Stanford Hospital project wins final approval

July 11th, 2011

Palo Alto grants $5 billion hospital expansion green light after Stanford reaches agreement with day care center

By Gennady Sheyner — Palo Alto Weekly,

After an unexpected last-minute delay, Stanford University Medical Center’s bid to dramatically expand its hospital facilities surged past the finish line Monday night when the Palo Alto City Council gave the $5 billion project its final approval.

The council’s vote came a week after Stanford agreed to relocate a day care center at one of the construction sites, thereby resolving an eleventh-hour dispute with the parents whose children attend the Stanford Arboretum Children’s Center. Stanford earned the city’s initial approval June 6 after nearly 100 public hearings. But the hospital was forced to halt its celebrations a week later because of protests from dozens of parents whose children attend the day care center near the Hoover Pavilion.

The parents, many of them Stanford University professors, argued that the project’s environmental analysis failed to adequately consider the impact of construction on the day care center. After hearing these objections, Stanford asked the council to delay its “second reading” of the approval — a largely procedural vote that would have made its earlier approval final.

The city’s approval of the massive project, nearly four years in the making, became official Monday night. As part of its settlement with the parents, Stanford agreed to move the day care center and to postpone construction on the parking garage near Hoover Pavilion until the center is relocated. After hearing about the deal, the council voted 7-0, with Gail Price absent and Larry Klein abstaining, to give Project Renewal the final go-ahead.

Vice Mayor Yiaway Yeh and Councilman Greg Scharff both praised Stanford and the parents from the day care for working together to resolve their dispute.

“This was unexpected, but the process that Stanford engaged in really demonstrated a good-faith discussion with parents,” Yeh said. “There were serious concerns expressed and I think Stanford did a great job in addressing them.”

Stanford detailed its offer to delay the parking-lot construction in a July 7 letter to the Arboretum parents. The letter, co-signed by Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital CEO Christopher Dawes, Stanford Hospital & Clinics CEO Amir Dan Rubin and Stanford University Provost John Etchemendy, characterizes the recent discussions between Stanford and the parents as “cooperative and productive.” Stanford officials pledged in the letter to continue working with the parents to address their concerns.

“While temporary relocation of the SACC will be a significant expense, and postponement of the Hoover Pavilion parking structure will present substantial construction logistics challenges, we are willing to take these steps on behalf of our employees, their children and the staff at the SACC,” the letter from Stanford stated.

Under the agreement, the day care center would be temporarily moved to a site on Stock Farm Road, between Oak Road and Campus Drive West. The move would require a state license and approval from Santa Clara County. Stanford officials noted in a memo that while they expect to get the necessary approvals, if the relocation plan doesn’t get these approvals, the day care center would have to be closed. In that “unlikely event,” Stanford’s letter stated, the hospitals would help parents make other accommodations for their children. Even under this worst-case scenario, the day care would not be closed until Sept. 1, 2012.

But while Stanford has agreed to delay construction of the parking lot, it intends to proceed expeditiously with its planned renovations to Hoover Pavilion. The expansion project includes demolition of medical office buildings at 1101 Welch Road and the physicians occupying these buildings are slated to be relocated to Hoover Pavilion. In its memo to the parents, Stanford called the Hoover Pavilion renovations a “precursor to construction of the new Stanford Hospital.”

The expansion project, which city officials often call the largest in Palo Alto’s history, would add about 1.3 million square feet of development to the city. It includes reconstruction of Stanford Hospital & Clinics, an expansion of the Lucile Packard Children’s Center and renovations to various Stanford University School of Medicine buildings.

Jeff Shrager, speaking on behalf of the Arboretum parents, said the group is “very grateful for the very strong commitment” it received from Stanford University Medical Center.

“We trust that the Stanford University Medical Center Renewal Project can now proceed with these accommodations in place,” Shrager said.