Alta Bates expansion faces traffic, parking woes
- Published Wednesday, August 1, 2001, in the Contra Costa Times
Alta Bates expansion faces big traffic, parking hurdles
By Greg Cannon
Contra Costa Times
BERKELEY -- Plans to expand the emergency room at Alta Bates Medical
Center won't cause major environmental problems, but a draft report
on the project warns future growth could prove more complicated for
the Ashby Avenue hospital.
With annual emergency room visits running about three to four times
the rate the emergency room was built to handle, Alta Bates officials
want to increase the size of the department by about 40 percent, to
12,300 square feet from 8,800 square feet.
The project is expected to cost about $14 million and take two to
three years. According to the report, the department gets 34,000 to
44,000 patient visits a year to a facility designed for 12,000 visits.
The emergency room would expand into the radiology department and not
add to medical center's overall size. Radiology would move to another
building on the medical center campus.
"It think everybody believes there's a need for a new emergency
department," said Deborah Pitts, the hospital's public affairs
manager. "The whole point is to make it a more efficient space."
The plan is not likely to increase traffic to the campus, because the
number of emergency room visits is a function of the size and
character of the hospital's service area and not the size of the
emergency department, the report said.
But concerns over traffic and parking are more pronounced in the
report's evaluation of other elements of the hospital's master
The master plan includes a 114,200 square-foot, six-story building on
the east side of the hospital, a new atrium lobby to be created by
walling off an existing courtyard, an underground strip of offices
along Ashby Avenue and a six-story parking garage to replace a five-
The parking garage project would create significant issues because it
would put the garage closer to neighboring homes and cause parking
problems from the time the old garage is demolished until the new one
Pitts stressed that the main focus is on getting the emergency room
project approved and that other projects are now nothing more than
ideas "that may or may not come to fruition."
The report's release kicks off 60 days of public comment that will
include an Aug. 9 public hearing at 7 p.m. in the City Council
chamber at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.
The public can see or buy the report at the city's permit center at
2120 Milvia St. It can soon be viewed at the city Web site at
Written comments on the report can be submitted through Sept. 18 to
the attention of Margaret Kavanaugh-Lynch, senior planner, at the
Milvia Street address.
At the end of the public comment period, the consultant who prepared
the report for the city will incorporate public comments into a final
Greg Cannon covers Berkeley. Reach him at 510-262-2713 or e-mail