As the hospitals' redevelopment project has been presented to community stakeholders, a strong consensus has emerged in support of it. Residents want to be sure that the hospitals are not a drain on the city purse and do not overwhelm our city infrastructure, which is code for traffic.
The community and the hospitals have just begun a careful review of the proposed project and it is several months before the draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) will be published.
It is disappointing that Mayor Yoriko Kishimoto's guest opinion last week makes demands for concessions that seem neither reasonable nor even related to the hospitals. I am certain that many in our community join me in respectfully disagreeing with her point of view.
First, she failed to meaningfully acknowledge the tremendous asset these hospitals are, not only in the health services they provide, but also as a significant economic contributor. We have easy access to medical care that others must travel hundreds of miles to receive. The medical center provides 9,900 jobs, including high-quality entry-level and support positions.
Just as we take great pride in the quality of education available in our area, we should be equally proud of the medical services that immeasurably enhance our quality of community life.
Second, the mayor gives little credit for Stanford's exemplary track record on the very issues she identified as most important — transportation, housing and open space. The facts speak for themselves, if we take the time to understand them together.
1) The recent earthquake that shook this area was a timely reminder that when disaster strikes we will all look to Stanford for emergency response. Stanford Hospital is the only Level 1 trauma center between San Francisco and San Jose. The emergency department serves both hospitals and frequently exceeds its capacity. When minutes can make the difference between life and death, or full recovery instead of permanent disability, the value of having an upgraded emergency resource is beyond measure.
What we can measure are numbers such as the $300 million Stanford received in 2006 for medical research, funded by the National Institutes of Health. The interdisciplinary research that Stanford deploys across the spectrum is creating light-speed changes in medical therapies, right here in our own backyard.
2) Transportation is a key and appropriate issue for analysis in the EIR and Stanford's leadership in this area is nationally recognized. About one quarter of current medical center employees participate in Stanford's Traffic Demand Management (TDM) programs.
Undoubtedly these programs can and will be enhanced further to help reduce traffic. In addition, Stanford has already made a substantial investment in the Sand Hill Road/Santa Cruz Avenue intersection improvements in the immediate vicinity of the medical center, creating greater capacity for handling traffic.
These capital improvements dwarf any city expenditures and demonstrate Stanford's continued commitment to traffic solutions for the benefit of the entire community.
3) It is not realistic to expect that urgently needed hospital facilities can be provided without adding one single additional automobile trip. The "no net new trips" rallying cry by the mayor has never been city policy and it is unreasonable to try to apply it now to only the hospitals. When you need to get to the emergency room, your least concern will be whether you are the one net new trip!
4) The amount of housing already provided and planned in the future by Stanford is substantial and unequaled by any other employer or institution in this area. The University currently houses 95 percent of its undergraduates and 55 percent of its graduate students. There are more than 800 faculty-owned homes on campus and 628 rental units for faculty and staff in Palo Alto.
Moreover, Santa Clara County's General Use Permit (GUP) already provides for an additional 3,000 housing units, and the Mayfield Agreement provides for another 250. Any affordable housing needs related to the hospitals should be addressed through good faith negotiations consistent with existing City policy.
5) Keeping both hospitals fully functional while building an entirely new Stanford Hospital within the existing footprint of the medical center is exactly what we want.
Sports, hiking and biking on the Stanford campus were a central part of my life growing up in Palo Alto and they are still on my itinerary every weekend.
The only question is which part of campus we will be visiting. As important as this is to me and others, the mayor's demand for open space protections on lands entirely unrelated to the hospitals project makes no sense. Of Stanford's almost 8,200 acres, 4,900 acres are undeveloped and the hospitals' redevelopment will not change that.
We have the ability to ensure that the finest medical facilities available anywhere are just minutes from our homes. The true cost to our community of not making reasonable decisions today will be enormous. What we truly cannot afford is to unreasonably burden the future of our critical health care institutions by attempting to lay all of our community's challenges at Stanford's doorstep to solve.
What the hospitals are asking now is that we help them help us.
If we meet this challenge, we will indeed create a sustainable 21st century community for our children and grandchildren. That is a legacy worthy of being a Tall Tree and one that I hope others will join me in supporting.
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