Stanford hospital expansion: Menlo Park not happy with traffic mitigation measures

Expansion could add 10,000 new car trips per day

Everyone seems to agree that an expanded Stanford hospital will be a boon to the community. Nevertheless, the project's final environmental impact report continues to come under fire by Menlo Park officials.

One Stanford physician in chief told the council at its April 5 meeting that the expansion was critical. " Ninety five percent of children seen in emergency room are from San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. So it's really critical for us to move ahead with this. We've run out of room," Dr. Hugh O'Brodovich said.

The $3.5 billion project would bring about 1.3 million square feet of new development and more than 2,200 new employees to Palo Alto by 2025.

But it could also add an estimated 10,000 new daily car trips to the area, with 51 percent of the traffic passing through Menlo Park. According to the EIR, that traffic won't have an impact, an assertion that troubled the City Council.

"How do we reconcile what we see in our town, as patterns when we drive, with the report we get that says there is no impact at 280 and Sand Hill? Or there is a low impact at Alpine, and Santa Cruz and Sand Hill?" asked Mayor Rich Cline at the April 5 meeting. He added that he lives near the latter intersection. "There's no way there's not going to be a significant impact."

Prior to the council meeting, Stanford representatives provided additional information to address some of the EIR's perceived shortcomings -- namely, the methodology used for traffic analysis; Menlo Park staff estimates traffic could actually be 45 percent higher than calculated by the project's consultants, Fehr & Peers.

In a memo to the council, Fehr & Peers defended their analysis, saying that by industry standards, using one-day traffic data was appropriate, given the nature of traffic to the current hospital.

The current negotiations between Stanford and Menlo Park remain focused on the amount of money available for traffic mitigations. The university initially 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.

Stanford director of community relations Jean McCown told the Almanac that Menlo Park would still benefit either directly or indirectly from Palo Alto's funding. "The additional amounts which may be provided to Palo Alto in the future if the hospitals don't achieve the mode share targets are to be used for alternative transportation, including regional transportation systems and solutions," she said.

Ms. McCown also pointed out that one goal of the expansion is to "right size" the hospital; in other words, provide enough space for existing services, which therefore wouldn't generate additional traffic.

Hospital representatives told the council they are prepared to pay the full cost of adding two traffic adaptive signals at 10 intersections, and also willing to discuss the timing and inflation adjustments for other mitigations, including a shuttle.

Vice Mayor Kirsten Keith said there's much goodwill between Menlo Park and Stanford, and that the community stands to benefit from the expansion.

"I support the incredible work they do at the hospital every day and want them to be able to proceed. However, Menlo Park simply must have the traffic mitigation measures necessary for our community. I am hopeful that we will be able to work out the mitigation issues in an acceptable way to all parties. We are close," Ms. Keith wrote in an email to the Almanac.

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Like this comment
Posted by citizen
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 15, 2011 at 11:12 am

Menlo Park is never happy about anything ! They can't even vote on
simple things without making a federal case out of something and put so many restricts on stuff, no one wants deal with the council !

Like this comment
Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 15, 2011 at 12:03 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Why should Stanford even bother to try to cooperate with Menlo Park?

Stanford agreed to a free lease to the Fire District to use one of the vacant auto dealership on El Camino - it took the District over a year to get permission from Menlo Park to do anything with this facility.

Now at least the site displays an antique fire engine and is kept clean by the Fire District.

Like this comment
Posted by sadfsf
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 15, 2011 at 2:13 pm

Sand Hill Road needs to be expanded to six and connected to Alma, which needs to be expanded to four lanes.

Like this comment
Posted by david gregg
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 15, 2011 at 3:26 pm

Palo Alto and to a lesser extent Menlo Park are extorting huge sums from the hospital project just to allow building permits. This is contrary to the best interests of the citizens of our area who need and value state of the art health care. So far the extortion amounts add up to over $150.00 per square foot of construction, JUST FOR A PERMIT!

Like this comment
Posted by ConcernedCit
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Apr 15, 2011 at 6:23 pm

As a resident of Ladera and consumer of Stanford's Hospital's facilities, I'm eager to see the hospital improve, particularly its emergency room capacity. However, what will happen to Alpine Road, which is already often gridlocked during commute hours? Nothing I've seen seems to address this issue and it will surely degrade the quality of life for anyone dependent on this road to access to the hospital and businesses in Menlo Park and Palo Alto.

Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 16, 2011 at 6:16 pm

I disagree that "Everyone seems to agree that an expanded Stanford hospital will be a boon to the community." What most people agree with is that an improvement in all the area hospitals would be a boon to the community. Instead of a massive expansion at Stanford, a modest expansion of each of the area hospitals and perhaps building a new facility in an area where none now exists would be preferable if meeting the needs of local residents is the objective.

