The Menlo Park City Council on Tuesday signaled its intent to put on November's ballot an advisory measure asking voters whether they support Stanford University's development plans along Sand Hill Road.
A coalition of local neighborhood and environmental groups opposed to Stanford's plans and concerned that not enough residents are aware of their ramifications had approached the city for help in drafting a measure and getting it on the ballot.
Opposition leaders on Monday are expected to make a similar appeal to the Palo Alto City Council.
"The only way that this issue is going to be brought to the public's attention, near term . . . is to put it on the ballot," said Menlo Park resident Jerry Jones.
At the request of Council member R.P. "Dee" Tolles, who was absent from Tuesday's meeting, the Menlo Park Council agreed to postpone until next week a final decision on the exact wording of the measure and whether it would approve placing it on the ballot.
The delay gives City Attorney William McClure time to refine the wording of the proposed measure. Both the Menlo Park and Palo Alto councils have until Aug. 12 to submit measures to their respective counties.
Without settling on specific wording for the measure, the Council debated how far it should go in attempting to describe the project and outline all its possible local impacts.
An advisory measure on the Stanford project would serve only an informative role, helping gauge the public's stance on it. It would not direct the Council to take a specific action.
Council member Gail Slocum worried that giving only a general description of the project would leave voters uninformed about its scope. But others on the Council said cluttering the measure with details could confuse voters.
McClure again was instructed to return with several options, as he was prior to Tuesday's meeting.
Part of the difficulty in describing Stanford's project stems from the absence of a final plan. Stanford unveiled preliminary plans in April, but has yet to submit any formal applications to either Palo Alto or Menlo Park showing exactly what it proposes to do and asking for approval.
In general terms, Stanford has proposed building almost 1,200 units of family and senior housing in a field along Sand Hill Road; widening the road to four lanes and linking it to El Camino Real; adding 160,000 square feet to its shopping center; and constructing up to 300 units of housing near its Hoover Pavilion.
Some residents, including critics of the project, think until Stanford's applications are turned in that it's premature to ask voters to make a decision on them. They say Stanford's plans could change.
"Any ballot measure at this time would just be playing into Stanford's hand," said Herb Borock, a Palo Alto resident and project opponent. "The vote would be meaningless."
However, others say a vote now, particularly one opposing the project, might discourage Stanford from going ahead with its development.
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