Tiny Oakland house moves up the block from hospital

Tiny Oakland house moves up the block from hospital
By Jill Tucker
Sunday, October 18, 2015



At first light Sunday, the little house rolled off the corner lot where it had spent the last 81 years and took a hard left under the BART tracks.


Less than two hours later, under a blue sky, the Oakland home was home, surrounded by big trees rather than tall buildings.

It was a happy ending for a house with a storybook history, one that featured an elderly man who refused to sell the place his parents built, the only home he ever knew, even as a five-story parking garage and a hospital sprang up around it and cast shadows on the citrus trees planted near his front stoop.

When 87-year-old Lawrence Bossola died in 2001, the hospital bought the property, finally acquiring the land it needed to expand. But it didn’t need the house, and officials held out little hope anyone would be willing to cover the nearly six-figure cost to move it. They were wrong. Dozens of people wanted the little house at the corner of 52nd Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Some erroneously thought they might be able to get it up to Ukiah or across the bridge to Alameda. Instead, two couples with a fourplex and a plot of land a block away from UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland were the perfect fit.

On Sunday morning, the street lights still on, one of the new co-owners of the house, David Stone, stood off to the side, watching workers prepare to pull the house off the hospital’s lot. He was worried. It didn’t look level. Indeed, the house was slightly askew, tipping a bit on the right side. His general contractor assured him that all was well.

Passes under BART tracks

These guys, the house-moving company, had never dropped one yet, said contractor Scott Cameron. Still, as the little three-bedroom house rolled off the curb and took a left under the BART tracks, the contractor, veteran police officers, neighbors and city workers shook their heads in disbelief. “I’m glad to be a part of this,” said Michael Patterson, lead electrician for Oakland, ensuring the house cleared the hanging stop light at the intersection. “When they said they were going under the BART tracks, I said, ‘Are you sure?’” He was right to question that. The little house, held a few feet off the ground by tractor-trailer-size wheels, slipped under the tracks with little clearance.

As it rolled down Martin Luther King Jr. Way, several curiosity seekers snapped pictures and smiled. “We were up early, so we said let’s go look at a house move,” said neighbor Andrea Pinal. “I think it’s nice they saved it and found a way to keep it in the community.”

Fits right in

The house rolled a block south, took what appeared to be an impossible right turn up the curb and into the hospital’s employee parking lot, then took another hard right followed by a hard left where a chain-link fence had been rolled back, and finally onto the empty plot of land behind the fourplex. Once it was settled at the back of the lot, everyone smiled. Although still sitting atop wheels, it looked almost as if it had always been there, nestled near tall trees.

Kathleen Stone, Stone’s wife and also one of the new owners, smiled. Moving the structure and demolishing the basement cost about $75,000. After spending $100,000 more or so for a new foundation and updates per building code, the Stones plan to rent out the home, perhaps to a family, she said. “It calls for that, doesn’t it?” she added.

These houses matter, said Cathy Leonard, board co-chairwoman for the Santa Fe Community Association and Neighbors. Mr. Bossola mattered. “I was so glad they didn’t want to demolish the house,” she said, adding that the new location probably looks a lot like the original land when the home was built in 1934.

Change of address

Minutes later, Doug Stone walked over to the house and pulled off the board that held the metal house numbers: 5204. It wasn’t the correct address anymore. He gave the plaque to hospital workers, who wanted to frame it and put it in the hospital’s new $50 million, six-story outpatient center, which will be officially under construction after a ground breaking next week and with a scheduled opening date in 2017.

The little house has a direct line of sight to its old stomping grounds. “It’s home now,” Leonard said. “It’s home.”

Source: San Francisco Chronicle.