel per year. Is this too much to keep a hospital operating that provides treatment for children with serious illnesses like diabetes, cancer, birth defects and injuries like dog bites and gunshot wounds? The 10-year-old boy who was shot by a stray bullet while practicing a piano lesson on Jan. 10 was rushed to Children’s Hospital. 

Measure A is the better one because it provides enough funding to cover the county’s administrative costs. Even the sponsor of Measure B, the hospital, acknowledges that. 

Although this hospital is a private hospital, it is a non-profit and treats children of any family whether they can pay or not. About two-thirds of patients are on Medi-Cal. It is a community good, so shouldn’t the community be willing to pay something for it? 

We may not have children or grandchildren or even expect any, but we surely have friends, relatives and neighbors who do. And even, most of us were once children. 

The “high-rise” extension will be the nursing facility that will increase the hospital’s capacity from 171 beds to about 250. Nursing facilities of hospitals must be seismically upgraded by 2013. Constructing adjacent to their present hospital and re-using it for clinics and administration after the extension’s completion is the fiscally responsible and sustainable solution. They will be able to bring their scattered clinics to this central location, which will not only create more efficient service, but also eliminate much vehicle travel. 

Some neighbors object to a 12-story tower. Would they rather the hospital limit it to six stories? If so, to provide the same capacity, they would have to double its footprint and acquire another block of homes. That would be far more intrusive than a 12-story tower, particularly if it is set back from a four or five-story podium. The site is adjacent to Highway 24, which is not even the most desirable location for single-family residences. 

All but three residences have been acquired without eminent domain, which the hospital does not wish to use. Losing one’s home may seem devastating, but the compensation may enable owners to buy a better home in a location away from a freeway. 

Some of the loudest voices protesting this expansion do not even live near the hospital so you cannot call them “NIMBYs” (Not-In-My-Back-Yard) but rather “BANANAs” (Build-Absolutely-Nothing-Anywhere-Near-Anything). 

The process for placing the bond measures on the ballot can be described as convoluted but that is now a non-issue. Children should not suffer because of grown-ups’ silly behavior. The question at-hand is: are voters willing to pay $24 per year to help an existing, highly respected institution provide even better service to more very sick children. At least two-thirds of voters need to say ‘yes.’ 

What are our community’s priorities? 


Joyce Roy is an Oakland activist and semi-retired architect whose grandchildren live in Marin County.