Menlo Park: Stanford hospital EIR 'defective'

Estimates traffic actually 45 percent higher than consultant calculated

After examining the potential traffic snarls presented by the planned Stanford hospital expansion, staff is asking the City Council to send a letter to Palo Alto stating that if Stanford agrees to pay more for mitigations, then the city will not try to delay the project -- even though the draft letter calls the project's final environmental impact report (EIR) defective due to underestimating the traffic impact.

Counting cars

The letter challenges the methodology used by contractors Fehr & Peers, hired by Stanford to collect traffic data instead of the Palo Alto's EIR consultant, a move which the letter calls "highly unusual" since using the city's consultant is meant to avoid conflicts of interest.

Describing the traffic analysis as inadequate, the letter states that the traffic generated by the existing hospital was only counted on a single day in October 2006, instead of over multiple days. Menlo Park estimates traffic is actually 45 percent higher than calculated by Fehr & Peers. The consultants also failed to include two Stanford parking lots in the count.

A primary issue, according to the letter, is that the consultants evaluated traffic on Menlo Park residential streets using Palo Alto's guidelines, which staff consider less stringent and "which results in understating significant impacts, reducing the need for mitigations."

The proposed mitigations include building an undercrossing for bicyclists and pedestrians near Middle Avenue on property owned by Caltrain, meaning that Menlo Park doesn't have authority to construct the tunnel. The EIR also offers only 5 percent of estimated construction costs towards the tunnel.

Even if the undercrossing did get built, the letter states, the report's estimated 3 percent traffic reduction "is an unbelievable conclusion given the current traffic volumes. ...

Money talks

Stanford has offered $312,000 as a one-time payment to Menlo Park as a "fair share contribution" toward traffic mitigation while holding out $8.3 million to Palo Alto.

Menlo Park would like to see its payment fall closer to $2.1 million, with an additional $70,970 per year to expand Menlo Park's shuttle bus program and one-third of any penalties Stanford pays for failing to meet its traffic-reduction targets.

"At this point attempting to redo these inappropriate trip and intersection delay reductions would be difficult and time-consuming," the letter concludes, while reiterating that the city doesn't want to stop or delay the expansion. "Paying 51% of our normal [traffic impact fee is reasonable since 51% of project trips go through Menlo Park."

The City Council is scheduled to discuss the draft letter on the Stanford Medical Center expansion during its regular meeting on Tuesday, April 5, in council chambers at the Civic Center, 701 Laurel St. The meeting starts at 7 p.m.

Click here to read the staff report.

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Like this comment
Posted by G. Steinberg
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Apr 5, 2011 at 12:46 pm

Menlo Park is not troubled by the bigger traffic snarl that will be the result of Stanford's expansion, all they want is more money. For what?
That will precious little to help with traffic. Proves again that anybody can be bought off when politics are involved.
One solution will be a new entrance from 280 directly to the Stanford campus, through the hills and golf course, with a bridge over Junipera Serra. That would help a lot in West Menlo and Portola Valley

Like this comment
Posted by Sheila Starr
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Apr 5, 2011 at 1:10 pm

If the ridiculous necessity to only turn left or right at the intersection of Alma, El Camino Real, and Sand Hill Road were eliminated, a whole load of traffic that subsequently ends up in Menlo Park would end forthwith.

A long line of cars turns LEFT onto El Camino and then left onto Cambridge Avenue. Once on Cambridge they either a) make a U-Turn or b)turn left onto Alto Lane. They then return to ECR and cross three lanes of traffic to get into the left turn lane for Alma.

This supposed "mitigation" was to prevent traffic going straight down Sand Hill and onto Alma.

When are Palo Alto and Menlo Park going to GROW UP and realise that we have a world-class university and medical center here? When are they going to put their small minded, petty, early 19th century thinking into THIS century.

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 5, 2011 at 1:24 pm

This makes good comedy.

Menlo Park - "What do you think I am....?

Stanford - " We know what you are and now we are just talking about your price..."

Like this comment
Posted by Ladera Resident
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Apr 5, 2011 at 9:48 pm

I don't personally know who did the traffic study, but if I were them, I would not be happy to have someone playing politics just announce that the traffic study was deficient. I wish whoever is calling the traffic study deficient would give their qualifications for making such a professional determination and what they find deficient. I can't think of one thing that Menlo Park or Palo Alto has done to help with traffic - ever.

If I was Stanford I would block Palm Drive and put a guard shack there and just let people on campus that had business there. Let's see how Menlo Park and Palo Alto would like it if all the people that cut through Stanford on Campus Drive (East and West) had to commute through other roads.

Like this comment
Posted by peter principle
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 5, 2011 at 11:45 pm

Stanford and Palo Alto just got taken to task by MP City Council and staff.
Bill Phillips and his coven from Stanford and PA were made to look like fools.
BTW, Stanford and Palo Alto staff, we don't suffer fools gladly
Dig deeper now or you will pay in addition to legal costs to defend this travesty of an FEIR.

Like this comment
Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 6, 2011 at 11:44 am

{Post removed. Personal attack violates terms of use.]

Like this comment
Posted by The MP Standard
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Apr 6, 2011 at 12:20 pm

If only Menlo park staff would review Menlo Park projects and EIRs, such as the Bohannon projects, with the same set of standards with which the criticize those in other cities.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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