News

Stanford Hospital expansion wins key vote

Palo Alto's Planning and Transportation Commission recommends approval of key environmental document for largest project in city's history

After four years of hearings, debates and negotiations, Stanford University Medical Center's proposal to dramatically expand its hospital facilities in Palo Alto is now rounding the final corner en route to the city's approval.

Though the hospital expansion project -- the largest construction project in the Palo Alto's history -- still awaits the final approval from the City Council, over the past month Stanford and the city have resolved all of the major issues of dispute. Stanford's momentum continued Wednesday night when the city's Planning and Transportation Commission recommended approval of a critical environmental analysis for the hospital expansion.

The commission voted 4-2, with commissioners Arthur Keller and Susan Fineberg dissenting and Chair Samir Tuma abstaining, to recommend certification of the Final Environmental Impact Report for the Stanford project -- a massive document that lists the potential impacts of the hospital expansion and proposes ways to mitigate them. Keller and Fineberg both voted against the approval because they wanted more information before taking the vote.

While Stanford still has to clear several hurdles, officials from both the hospital and the city expressed optimism Wednesday about the progress made. At the beginning of four-hour-long discussion, officials from both sides lauded the recent progress of negotiations over a development agreement -- a document that would enable Stanford to exceed the city's zoning regulations in exchange for a series of community benefits.

"We've come a long way," said Michael Peterson, Stanford's vice president for special projects. "It's been over four years. I feel we're at a point where we can see the end of the process and the beginning of the hard work ... constructing a quite significant project."

Palo Alto Deputy City Manager Steve Emslie also said he was confident that the city is getting a fair deal from Stanford. As part of the proposed development agreement, Stanford would provide Palo Alto with $7 million in health-care programs and services, $23 million in fees for housing programs and $12 million for climate-change initiatives. Stanford would also buy Caltrain Go Passes for all hospital workers and give the city $3.4 million for improvements to bicycle and pedestrian paths near the hospital facilities.

Stanford had also agreed to guarantee the city $8.1 million to ensure the hospital expansion would not have a negative impact on the city's budget. The issue of "cost neutrality" was the final sticking point in negotiations. The two sides settled it last month.

"The city is very comfortable that we are able to provide the maximum amount of certainty that the project will stand on its own and continue to be revenue-neutral to the city throughout the life of the project," Emslie said.

The planning commission delayed its review of the development agreement until next week and focused Wednesday's discussion on the final Environmental Impact Report. The commission also approved a "statement of overriding consideration" -- a document that acknowledges that some of the project's impacts cannot be fully mitigated but that the good in the project outweighs the bad. Commissioner Eduardo Martinez said the main "overriding consideration" in this case is that the city is "receiving far more good than we are than we are losing in terms of the hospital that has to be torn down or some other item."

The commission, which had spent months reviewing the draft and final environmental documents, continued to raise some concerns about the hospital expansion and its impact on local housing and schools and Stanford's decision to demolish the historic Edward Durell Stone-designed complex. Some of these issues could re-emerge next week, when the commission reviews other components of Stanford's application.

The $3.5 billion project includes construction of a new Stanford Hospital & Clinics, the expansion of Lucile Packard Children's Hospital and renovation of various clinics and Stanford School of Medicine buildings. It would bring 1.3 million square feet of new development and about 2,200 new employees to the city.

To enable the construction, Palo Alto is revising its zoning map to create a new Hospital Zone especially for the Stanford project and allowing the hospitals to exceed the city's zoning regulations.

Stanford's journey toward the city's final approval has taken about four years and featured 95 public hearings, many of them centering on the project's design and its impacts on housing and traffic in Palo Alto. Over the past month, the project cleared a series of critical hurdles when the city's Architectural Review Board approved the proposed designs and a council committee endorsed the development agreement.

The Menlo Park City Council voted 4-0 Tuesday night to support the project after Stanford offered $3.7 million for traffic mitigation and other local improvements.

