Measure A, which appears on the Presidential Primary Election ballot behind the ballots for presidential contenders, would impose a parcel tax of $24 a year on homeowners throughout Alameda County to provide half of the $700 million needed to rebuild and expand Children's Hospital to meet earthquake retrofitting requirements by 2013 as required by state law. The Alameda County Board of Supervisors has endorsed the measure.
"Without this needed funding, Children's Hospital will have to surrender its license and close because we won't be able to meet state requirements," Frank Tiedemann, the hospital's president and chief executive officer, told the Weekly in an interview. "None of us wants that to happen."
Still Tiedemann's and the county supervisors' objectives to win at the polls are formidable. To pass, Measure A will need a vote by two-thirds of those voting (66.6 percent). Although opposition has been light, many voters in the county have never used the services Children's Hospital provides, and many don't even know where it's located.
The tax, which would impose a $100-a-year parcel tax on small non-residential properties and $250 on larger ones, in addition to the $24 annual tax on residential properties, would last for 35 years and provide $300 million to "The Children's Hospital Construction Fund," which would be maintained by the county. Homeowners 65 years of age or older could request each year to be exempted from the tax.
With the construction fund and other funds available to Children's, Tiedemann said the plan is to build a new 12-story-high medical facility on land between 52nd and 53rd streets near the hospital's main facility in Oakland. The hospital would continue to operate its current facility during construction, which would start in 2010 and must be completed by 2013 to meet the state's deadline for seismic upgrades.
The expansion project would increase the hospital's capacity from 171 pediatric beds now to approximately 250 private patient rooms.
"This is an historic time for our hospital and the community that depends on our services," Tiedemann said. "The construction of our new medical center provides a long awaited opportunity to match the excellence of our medical staff with a superb facility. We're treating an increasing number of children with some of the most complex and serious illnesses. We need a new building to give them the best possible healthcare experience."
Tiedemann said Children's has treated thousands of children from Pleasanton and works closely with pediatricians and hospitals in the area to handle patients who need specialty care. At one time, Children's was considering property in the Tri-Valley for its new facility, but decided to stay in the location it's occupied for 100 years that is convenient to two freeway off-ramps and public transportation.
At the same time, he added, Children's is planning to expand its Pleasanton specialty care center, located at 5820 Stoneridge Mall Road, where it provides a wide range of specialty pediatric care.
Tiedemann said the Oakland facility is only one of eight children's hospitals in California and one of only 50 throughout the country. A nonprofit hospital, Children's of Oakland also operates the largest non-university-related pediatric research center in the U.S., with 300 scientists and a $50-million budget. The research center will stay in its current location, and the existing hospital facility will be turned into an outpatient center if Measure A passes.
For more information about Children's Hospital building plans and Measure A, see your Alameda County Sample Ballot or sign on to http://www.childrenshospitaloakland.org/.