News

PA, Stanford split on mitigating huge projects

City Council members ask Stanford to provide housing for new employees at a vastly expanded medical complex and shopping center

Palo Alto and Stanford University officials remain sharply divided over mitigating housing and traffic impacts of Stanford's two proposed expansion projects — a conflict that is unlikely to abate at least until early spring.

On Monday night, several members of the City Council argued in a study session that Stanford owes it to the city to provide housing for the roughly 3,200 workers the new expansions are expected to attract.

Stanford, meanwhile, continued to ask the council to keep an open mind until the city releases its Draft Environmental Impact Report in early spring.

Monday's study session on the housing impacts of proposed expansions of the Stanford Medical Center and the Stanford Shopping Center did little to bridge the gap between the two sides.

While some council members said they need more data to reach an informed decision, Councilman Jack Morton and Vice Mayor Peter Drekmeier called for Stanford to provide housing and share the city's burden.

"This is a monumental project and I think somehow we have to come up with a way that is fair to everybody," Morton said. "That Stanford bear none of the impacts for this (hospital) expansion is a place where we don't want to look."

Drekmeier acknowledged Stanford's argument that hospitals are generally exempt from providing housing for development projects.

But with building space at a premium and the council uncertain about Stanford University's other expansion plans, requesting the applicant to provide housing would not be unreasonable, he said. He proposed creating housing for the two projects on either side of Hoover Pavilion, and early Palo Alto Hospital at Quarry Road and El Camino Real that merged with Stanford Hospital to become part of the Stanford Medical Center.

"It's going to come down to a matter of fairness," Dremeier said. "What's a fair balance? Where Palo Alto is asked to pick up some of the burden and some of the benefit, they owe it to us to pick up some of the burden."

So far, the council has relied on housing-impact data from a recent report by the consulting firm Keyser Marston Associates, Inc. The report says the two projects would require 1,856 new housing units in the region to meet needs of increased staffing.

But Stanford officials asked the council to reserve final judgment until the draft EIR is completed, which will more fully outline the housing and traffic impacts of the two projects.

Andy Coe, Stanford Hospital's chief government relations officer, said Stanford is willing to "engage in constructive discussions" with the council and city staff about housing, but suggested any decisions made at this time would be premature.

"We think there is an appropriate time and place for it — when we are fully informed by the EIR analysis and during the development agreement," Coe said.

Some council members suggested a "village" concept, where housing would be located close to the hospital and the shopping center to reduce traffic.

But Jean McCown, Stanford's director of community relations, said the traffic impacts of the expansion projects will likely be smaller than expected. She pointed to the hospital's many traffic-reduction programs, which include ride-sharing benefits and public-transportation subsidies.

"It has been suggested as a policy matter that even if there is sufficient supply in the region to meet the need, employee housing should be located close to the hospital to reduce traffic impact," McCown said. "The hospital project is not likely to result in the same employee-related traffic impact as more typical developments."

The council also heard from environmentalist Walt Hays and Chamber of Commerce board Chairman Tommy Fehrenbach, both of whom praised the hospital project and urged the council not to be too stringent with Stanford.

"I urge you to move this project forward, to reasonably assess the mitigation and to properly value the enormous benefit provided by our hospitals," Fehrenbach said — speaking solely in his capacity as a city resident.

But Morton remained visibly unimpressed. He accused Stanford of playing dirty in the past and said he expects a major fight over the housing issue.

"I really have a hard time tonight understanding where we are going with this," Morton said. "It takes a major fight in this community for the community to get a fair deal."

Comments

Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 10, 2008 at 6:38 am

This project does need much work to iron out the differences between PA and Stanford, however the comments by Jack Morton (which were covered more completely by the PA Daily News) were outrageous. It is clear that he has entered this with a closed mind. AS reported in the Daily News, Morton was particularly harsh in comments he made regarding patients who have spoken on Stanford's behalf in the past (... you can bring a parade of former patients" to recount how Stanford's hospitals saved their lives, Morton continued, alluding to some of the people who have spoken on the university's behalf in public comment sessions). Taken in context of his entire diatribe I find his comments to be callous and entirely lacking in empathy. (unfortunately you have to be a member now of the PA Daily News website to view the story, so I cannot post a link)
He claims that Stanford plays dirty--does he provide any proof for this? What does he consider "dirty"? He provides no proof.
I have e-mailed him personally to express my outrage and concern about his remarks. Naturally, I do not expect any reply from Morton.

