By Jill Tucker, SF Chronicle – June 21, 2015
If there were enough balloons to float a special little white house away, this story would be assured of a happy ending.
But, to save the small home from the wrecking ball and bulldozers, it will take a lot of will and enough cash to wheel it away.
The peculiar little house at the corner of 52nd Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way in North Oakland, surrounded by UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland’s five-story parking garage and medical offices, has to go. The hospital is expanding and needs the plot of land to build new outpatient offices.
The home is not historic. It’s just a house, said officials of the hospital that now owns it. But the three-bedroom house, nestled in the shadow of the hospital buildings, is like a real-life version of the house in Pixar’s hit movie “Up.”
It was built 81 years ago on an empty corner lot in North Oakland. As time passed, the roads around it got bigger, small stores sprang up nearby, and the little baby hospital down the street became the big hospital just off to the left with the BART tracks across the way.
That meant the little house sat on prime real estate — the perfect place for the medical facility to expand. Hospital administrators made an offer, then another, and some time later, another.
Inside, Lawrence Bossola refused to sell.
So, the parking garage and medical offices grew around Bossola’s home, the front-yard lemon trees and rose bush were shaded a bit more than before. The aging owner didn’t care. His parents had built the house in 1934, and aside from some time in the Army during World War II, he had lived there his whole life.
“He didn’t want to move,” said his friend Al Gavello. “He liked it there.”
For years, the hospital inquired about purchasing the property, but Bossola would shake his head sadly and say that his dear mother was just too attached to it. And the hospital folks would go away, Gavello said.
“He keep telling them she didn’t want to sell it,” he added with a chuckle. “But she’d actually died years before that.”
Time, however, passed and Bossola died, too, at age 87. A year later, in 2002, Gavello, acting as executor of the estate, sold the 1,040-square-foot house on the 5,355 square feet of land to the hospital for $325,000.
And then Gavello turned around and wrote a check for $25,000 — a donation to the hospital in Bossola’s name. His friend had never minded the progress that happened around his house, Gavello said. And Bossola loved the hospital, as well as all the activity that went on around it.
He just loved his little house more.
For the last 13 years, the hospital, now UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, has used the house for administrative services, with the three bedrooms and the dining room acting as offices, and the kitchen as a small lunchroom. No one bothered to take down the old metal television antenna on the roof.
A photo montage of Bossola and his parents hangs in the entryway. A lot of the original construction is still there, the kitchen cupboards and dining room built-in hutch. The original tile — cracked here and there — is still in the bathroom.
Needs to be cut in pieces
The Bossola home is priced right: It’s free. And the hospital will give the buyer the $20,000 it would otherwise cost to demolish the house.
“It sounds great, and it can be great for the right opportunity,” said Doug Nelson, the hospital’s executive director of development and construction.
Yet it will cost a lot more to move it off the lot and set it up somewhere else, he said. Also, it likely would have to be cut in pieces to fit it under the BART tracks, through streets or onto freeway on-ramps.
Still, no one at the hospital wants to see the house torn down, he said. While the hospital is required only to post the offer in legal notices, there will be far more effort put in it to try to find someone to adopt the house, Nelson said.
“We’re going to try to have the greatest outreach effort possible,” he said. “We’d prefer to see it relocated as well.”
They will have about 90 days to find that special someone once the house is officially available, which hospital officials say will likely be later this month. Otherwise, the little “Up” house will have to go.
Gavello also hopes the house can be saved. But either way, his friend’s old house, the one surrounded by progress, won’t be there on that corner anymore.
It’s sad, but that’s life, Gavello said.
“I can’t live in the past,” he said. “Times goes on.”