Dozens of Stanford Medical Center supporters packed the Palo Alto City Council chambers Monday night, telling of severely injured children turned away, urgent surgeries postponed due to the lack of space and the hospital's packed emergency room, sometimes so full it turns away ambulances.
The council also heard from a handful of residents wary of the traffic and housing generated by the proposed expansion, which would add 1.3 million square feet and 2,000 employees to Stanford Hospital, Lucile Salter Packard Children's Hospital and the medical school.
After 4.5 hours, the council reviewed a preliminary list of negotiation issues and kicked off rezoning for the hospital project and the Stanford Shopping Center's concurrent expansion plans on a 5-0 vote. Councilman Jack Morton was absent and council members LaDoris Cordell, Dena Mossar and Vice Mayor Larry Klein have conflicts of interest on Stanford issues and cannot participate.
Simon Property Group is proposing adding a 120-room hotel and about 240,000 square feet to the Stanford Shopping Center.
And Monday, as in previous discussions about the expansions, participants generally fell in one of two camps -- Stanford Medical Center advocates who argue the facility is a core community asset that shouldn't be burdened with providing housing or protecting open space and those who are pushing for community-benefiting perks to sweeten the expansions.
"I hope you let this project go forward as proposed," Menlo Park resident Kathleen Much said. "Don't think of Stanford as your own personal money pots."
And Daniel Bernstein -- a Palo Alto resident and pediatric cardiologist at Stanford, one of more than a dozen Stanford employees who spoke -- urged the council to help shave two years off the project, which is expected to be completed in 2020.
"This is an acute emergency from our standpoint," Bernstein said, adding that overcrowding affects doctors at the medical center every day.
But the hospitals are not just a Palo Alto resource, so local residents should not have to bear the full costs, said residents Ellen Wyman and Bob Moss, among others.
"I think it is really important you do this right," Wyman said. "I hope you will slow down."
Monday night, the council reviewed a list of issues related to the expansions that could be discussed during development agreement negotiations. Development agreements are pacts that grant guaranteed development rights in exchange for community benefits and protections.
The city has begun preliminary discussions related to the agreement, but won't finalize any details until the projects' environmental report is released in late June 2008, according to City Manager Frank Benest.
The environmental impact report will outline possible mitigations for traffic, pollution, creation of housing demand and other effects of the development as required by California law. The agreement could be used to secure additional community benefits, according to a city report.
The list of potential negotiation topics, developed following several community meetings, includes parks, libraries, schools, open space preservation, environmentally friendly building standards, housing provision, shuttle development, transportation improvements and fee payments.
Representatives from the hospitals and shopping center told the council they believe the projects provide community benefits on their own.
The shopping center isn't willing to provide affordable housing or traffic projects far from the shopping center, Simon Property Senior Vice President Art Spellmeyer said.
"We really want the mitigations to be related to the needs of the hospital," Stanford Hospital and Clinics CEO Martha Marsh said.
The council also voted to initiate rezoning for both projects. The Medical Center has requested a new "hospital zone" to accommodate this expansion and future needs. The shopping center's existing development rights don't accommodate the expansion, according to a city report.
The council's move only makes it possible for consultants to analyze the effects of the zoning changes; it does not finalize the requests, Benest said.
The council also heard from Marlene Berkoff, an architect and economist familiar with hospitals, who provided a "peer" review of Stanford's proposal. The size of the proposed medical center expansion is reasonable, she said.
Single-patient rooms are now the industry standard and the university relied on accurate projections of space needs to develop the plan, Berkoff said.
The projects are expected to return before the council in the spring for a check-up. The final decisions are slated for January 2009, with construction scheduled for 2010.