Residents: City demands too much from Stanford

March 16th, 2009

By Diana Diamond — Palo Alto Daily Post,

Palo Alto may be going too far in its demands of Stanford over the expansion of its two hospitals.

That’s what residents said when they addressed City Council at a special study session Saturday. They were reacting to a six-page, 41-item list of “community benefits,” or demands, as some suggested, that the council was considering asking of Stanford because of this project.

The hospitals should not be “stifled by a community that becomes greedy with their demands,” said Tommy Fehrenbach, chairman of the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce but speaking as an individual.

“These hospital projects are a health care issue, and not a traffic issue,” said Larry Taylor, who described the medical center as a “crown jewel” in the community.

And Walt Hays, a proponent of the project, said in a written statement, “The city is treating Stanford as an adversary from which every concession must be gathered.” Hays recently spent the past few weeks recuperating at the hospital.

Barbara Newton told the council its list of community benefits “is unrealistic; health care is paramount.”

Traffic concerns

But former planning commissioner Michael Griffin said the council’s proposed requirement of “no new net traffic trips” from both projects should be a “must demand — so Palo Alto doesn’t get choked in traffic.”

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 in $18 million to the city coffers.

The list includes a variety of requirements benefiting schools, community facilities, open space, traffic and air quality, community health care, transportation improvements and environmental “sustainability.”

Council member Jack Morton said the list should be requirements for Stanford because he is worried about growth in the city.

Mayor Peter Drekmeier said he will need “convincing” to support enlarging the Stanford Shopping Center. He said he is concerned about the traffic the shopping center expansion will add along with that from the medical center.

Even one job adds traffic

Council member Yoriko Kishimoto echoed Drekmeier’s comments, saying 3,000 jobs will be added. “Even one job causes more traffic.” She said the council should stay with the “no new trips” requirement for both projects.