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Council to discuss Stanford hospital expansions

Release of Draft Environmental Impact Report for massive project is expected to accelerate negotiations between city, Stanford

Stanford University's plan to vastly expand its medical facilities in Palo Alto will take center stage tonight (Monday), when the City Council is scheduled to review a newly released environmental analysis of the massive project.

The meeting will give the council its first chance to comment on the Draft Environmental Impact Report for Stanford's "Project Renewal," which includes demolition and reconstruction of Stanford Hospital and Clinics and the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital and upgrades to Hoover Pavilion and Stanford University School of Medicine. The expansion project would add 1.3 million square feet of development to Palo Alto.

The report's release is also expected to accelerate the city's negotiations with Stanford over a development agreement, a contract that would allow Stanford to build at a greater intensity than the city's zoning regulations allow. In return, Stanford will be expected to provide "community benefits" such as subsidized health care for low-income residents, improvements to bicycle and pedestrian lanes and funds for affordable housing.

The city and Stanford have been in discussions on the new agreement since 2007 and have clashed over what types of benefits the school would have to provide to get approval for the massive project. The council had previously called for Stanford to build a residential "village" to house the hospitals' expanded workforce and to provide funds for major infrastructure projects such as the city's new police headquarters.

The two sides moved closed to an agreement last June, when Stanford released a list of "community benefits" that includes a $23.1 million payment to the city's housing fund, $2.25 million for road and bicycle-lane improvements near the downtown transit center and in-patient and out-patient services for low-income residents.

Earlier this year, the new City Council (which features four new members) set a goal of making a decision on the Stanford project this year. Last week, Mayor Pat Burt called the release of the 1,000-plus page environmental report a "major milestone" and reaffirmed his commitment to completing the city's review of the project this year.

"The project has evolved significantly over the last year and the city has shown its flexibility and commitment to moving forward by relaxing its earlier position on housing," Burt said in a statement.

By expanding its facilities, Stanford aims to both comply with state Senate Bill 1953, which requires hospitals to meet seismic standards by 2013 (with a possible extension to 2015) and to meet a heavy demand for hospital beds. Under the plan, the Children's Hospital would add 104 beds, raising its total to 361, while Stanford Hospital would raise its number of operational beds from 456 to 600.

According to the environmental report, Stanford Hospital had to turn away 500 adult patients in 2005 because of a bed shortage.

The council meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 250 Hamilton Ave.

View the council's agenda.

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