The Palo Alto council is scheduled to vote on the project in June.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Disband-The-Planning-Transportation-Commission
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 12, 2011 at 6:15 am

A project this big should not have been scheduled through a puny, irrelevant, group like the Planning and Transportation Commission/Committee. These people do not have the expertise, the wisdom, or the information at their disposal, to make meaningful recommendations to the City Council.

Even the City Council has not expertise as a group to weigh in on decisions of this magnitude. The decisions being made seem more to be political, at this point, than towards what we, as a community will look back on in twenty years, and say: "that was good public policy".

Palo Alto's demands on Stanford, to include forcing the termination of the shopping center's expansion, have been myopic, at best, and abusive of the process, at worst.

Menlo Park will be as much affected as Palo Alto, and they have had little, or no, say in the approval process. This whole episode is another reason for exploring more "regionalism".


Like this comment
Posted by janet
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 12, 2011 at 11:41 am

The county area of Menlo Park will be more affected than anyone, yet the county of San Mateo Public Works has done absolutely NOTHING.


Like this comment
Posted by Tina
a resident of Downtown North
on May 12, 2011 at 12:38 pm

This hospital plan is a disaster for the residents of Palo Alto but given the years of stealth negotiations, the hours invested by city staff, the monies involved in the agreement and the desires of Stanford and all local developers this was obviously already a “done deal” and the voting as expected. The residents of Palo Alto were hardly considered in this entire process and many may one day wake up to the ramifications of this terrible decision.

More than any of the other large developments that have been flying through the approval process in the past years; this one will be the bellwether project that will radically change the future density of Palo Alto and the look and feel of our community.

After approving this massive 2 million square foot hospital complex it will be impossible to stop the call for the 12,000 housing units that ABAG insists on and the developers relish. From an outsider’s viewpoint, why would the city of Palo Alto approve a massive medical complex that is larger than those in the centers of dense cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles and then not expect to provide the surrounding growth to support it. The ever increasing call for more density has been approved with support for this project and the Palo Alto that we enjoy today is doomed.

Already our lives are being changed by the growth of the last decade: school quality decrease as the density of students increases, our streets are a nightmare to navigate much of the day, our infrastructure is a mess and there is not enough space for all of the amenities that used to be available to residents as the city’s population has increased.

And please don’t let our city leaders pretend to care about Palo Alto being a “sustainable” community when this vote is the absolute opposite of what a community that cares about the local environment should be involved in promoting.


Like this comment
Posted by Stacey
a resident of Mountain View
on May 12, 2011 at 1:33 pm

I don't understand why everyone is so upset. IT IS OUR HOSPITAL. I for one want the changes. If we have another quake like 89, I want to know I am going to safe and secure hospital. this is our health. Myself and other family members have been treated at Stanford. I can't wait for the new hospital. It will be amazing to go to and know that in the case of natural disaster, we are safe and can count on stanford to help us.


Like this comment
Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on May 12, 2011 at 3:30 pm

"IT IS OUR HOSPITAL."

Why didn't you speak up sooner? Stanford could have built a much, much smaller structure - about the size of your house - just for you, and we wouldn't have this mess.


Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 12, 2011 at 4:29 pm

> If we have another quake like 89

Was anyone in Palo Alto injured in the quake of '89? Don't think so.

Most of the dead were in the Cypress Structure, which collapsed and pretty much killed every instantly. The Wiki-page says that there were 3,700 injured, but does provide a city-by-city map of where injuries occurred.

By the way, there are about 300,000 people living within a five-mile radius of the Stanford Hospital. How many people do you think they will be able to handle a day? And with 25,000-30,000 students/staff, will those folks get priority over Palo Alto folks?