Even his fellow council members are wary of Morton--remember he was passed over for mayor even though he has served almost 2 terms on the council for much junior members.

Even Walt Hays a noted environmentalist is supporting the hospital project.

Regarding the Shopping Center expansion--wasn't it the city council that pushed the shopping center to expand and build luxury hotel in order to increase tax revenues for the city? Did the council not consider the traffic/housing impacts then?


Posted by Not Fair, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 10, 2008 at 8:10 am

If ABAG forces Palo Alto to build a whole lot of housing to correct the job housing imbalance because Stanford provides a lot more jobs; this is clearly unfair.

Maybe this is the time for Palo Alto to split off from Stanford so ABAG forces Stanford to build the housing and not Palo Alto.


Posted by Casey, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 10, 2008 at 9:24 am

Strange hearing a city council during a recession objecting to a project that will bring more jobs to the area.


Posted by nearby, a resident of another community
on Dec 10, 2008 at 10:01 am

More Palo Alto whining about Stanford -- once entertaining, but getting so predictable, shallow and boring. At least a few rational readers are starting to speak out about this PA script.

Palo Alto residents forget that much their prestige, cultural life and house-values are correlated with the presence of Stanford University.

Stanford's program and property design/management have been classy -- visit other college communities much? Berkeley, USC, UCLA (consider the effect of their densities and poor design on their communities).

SU's presence in your community is an asset. which translates to mucho dollars in PA house values.

Well, here we go. Another season of kvetching from Palo Alto residents.
Sigh


Posted by Maggie Saunders, a resident of Ventura
on Dec 10, 2008 at 10:14 am

My only comment is related to Morton's continued statement that Stanford and it's proposed expansion projects are not "fair" to the community. "Fair" to who?? Palo Alto benefits in so many ways from having Stanford University and Hospitals as its major employer and by providing a world class university. For example,real estate values in Palo Alto are a direct result of the university and the fact the education is a priority in the community. The quality of our life and the decisions that are made in the community are also directly related to the overwhelming educational level of most of Palo Alto's inhabitants.. . . this very likely would not be the case had Stanford located itself somewhere else. "Fair" to who -- I would ask Morton - did Stanford hurt you sometime? why does this not feel fair to you? because the rest of us don't feel that way.


Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 10, 2008 at 10:37 am

I recommend that everyone who is concerned about this project and Morton's attitude towards it read yesterdays (tuesday 12/9) issue of the PA Daily News.
Some of the other things that Morton said :

" "Stanford's setting us up for a fight," said Council Member Jack Morton. "And we will have to go to the larger community to win.""

" Morton went further, calling the uni­versity "the economic gorilla that sits on our doorstep" and saying it will take "a tre­mendous fight in this community" for the city to get a fair deal on its expansion.
And Stanford, he said, "fights dirty.""


Not sure what Morton's beef with Stanford is..but he is clearly a loose cannon.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 10, 2008 at 10:39 am

It is my understanding that ABAG cannot force Palo Alto to build a specific amount of housing within a specific time frame. For example, cities can't add to school populations if the schools are full, cities can't add residents if the waste treatment plant isn't large enough to support additional population. No longer can waste be released into the Bay because a treatment plant is overwhelmed. Also, as water usage is going to be restricted due to the drought, a city can't be forced to add people until affordable plans are in place to supply everyone with water. No longer can the taxpayers be forced to pay for large infrastructures to support population growth for the purpose of city tax revenue and developer enrichment. Residents can put a cap on development, asking instead that Palo Alto make better use of its current housing through upgrades and purchases of housing properties.

"But with building space at a premium and the council uncertain about Stanford University's other expansion plans . . . " – another good reason to ask Stanford to improve/upgrade the hospital without adding to its size. Additional space should be built in a less congested area, close to a boundary between two cities so that more than one city can bear the costs.


Posted by Paul, a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 10, 2008 at 12:30 pm

"Palo Alto benefits in so many ways from having Stanford University and Hospitals as its major employer"

Indeed, without Stanford, Palo Alto would have a jobs-housing imbalance tilted toward the housing element. We should all thank Stanford that we're supposed to overbuild our city for Stanford's benefit. We are, after all, its company town.

