Oakland Tribune: Lawyers wrangle while Oak Knoll deteriorates


Oakland — The years had already taken their toll on the eclectic collection of wooden structures at Oak Knoll before SunCal Companies bought the former Naval Hospital in 2005 and made plans to build 960 homes, apartments and retail shops on the 167-acre site in the Oakland hills.

However, nothing compares to the mess and destruction wreaked by vandals and squatters in the year since SunCal abandoned the property after its financial partner, Lehman Brothers, filed for bankruptcy in New York and cut off funding for the huge residential project.

SunCal subsequently filed for Chapter 11 protection in Santa Ana to cover 20 joint ventures with Lehman, including Oak Knoll. There are dozens of competing cases and claims in each venue, and the city of Oakland is one of many.


Practically every window in each building has been broken, including the vast, double-wing, 13-story hospital. Spray-paint cans litter the grounds and graffiti covers surfaces inside and out, from elaborate, colorful designs to crude remarks.

Even the historic Club Knoll, a Mission-style landmark built in 1924 that SunCal promised to restore and open to the public, has been stripped and trashed, with discarded cigarette butts, liquor bottles and hypodermic needles littering every floor.