Like this comment
Posted by Not so happy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 12, 2011 at 5:02 pm

If you watched the meeting you might not be so happy. Apparently the commissioners were given a DISK of documents that they had no time to go other, in addition to huge documents on paper. Three of the commissioners said they could not read the material in the short time they were given. The Stanford developers are experienced in manipulating the Palo Alto government. Several have been part of the city and know exactly how to manipulate.
The 3 architects formed a cabal and pushed the matter through without paying attention to very legitimate questions. At one point the new chairman said he would "allow" one of the commissioners to speak. He talks about his family's medical problems.
Who is that self important arrogant new chairman? He's very visibly glorying in his new power as chairman and it's a new low in public demeanor.


Like this comment
Posted by Wanted and Needed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 12, 2011 at 6:26 pm

I support the building of the new Stanford Hospital. I wish it wasn't so big but that's Stanford's choice.

Frankly, I think we're very lucky that Stanford has chosen our community in which to build the hospital; they could have relocated their hospital anywhere they liked because other cities would be thrilled to get such a facility.

As for the perceived traffic problem. People who complain about traffic have never lived in San Francisco, New York or London. We have it so easy here.


Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on May 12, 2011 at 7:19 pm

I absolutely support the hospital, and am gratified that the seismic upgrade and expansion will indeed happen.

Having seen the Olive View Hospital collapse in San Fernando Valley after their earthquake several years ago I know how needed the retrofit of hospitals -- and freeway overpasses, utilities, and other public facilities -- is absolutely necessary.

The whining against all change in Palo Alto is out of hand, irrational, predictable, and really tiresome.


Like this comment
Posted by Disband-The-Planning-Transportation-Commission
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2011 at 8:34 am

> Having seen the Olive View Hospital collapse in San Fernando Valley
> after their earthquake several years ago I know how needed the
> retrofit of hospitals -- and freeway overpasses, utilities, and
> other public acilities -- is absolutely necessary.

From a Wiki-page entry on this event--

The most spectacular damage included the collapse of structures at Olive View Hospital in Sylmar (which had opened just a month prior to the earthquake
...
In response to the quake, building codes were strengthened and the Alquist Priolo Special Studies Zone Act was passed in 1972. The purpose of this act is to prohibit the location of most structures for human occupancy across the traces of active faults and to mitigate thereby the hazard of fault rupture.
---

The collapse of this hospital was clearly a failure of site location. It's quite possible that no structures can survive a sufficiently large earth quake if they are built directly over an active fault trace--meaning that no amount of seismic retrofitting will save them.

The legislation that followed, requiring all hospitals to upgrade their seismic protections was somewhat controversial, since very few hospitals were built over faults. The cost of this upgrading was considered to be in the $40B range, based on the following RAND study that was made in 2002:

Web Link

The one-size-fits-all legislation that too often comes out of Sacramento does not ever seem to consider the costs--or who should pay. These construction costs would force some small hospitals to either consider shutting their doors, or selling to large outfits with the financial resources to make these possibly unnecessary upgrades.

Given the construction cost escalators, the costs for compliance of a full upgrade for the state's hospitals is probably well over $100B today.

Very few buildings have collapsed during the thousands of earthquakes that hit California ever decade/century. Building codes have been strengthened, incrementally, with positive results. There is simply no way to plan for every contingency, and afford to build cost-effective buildings at the same time.

> and freeway overpasses, utilities, and other public facilities
> -- is absolutely necessary.

Projecting this $100B (estimate) to every public structure in the state would cost trillions. The state GDP is only $1.4T, with "government" (at all levels) this year consuming about 50% of the wealth created by working Californians. Where in the world is "government" supposed to find new trillions for seismic upgrades for every one of the thousands of public structures?

> The whining against all change in Palo Alto is out of hand,
> irrational, predictable, and really tiresome.

This incessant demand for more, greater, and often unneeded, state spending is irrational, predictable, and really tiresome.


Like this comment
Posted by ObserverCharlie
a resident of Barron Park
on May 13, 2011 at 8:51 am

Great hospital, great school and neighborhood and please stop whining while living here. Change is the only constant thing!


