By Jill Tucker, SF Gate – October 27, 2015
This wasn’t any ordinary groundbreaking ceremony.
The symbolic construction kickoff for a new six-story outpatient center at the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland was a 90-minute affair Monday featuring one of the Bay Area’s richest power couples, the governor and more than a few local elected officials.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf joined Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff and his wife, Lynne, to shovel the ceremonial dirt, officially starting the construction of the $50 million, 89,000-square-foot building that will eventually adjoin the current outpatient center.
The new center will house neurology, rehabilitation, cardiology and other services currently located in the hospital, opening up space to expand the number of patient beds and patient care facilities in the main building.
“This is a confluence of so many different minds and investment streams and imaginations, and that’s what it takes,” Gov. Jerry Brown said in brief remarks.
The project, located at 52nd Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way, required overcoming several significant hurdles, including addressing neighbor concerns, funding, design changes and the relocation of the 1930s house on the site, a sentimental place with a backstory similar to Pixar’s “Up” house.
“I have to hand it to Children’s Hospital for working with nearby neighbors and community organizations,” said North Oakland City Councilman Dan Kalb, “to do what they needed to do to have an important expansion and still be a part of the neighborhood.”
Several in attendance noted that the project was personal — many of them had been patients or had brought their sick children to the hospital on more than one occasion.
“Probably like everybody in this room, we’ve used this hospital at one time or another,” said Steven Douglas, co-owner of Douglas Parking, and vocal supporter of the expansion. “I’ve seen it firsthand the treatment and care the kids get.”
The project is also a boon for San Francisco’s East Bay sibling, one more example of how people are “discovering the awesomeness of Oakland,” Schaaf said.
“We now have the brains, the brawn, the heart, the passion and the resources to do something truly miraculous,” she said. “This will be the best institution on the planet for helping children.”