Looks like we're in for another dose of Stanford's favorite PR ploy - orchestrated hysteria. Meantime, "residents of another community" hector us with a not so quiet desperation, lest the spillover spill over into their backyard.



Posted by out of towner, a resident of another community
on Dec 10, 2008 at 12:51 pm

In year 2000, Stanford was given the OK to expand the campus in exchange for their promise to build two hiking trails. The campus expansion happened, the trails are still not built. Stanford does sometimes play unfair.


Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 10, 2008 at 12:59 pm

The trail is still being decided by the courts:

Web Link

Do not lay the entire blame on the trail issue on Stanford alone.


Posted by chrisk, a resident of University South
on Dec 10, 2008 at 1:07 pm

Should Morton be recalled?

Why should Stanford provide so much housing when it already has so much housing on its campus?

Does the city ask Hewlett-Packard or Facebook to provide housing for its workers?

What is Espinosa's position on this? If he pushes for a lot of housing, he is a hypocrite.


Posted by chrisk, a resident of University South
on Dec 10, 2008 at 1:31 pm

Does Stanford get credit for all of the jobs it is moving to Redwood City?


Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 10, 2008 at 1:42 pm

Morton claims that Stanford does not fight fair.
In yesterdays Daily News Story it states:

"Hospitals, meanwhile, are typically exempt from housing fees, though the city can try to impose some stipulations through a development agree­ment."

Why should Stanford be then expected to pay housing fees? Does the city of PA feel that the rules do not applyto Stanford in this regard? who is not fighting fair?

Maybe our city council should go back to this story and see how they have encouraged the expansion of the Stanford Shopping Center that they are now frowning upon?

Web Link


Posted by Henry, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 10, 2008 at 2:01 pm

Watch the meeting on TV and read at least one city report. Basing your opinions on a story in the Daily is pathetic.
Morton is a reliable supporter of big projects but this one even overwhelms him. I think he expressed the frustration of the Council very well.
Just a couple of Stanford's tricks:
They hired a former mayor of Palo Alto and former colleague of Larry Klein, to head up the two developments. Her specialty before working for Stanford was getting zoning changed to allow expansion of mansions in the Open Space District. Also she was the attorney for Ross, developer of 800 High Street. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 10, 2008 at 2:19 pm

As I said, the council has been pushing for a Stanford Shopping Center expansion in order to increase the cities tax base, yet now they are shocked by the expansion?
What Stanford is doing is trying to ensure that their interests are looked after--this is what every business in the world does. It is not unique to Stanford or new to the way things are done.
why do you call what stanford is doing as "tricks"? Is Stanford to blame for the 800 High Street development? Who is this former mayor of PA you are referring to? Is it Jean McCowan? She has been with Stanford for a number of years?

Seems to me like you are trying to paint Stanford as unscrupulous with a broad brush? Seems that everyone who speaks in favor of Stanford has some evil, hidden agenda, according to your analysis.

Finally, as I stated initially, while the council has the right to disagree and demand things from Stanford, I found Morton's comments way out of line, especially his dismissive attitude towards people who have benefited from the world class health care at Stanford.


Posted by Henry, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 10, 2008 at 3:05 pm

Tommy Fehrenbach spoke to the council but identified himself only as a private citizen. Turns out he is Chamber of Commerce board Chairman.

No one questions the good work of the doctors and the hospital. We all appreciate them. But the pro development people who come to the council weeping about their sick relatives are trying to manipulate the emotions of the public so that the developers will benefit. How come only pro development people are willing to shed tears in public? They are out for the big bucks and have no shame.
Marvin, it would take a lot of space to answer your questions. Please do some research on your own. And read my post above more carefully.



Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 10, 2008 at 3:13 pm

"But the pro development people who come to the council weeping about their sick relatives are trying to manipulate the emotions of the public so that the developers will benefit."

When did this happen? I think we have had people appear before the council who benefited from the health care at Stanford. Maybe they were asked to appear by Stanford or maybe they feel that their lives were saved at Stanford and they wanted to speak up in favor of Stanford. I am sure no one was coerced to appear and I am certain that they are no all "pro-development" (whatever that tag means)


Posted by Paul, a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 10, 2008 at 5:14 pm

Be careful about taking Morton at face value. In 2003 he called 800 High Street a "huge, oversized project" while he was expressing his undying love for the thing.