Like this comment
Posted by Disband-The-Planning-Transportation-Commission
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2011 at 9:23 am

> Change is the only constant thing!

Let's hope you get to see the following changes: a large airport with hundreds of jets arriving/departing daily. An HSR that requires three times the "swath" through Palo Alto that the current plan calls for. ABAG's changing their minds, and requiring 50,000 new homes in Palo Alto rather than 12,000. A removal of the building height limit.

Change is not inherently good, as our parents and grand-parents came to realize in 1929, and again in 1941, and certainly as the people of Russia found out in 1917.

> stop whining.

Perhaps it's time for class-action suits to bring a halt to the accelerating dismantling of our town. Whining doesn't seem to be working.

> change is constant ..

Well, the constant attack on our lifestyles, and our freedoms does seem to be a constant.


Like this comment
Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 13, 2011 at 9:28 am

"Perhaps it's time for class-action suits to bring a halt to the accelerating dismantling of our town. Whining doesn't seem to be working."

Wow. What a statement. Of course without Stanford, Palo Alto would be Gary, Indiana.
Time for Stanford to start cutting ties with Palo Alto--shut down the dish area, encourage funneling money to other cities in the area, etc.
Palo Alto loves the revenue that Stanford adds to the city coffers. But as with all things, it is a two way street.


Like this comment
Posted by stacey
a resident of Mountain View
on May 13, 2011 at 9:41 am

Just because no one in palo alto was injured during the quake of 89.. doesn't mean that you safe. How would you feel if a quake hit right in palo alto. and we don't have a new hospital. no emergancy help. you have to wait for others to come. many could die. All i ask is you stop and think about your health and others. not the construction. once it is built you have a beautiful new hospital to go to, and god forbid you have an emergancy you will be happy


Like this comment
Posted by Disband-The-Planning-Transportation-Commission
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2011 at 9:43 am

> Palo Alto loves the revenue that Stanford adds to the city coffers

Well .. there is the fire department contract, which theoretically doesn't generate a "profit" for the City, and various fees that Palo Alto extracts, but what other money are talking about? Care to be specific?

About 30% of the sales tax generated in Palo Alto comes from Stanford Shopping Center--but this is all a private sector activity. Stanford itself is exempt from property taxes--enjoying, this year, a $4.7B exemption for Santa Clara county, alone. If it were paying property taxes, this would generate another almost $50M--which would be distributed to various governments for community needs. Whatever impacts Stanford imposes on the communities surrounding it--it does not seem to pay appropriate mitigation fees.


> class action suits ..

Stanford is not the only agency of "change" in Palo Alto.


Like this comment
Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 13, 2011 at 9:53 am

"Well .. there is the fire department contract, which theoretically doesn't generate a "profit" for the City, and various fees that Palo Alto extracts, but what other money are talking about? Care to be specific?"
Revenue from events that occur on the STanford campus--Tour of California, Senior Games, athletic events, lectures, arts--all these bring in visitors who eat/stay/shop in Palo Alto.
Also revenue from visitors that are put up by Stanford at PA hotels--i.e. guest lecturers, visiting artists etc.

"About 30% of the sales tax generated in Palo Alto comes from Stanford Shopping Center--but this is all a private sector activity. "
But the shopping center belongs to Stanford. That may be an area where the university can build housing to satisfy people like the above poster. They can close the shopping center and demolish it.

"Stanford itself is exempt from property taxes--enjoying, this year, a $4.7B exemption for Santa Clara county, alone."
Stanford is not unique in this matter

"Whatever impacts Stanford imposes on the communities surrounding it--it does not seem to pay appropriate mitigation fees."
Stanford is offering Palo Alto plenty in mitigation. Unfortunately, many in Palo Alto think that Stanford is a cash cow, who should take care of Palo Alto's financial incompetence.

People also forget the fact that there will be a state of the art world class hospital next door. Some people do not consider that as positive either.