Menlo Park should take steps to eliminate congestion caused by Stanford Hospital and Stanford Shopping Center. If Stanford and palo Alto won't open Alma to Sand Hill traffic and visa versa, then Menlo should get the light at El Camino and Cambridge removed and get the island extended through that intersection. Let people go to Middle Ave before turning left or making a U-turn. If that hurts access to the Menlo properties betwen El Camino and the Caltrain tracks, too bad. All that property is owned by Stanford anyway.

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Posted by Maybe
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 17, 2011 at 3:25 pm

John: There's always a wrinkle to an idea and the wrinkle to yours is that Middle Ave. is Menlo Park's "Safe Route to School." Adding more u-turn traffic to that intersection that already has driveways in and out of the gas station and Safeway will be a problem.

Of course Middle Ave doesn't have to be the Safe Route to School and probably shouldn't be but getting that changed in this town could turn into a referendum, a council member tossed out next election and another expensive study.

One more thought: This boon to the community, does that include those who are Kaiser members, the medicare patients and the uninsured?

Like this comment
Posted by sadfsf
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 17, 2011 at 8:19 pm

Alpine Road should be expanded to four lanes.

And they should build the willow expressway.

Like this comment
Posted by Stanford MBA
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Apr 17, 2011 at 8:48 pm

For sure, let's build the Willow Expressway. Right through the Stanford Park Hotel. Out-of-towners will thrill to pay $300/night so that they can sleep next to cars and trucks zipping by at 60 mph.

I am personally having a hard time seeing how an expanded medical center will be a boon to the community. I guess if you have some exotic disease that currently requires a trip to the Mayo Clinic, but since I've never known anyone who's needed to leave town for treatment -- and heard of quite a few patients who have traveled here from all over the world -- I'm a little baffled at what needs will be served.

The expansion is simply unwarranted, and just another example of Stanford's insatiable quest to build an empire. If they want a medical center that will serve the entire half of the state (and beyond) why not build it in an area where there's room? Nope, has to be on campus -- they're intractable that way, and don't care about the negative impact on the surrounding community.

Suffice to say I no longer respond to their letters/emails/phone calls begging for money.

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 18, 2011 at 7:57 am

Let's get rid of the Stanford Graduate School of Business while we are at it - few of their graduates live and work in Menlo park so what is the local benefit?

Same for all the other schools and departments - we could downsize the entire university by over 95%. Just think what that would do for traffic. And business and taxes etc.

Like this comment
Posted by Project Thor sm
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 18, 2011 at 11:31 am

Willow expressway? First I ever heard of it Web Link

Sure makes a ton of sense when looking at a map. Brings a lot of business into the area and relieves congestion that currently makes folks think twice about trying to get there currently.

Treeehuggers stop this?

Like this comment
Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 18, 2011 at 1:35 pm

[Post removed; please refrain from personal attacks]

Like this comment
Posted by need bold leaders
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 21, 2011 at 9:21 am

Stanford will be coming soon to Menlo Park to request development rights for the long and vacant stretch from the creek to Middle Ave. Menlo Park would have a chance then to negotiate HARD for a lot of concessions. That is, unless Menlo Park "gives away" that chance by allowing greatly increased density in its new downtown/ECR plan.

Anyone who thinks the intersection at Middle and El Camino is a Safe Route to School must not have children. That is frightening enough already for motorists, what with the multiple driveways to gas station and Safeway complex and drivers eager to make their turns (and u-turns). With more traffic from Stanford's expansion and from Menlo Park's plans for more density, this will be extremely unsafe for pedestrians and bicyclists. Menlo Park needs bold leaders who understand the issues and are willing to stand up.

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 21, 2011 at 9:25 am

Need states:"Stanford will be coming soon to Menlo Park to request development rights for the long and vacant stretch from the creek to Middle Ave. Menlo Park would have a chance then to negotiate HARD for a lot of concessions."

If you try hard enough you might just keep this property vacant forever.

Like this comment
Posted by EchoChamber
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 21, 2011 at 7:09 pm

The argument from "need bold leaders" is right out of Andy's Kitchen Cabinet's playbook. Developers make an infinite amount of profit! Way higher property tax revenue from redeveloped properties is irrelevant! There is no downside to letting properties stay vacant forever! Community workshops are stupid if we don't agree with the outcome! Consultants always ignore their paying clients and push high-density!

Those were the same arguments about the Derry project. Go stand at that weed-choked lot and think about what kind of bold leaders we need- how about the ones who can tune out these tired refrains and maybe do something for once.

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