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Council approves development plan for Alta Bates Summit

on July 7, 2010

In a short meeting Tuesday night, the Oakland city council upheld a recommendation from the Community and Economic Development Agency (CEDA) to approve a development project for the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center facility, located at the intersection of Hawthorne Avenue and Webster Street near the 580 freeway.

The city’s planning commission had previously passed a plan May 19 that will allow Alta Bates to go ahead with a plan to build a new pavilion that will house new hospital rooms and an emergency center. The facility will also be seismically retrofitted during the construction.

But the California Nurses Association filed an appeal on June 1, stating that the development plan passed by CEDA doesn’t acknowledge the group’s traffic and safety concerns, especially on Webster Street, where they say it is unsafe for cyclists and pedestrians around the hospital.

The group also feels as though the new plan does not give those who are handicapped or dependent on ambulatory services an easily-accessible layout; the hospital is a 21-acre facility and has three drop-off sites for patients on the campus.

Nine of the 11 speakers who spoke for the item encouraged the council to deny the nurses’ union’s appeal and accept CEDA’s recommendation, stating the new pavilion will provide a safer, larger facility to continue treating Oakland patients. “It will be a safer hospital for workers and for our patients,” said Rebecca Rice, who has worked on the Summit campus for over 20 years. “It will be safer in the event of an emergency. The existing position is not sound. It’s dangerous in event of a major earthquake.”

Employees also spoke of community members’ need to be treated in a safe, comforting environment. “It’s routine for people who work in our departments to save lives every day,” said Chris Colton, the manager of the radiation department. “But for people walking in the door, nothing about coming to Summit is routine. A beautiful new hospital will provide a safe, comforting environment for people in our community.”

Warren Kirk, the CEO of Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, said the medical center and Sutter Health, its parent company, are committed to spend $350 million, effective immediately, to upgrade the facility. “We do not intend to close service or limit service,” he said. “This plan will help to enhance services.”

The project will also create about 500 jobs, mainly in construction.

The nurses’ union’s appeal was denied by a 7-0 vote on the grounds that the basis for the appeal was too narrow. Councilmember Ignacio de la Fuente was not present at the meeting.

Once the appeal was denied, Councilmember Larry Reid asked Kirk if he had considered hiring local subcontractors to build the new pavilion. Kirk said he was unsure of where any potential subcontractor is currently located, but would return to the council with recommendations that included Oakland subcontractors. Reid thanked him, noting it is important in these economic times to support local business.

In other council news, the council unanimously passed an ordinance that will allow the city to collect fees in the event of a motor vehicle accident if an at-fault driver is a non-Oakland resident, or if the accident is caused by a criminally negligent driver, regardless of residence. The city expects to receive about $400,000 in income from the new ordinance each year.

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