Posted by Terry, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 11, 2008 at 6:43 am

Stanford continues to incrementally add to their infrastructure without sharing their long range plans. When will the Palo Alto City Council see through this and demand firm that they share their plans?

In encouraging to read though that Stanford is finally meeting some resistance.


Posted by nearby, a resident of another community
on Dec 11, 2008 at 10:26 am

Terry
Loved your comments that "Stanford continues to incrementally add to their infrastructure without sharing their long range plans" and is "finally meeting some resistance." BEST JOKE FOR A LONG TIME. YOU ARE KIDDING, RIGHT?

PA's irrational resistence to Stanford is the raison d'etre for this publication.

Finally...since I quoted you, the following are some quotes from my earlier post: "Palo Alto residents forget that much their prestige, cultural life and house-values are correlated with the presence of Stanford University. Stanford's program and property design/management have been classy -- visit other college communities much? Berkeley, USC, UCLA (consider the effect of their densities and poor design on their communities). SU's presence in your community is an asset. which translates to mucho dollars in PA house values."

If you don't want that economic and cultural benefit -- and you don't want the people who bring provide those things in the neighborhood...MOVE.



Posted by Stanford alum, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 11, 2008 at 11:11 am

I am really tired of the pablum about Stanford being the focal point of our area. This has long been a terrific place to live, which is one reason the Stanfords chose to build their university here! If a great university truly makes a town exceptional, then Cambridge MA should be the best of the best, with two top tier schools. And New Haven shouldn't be such a dump.

Stanford is the 900-lb gorilla on the mid-peninsula, with the mindset of a Mussolini (except the Marguerites do run on time). Instead of sticking with their area of expertise -- educating students, providing a venue for research -- its leaders seem to see themselves as upwardly mobile tycoons trying to parlay their real estate and other interests into a vast fortune.

At least you Palo Altans get the sales tax revenue from Stanford's mall. In Menlo Park, all we get is the traffic, plus the blight from the abandoned Stanford properties along El Camino.


Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 11, 2008 at 11:17 am

Stanford alum:
I think you need to bone up on the history of Stanford and Palo Alto
Web Link

"The township of Mayfield was formed in 1855, in what is now part of South Palo Alto. In 1886, Leland Stanford came to the town of Mayfield, interested in founding his university there, and creating a train stop near his school on Mayfield's downtown street, Lincoln Street (now named California Avenue). However, he had one condition: alcohol had to be banned from the town. Known for its 13 rowdy saloons, Mayfield rejected his requests for reform. This led him to drive the formation of Palo Alto, originally called University Park, in 1887 with the help of his friend Timothy Hopkins of the Southern Pacific Railroad who bought 740 acres (3.0 km2) of private land for the new townsite. Stanford set up his university, Stanford University, and a train stop (on University Avenue) by his new town. With Stanford's support, saloon days faded and Palo Alto grew to the size of Mayfield. On July 2, 1925, Palo Alto voters approved the annexation of Mayfield and the two communities were officially consolidated on July 6, 1925. This saga explains why Palo Alto has two downtown areas: one along University Avenue and one along California Avenue."

I think Stanford created Palo Alto!!!

I think you forget that Stanford is a non-profit and like any institution of higher learning has an endowment which must be funded in order to ensure that the university can carry on it's mission.

I think someone posted it once on this forum, but it would be interesting to see again how much money Stanford pumps into the local economy.


Posted by Stanford alum, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 11, 2008 at 11:26 am

The wikipedia link affirms that this area had a vibrant cultural and social existence prior to the founding of the university and doesn't negate a single one of my points.

All universities have endowments, but I have not heard of another with Stanford's voracious need to grow and to dominate the surrounding community.


Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 11, 2008 at 11:42 am

Stanford alum-- so you consider the fact that Mayfield had 13 rowdy saloons a "vibrant cultural and social existence"? The point was that Stanford came first and then Palo Alto.
Stanford's "need to grow" is no different than any other world class university that has to adapt and change with the times (Google "Harvard" and "new buildings" and see what they are doing). Stanford is not trying "to dominate the surrounding community"--unfortunately people like yourself see Stanford as the evil empire and unfortunately Stanford cannot pull up stakes and move somewhere else. Any large corporation, given similar treatment like Stanford has received from Palo Alto, would have said adios a long time ago.
It is always convenient to blame Stanford for all the ills in PA without acknowledging the financial and other support it provides to the city. Too bad Stanford cannot incorporate and divest itself of having to play games with a city council that is clueless in how to deal with Stanford in a productive manner.


Posted by nearby, a resident of another community
on Dec 11, 2008 at 1:17 pm

Marvin -- Thanks for adding some rationality and historical facts to this discussion (i.e., endless whining) about Stanford.

"Stanford Alum" -- if you are so unhappy in Palo Alto, consider moving. The Peninsula has a lot of nice towns. When you check out those other nice towns on the Peninsula, you'll find equal or GREATER congestion (but no University to bug you).

Consider that Palo Alto's warren of one-way streets/dead ends, and absurdly low speed limits on major thoroughfares within the town, actually increases local congestion and feeds a perception of gridlock. But, a 10-15 minute traffic jam during the morning/evening commute time is not gridlock. Get real.




Posted by Stanford alum, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 11, 2008 at 2:00 pm

I don't live in Palo Alto, and I am quite happy in Menlo Park. Shall we tone down the histrionics? Even the most obnoxious Stanford PR isn't going to make Stanford detractors leave town.

Many residents don't like the way Stanford continues to muscle its neighbors without regard for their ongoing wellbeing. Too, Stanford does not consider that it owes at least some of its status to its location. If our local cities were less appealing or had higher rates of crime, students and scholars with a choice of top schools might well choose to go elsewhere.


Posted by Henry, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 11, 2008 at 10:00 pm

The second Stanford trick was the attempt to get their PR head a job as a Manager in the Palo Alto Planning Dept. He actually worked there for 6 months on a temporary contract. He said he retired from his Stanford job.
Since he has neither education nor experience as a planner, and the Stanford projects were coming up, this became a public scandal. He was not hired.
Now Andy Coe has "un-retired" and is back working for the Hospital and Clinics and advocating this week before the city council for the Stanford developments.


Posted by Stanford Employee, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 11, 2008 at 11:05 pm

I was at the city council meeting on Monday and I agree with Morton 100%. Stanford is the ecomomic gorilla that sits at our doorstep and the only way they know how to fight "is dirty". The Palo Alto City Council needs to take their time with Stanford and make sure Stanford gives back to the community. They need to pay employees a living wage so that they can contribute to the economics of Palo Alto. Stanford Employees pay for the Marguerite Bus service (over $700.00 a year for parking) so it is not out of the kindness of their heart that they provide it for the community.


Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 12, 2008 at 6:26 am

Stanford Employee--since you are perpetuating the myths set forth by Morton, why don;t you expand on them and actually give an example of how Stanford "plays dirty".
Also you should present all the facts regarding parking fees --i.e. C permits, which are cheaper.
I do think it is funny when you say that Stanford does not giveback to the community.


Posted by Henry, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 12, 2008 at 10:51 am

Marvin, I listed a couple of major dirty tricks. Major! [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 12, 2008 at 11:12 am

Henry so you consider that:

1)Tommy Fehrenbach spoke to the council but identified himself only as a private citizen. Turns out he is Chamber of Commerce board Chairman.

2)Andy Coe working as a manager in the Planning Dept

as dirty tricks engineered by Stanford?

I guess what you are calling dirty tricks are a matter of opinion. I guess Benest and the City were not aware of Coe's background? when was it a "public scandal"?

By the way are you posting from a second computer as "stanford employee"--since your post is a response I made to "stanford employee". [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Henry, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 12, 2008 at 1:10 pm

I answered because I was the one who mentioned Stanford's tricks. You mistakenly thought it was "employee."
Benest not know Andy Coe was the highest level PR executive at Stanford?
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 12, 2008 at 1:31 pm

So Benest knew that Andy Coe had worked for Stanford and still went ahead and hired him. So how does that involve Stanford? Did they send Andy Coe for that job? Did they bribe Benest to get him the position?
Please provide some proof for your allegations of Stanford tricks.


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