Council Trying to Gouge Stanford

March 19th, 2009

By Diana Diamond — Palo Alto Daily Post,

When I look at the list of “community benefit” requests that some members of the Palo Alto City Council are asking of Stanford, I am astonished.

The list has 58 items, which easily could cost the university a minimum of $200 million.

These demands are being made in exchange for council granting Stanford permission to expand its two hospitals and the Stanford Shopping Center, making them seismically safe.

I’d label the list “the gouging of Stanford.”

Demand after demand

The project is expected to add 3,000 new jobs but also contribute to the city’s sales tax and hotel revenues. Stanford has said the first year of construction will bring $18 million into the city coffers.

This list of sundry ideas reads as if some council members lay awake for nights dreaming of all they could ask Stanford to pay for.

For example, the list says the university should pay all the costs for Palo Alto’s cross-town shuttle system (an estimated $250,000 a year); provide 540 below market-rate housing units; promise not to ever develop part of the foothills; contribute funding to the proposed $80 million police building; share the costs of a joint 911/Emergency Operations Center; fund police staffing and equipment; provide park land; extend the El Camino Park lease indefinitely and pay for artificial turf; provide sewer and water improvements and a program of alternative energy use; use a portion of Stanford land for a detention basin for San Francisquito Creek overruns; extend the university’s Marguerite shuttle system into the downtown; pay for Palo Alto’s share of the Valley Transportation Authority’s bus service on California Avenue; take over the train depot, and fund traffic improve-ments on University Avenue, including the Crescent Park area.

That’s not even half of what is on the list.

Stanford has given us much

It’s not as if Stanford hasn’t already given a lot to Palo Alto.

For example, it is leasing one of the priciest Silicon Valley pieces of land to Palo Alto to use as soccer fields — the corner of El Camino Real and Page Mill Road. That land is valued today at around $30 million; Stanford is charging Palo Alto $1 a year. And Stanford paid some $3.5 million to build the fields, money Palo Alto didn’t have to pay.

It also leases El Camino Park, across from the Stanford Shopping Center, to Palo Alto for $1 a year.

Last year the council formed an ad hoc subcommittee consisting of council members Peter Drekmeier, Yoriko Kishimoto and Pat Burt to come up with a list of things they wanted Stanford to do. The meetings were not open to the public. (Council members Yiaweh Yeh and Greg Schmid complained that last Saturday was the first time they’ve seen the list.)

Kishimoto and Drekmeier have long been known for their hostility to Stanford and made known their concerns about this project from the start. The council is going to prioritize its demands at its council meeting Mon-day night.

Stanford offers a world-class medical center that many of us turn to, particularly when we have strokes or heart attacks or when our children come down with awful diseases. I am delighted to have it next to our city and I think Palo Alto should do all it can to help Stanford make it better.