By Gennady Sheyner
Stanford University Medical Center's proposal to dramatically expand and rebuild its hospital facilities in Palo Alto hit a milestone Thursday (Feb. 17) when the city completed a critical environmental document analyzing the project's impacts.
The city's planning staff released the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) this week for the Stanford project -- a colossal, state-mandated study that lists dozens of impacts and proposes mitigation measures for reducing the impacts.
The city had released the draft version of the report in May. The final report includes some revisions to that report and staff responses to comments from the public about the draft EIR. The City Council is scheduled to approve the new report in March. At a recent council meeting, City Manager James Keene described the project as being in the "last couple of miles" of a marathon.
The Stanford University Medical Center Renewal Project includes the reconstruction of Stanford Hospital & Clinics and the Hoover Pavilion, the expansion of the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital and replacement of laboratories at the Stanford School of Medicine. It would add about 1.3 million square feet of development space to Palo Alto.
The project has been making its way through the city's planning process since 2007 and is expected to receive final approval this year.
Mike Peterson, Stanford's vice president for special projects, said in a statement that the medical center is "very appreciative of the hard work of everyone involved over the past four years.
"Thanks to their dedication and commitment to making this important project work for everyone, we will be able to meet essential health care needs with little to no adverse impacts on the community."
So far, traffic impacts have topped the list of local concerns about the hospital expansion. At a Jan. 31 council meeting, Deputy City Manager Steve Emslie told the council that under Stanford's proposed mitigations, traffic impacts would be reduced to "less than significant" status.
Stanford plans to provide all hospital workers with Caltrain Go Passes, hire a transportation-demand manager, improve pedestrian and bicycle connections around the medical center and spend more than $5.1 million on programs relating to AC Transit. The goal is to get 35.1 percent of the commuters to give up their cars for other modes of transportation.
The EIR also lists several "significant but unavoidable" impacts of the hospital project, including increased congestion at three Menlo Park intersections during peak hours (Middlefield Road and Willow Road, Bayfront Expressway and Willow Road, and University Avenue and Bayfront Expressway), increased daily traffic on Marsh Road, Sand Hill Road, Willow Road and Alpine Road in Menlo Park, and a removal of up to 71 protected trees.
The Final EIR is one of two major documents the city has to approve before the project gets the green light. Stanford and Palo Alto are also negotiating on a "development agreement" -- a list of community benefits Stanford will be required to provide to Palo Alto in exchange for permission to exceed the city's zoning regulations.
The goal of Stanford's Project Renewal is to replace outdated facilities, increase the number of hospital beds and seismically retrofit the buildings to comply with state law.