Like this comment
Posted by Disband-The-Planning-Transportation-Commission
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2011 at 10:18 am

> But the shopping center belongs to Stanford. That may be an area
> where the university can build housing to satisfy people like the
> above poster. They can close the shopping center and demolish it.
> Revenue from events that occur on the STanford campus

The earlier post used the word "coffers" .. all too often meaning the General Fund of a local government agency. But this is not a hard-and-fast rule. Certainly the term: "local economy" would have been more appropriate for the suggestion that money flows into the general economy from Stanford-hosted events. While true, it's much harder to track these monies, and therefore not a solid base to make financially-based arguments.

The property underneath the shopping center belongs to Stanford. Everything above ground belongs to Simeon Properties:

Web Link

Simeon paid $333M for it back in 2003. Stanford would be ill-advised to demolish it now, if they ever would.

> Stanford is offering Palo Alto plenty in mitigation.

Of the $142M being offered, virtually none of it will be used for the general public good. Some of the money will probably be used to build low-income housing, and some will be used to provide medical care for certain people, but the bulk of the money (about 70%) is going to Caltrain.

> take care of Palo Alto's financial incompetence

Even at $142M--this doesn't take care of Palo Alto's $550M infrastructure backlog. What's telling about Palo Alto's handling of this matter, is that the "package" being negotiated doesn't deal with any of the infrastructure issues, and does not do anything to really deal with traffic that the increased Hospital (construction and use) will undoubtedly also increase.

> People also forget the fact that there will be a state of
> the art world class hospital next door.

Perhaps. But if you can't afford to pay their ever-increasing bills, then it might as well be on the moon.


Like this comment
Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 13, 2011 at 10:41 am

My feeling is that Stanford needs to start disconnecting from Palo Alto. They have already moved the clinics to Redwood City (and BTW, why doesn't any one mention the fact that traffic and impacts on PA must have been reduced when that was moved).
Maybe it is time to consider moving the hospitals elsewhere, as well.
Or does Palo Alto want the Stanford hospital to be closed for not upgrading seismically (maybe that is what people are thinking--delay it long enough and it will be solved a la Alma Plaza).
It seems like Palo Alto wants all the benefits of being Stanford's neighbor without any problems that may arise from it. In actuality the issues are not that major--the constant whining about "too much traffic" by a former councilmember does not make it true. People obviously believe that what this person said was the gospel truth.
Stanford, as any world calss institution, must grow and change with the times--or should we go back to the good old days when there was no electricity and people used out houses?


Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on May 14, 2011 at 2:42 pm

svatoid...The hospital is functionally intertwined with the School of Medicine, so few clinical departments can disconnect from the main campus. Certainly PA complainers know this. I'm starting to think the University reps -- esp. Larry Horton-- deserve some sort of patience prize/or hardship bonus for having to deal with this irrational selfish community over the years.

The constant PA hostility is coming to define the place. Or so it seems on this website, where it's so rare to find any good news, or even actual news at all. Read sfgate.com or mercurynews.com to see Palo Alto news.

Is it the same cast of "town/gown" complainers that spill their anger here, or is the community really such an angry place? It's constant....for example, see the article elsewhere on today's webpage complaining that Stanford didn't give Palo Altans enough land for a path through SU's private property. Just like any blackmailer, PA residents are never satisfied and always up the ante.

PA doesn't feel like a community at all. I've cut way down on leaving my $$$in PA. Not only does this website portray Palo Alto as a very hostile place, but there is plenty of real life evidence to confirm the impression. PA makes it hard to drive there, hard to park, hard to shop and go to restaurants. It's much easier to find movies, and quality restaurants and shopping in neighboring towns and the atmosphere is a lot friendlier.



Like this comment
Posted by Biting the hand
a resident of Community Center
on May 14, 2011 at 3:42 pm

Neighbor--good post. I agree with you about palo alto. Always complaining about Stanford while trying to extort money from the city. Do people really believe that without Stanford anyone would come to palo alto---destination palo alto, indeed. I also try to do most of my spending outside the city.


Like this comment
Posted by Not so happy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2011 at 6:27 pm

You are confusing Stanford University with the developers at the Medical Center. Two very different entities. No one is complaining about the university. it is the developers at the medical center who are throwing their weight around, I mean their unlimited money, and buying off everything there is to buy.
Some of us aren't for sale and we value fairness and human scale development. Which this moneymaking plan isn't.
The dishonest shenanigans by their developers are public knowledge. Like almost succeeding in getting their top PR guy to become a MANAGER in our planning dept so that he could shepherd the project through from the inside. We are talking about major dishonesty, major scandal, not minor indiscretions.


Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on May 14, 2011 at 10:28 pm

FYI: The University and the Medical Center, while separate organizational/budget entities, ultimately report to the same place....the Stanford University President and Trustees.

Shenanigans? Palo Alto's shenanigans and demands for "donations" of Stanford land and other pay-offs to Palo Alto every time the University builds or improves a facility are legendary. It's a constant and hostile script based on misinformation, and on selfishness and paranoia.

We're talking about Stanford University, hardly a noxious landuse. You complain as if it's a sewage plant or SFO. Your traffic complaints largely come from PA's absurd traffic "calming" that forces dead ends and circular routing and an unreasonable traffic flow that disallows any rational hierarchy of streets. Not to mention parking prohibitions on public streets that are frankly bizarre.

You benefit from Stanford in so many ways -- as a cultural institution, as an inflator of your property value and wealth, as the provider of the ONLY large open space PA didn't develop. --- and, most germane to this discussion, as the operator of the world-class medical center that may save your life.


Like this comment
Posted by Not so happy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2011 at 12:15 am

You ignored the incident I mentioned. It isn't isn't paranoia, the cast of characters is well known, and is back working on the project. You want us to trust people who did that? If we had newspapers that investigated corruption this would be a big headline.
Why wont Stanford house its own employees? They pretend only about 2200 new jobs will be created and need housing, but that is a serious underestimation. Does not count part time employees or contractors who will also need housing. And make demands on roads and transportation. And on our schools.
Palo Alto is overpopulated, the schools are in trouble, and if you ever drive during the rush hour you wouldn't sneer about our traffic problems. We are a small town, with roads and amenities suitable to our size, not to a huge, luxury hospital. Yes, a luxury, money making, hospital.
As you agree, the hospital and the university have separate organizational and budget structures.


Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 15, 2011 at 8:42 am

Does anyone know specifics about required traffic mitigation other than this nonsense about providing Caltrain passes to employees (what percentage would bother with that). From what I witness, Embarcadero Rd from 101 is already clogged with Stanford employees who race to the campus in AM, and race back to the highway in the PM. I have posted earlier my concerns about traffic growth from commuters, and this sounds like many more cars will be brought into PA and they do not drive slowly.


Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on May 15, 2011 at 11:44 am

Maybe a significant proportion of those commuters are racing to the huge PA tech companies -- or to the 280 to get to other parts of Silicon Valley, or to the City.

Regardless, the duration and intensity of rush hours in PA are WAY overblown. I've seen them, been in them, and clocked them. PA "rush hour" - short and suburban.

You have at least 3 possible courses of action:
1. Make your protests from a rational stance, rather than the predictable script and hysteria. You might get further.

2. If your environment is no longer fits with your model because of SU -- move to another upscale community such as Burlingame, Los Altos, of Los Gatos where there is no university. Or, take your outrageous PA housing profits (largely related to your proximity to Stanford) and move to an area even further away where you'll get 2-3x the house for your money.

2. OR -- you can take a very deep breath, and cool down before resuming the discussion. You might even take a nice walk to the Dish, spend the afternoon at Cantor Museum, or take in a concert (there are several today on campus).

You live in a beautiful area and it will continue to be so even with some change.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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