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Letter: Stanford has every right to use its land

Original post made on Nov 21, 2007

The spin of the Almanac's Nov. 7 article "Stanford pursues its massive campus expansion" is remarkable.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, November 21, 2007, 12:00 AM

Comments (30)

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 21, 2007 at 7:31 am

Amen. Stanford has created so much value for the local communities which surround it and yet these communities keep trying to starve the goose that continues to lay the golden eggs. Palo Alto would simply be a San Francisco bedroom community and Silicon Valley would not exist if it were not for Stanford. If we want the benefits of a world class university then we need to be willing to give it our full support.

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Posted by Stanford alum
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 21, 2007 at 8:29 am

Stanford is the 900-pound gorilla of the mid-peninsula. It's got enough money to do what it wants and blissful alums who are willing to cough up more whenever there's a cause of any kind.

No one is telling Stanford to go away, and it's simply ludicrous to suggest that the mid-peninsula's economy will plummet if Stanford isn't allowed to do whatever it wants with its land. It's also ridiculous to suggest that Stanford needs to keep its lands pristine for non-Stanford residents who want to use it for their dogs.

All the neighbors ask is that Stanford respect us. As Stanford continues to flex its economic muscle, it's increasingly hard for the university to show much consideration for the vastly inferior neighboring communities (even if so many alums live in those towns). Sure, Stanford can dump its dirt on its own land--if it can figure out a way to do that without causing damage or distress to the other cities whose streets its dump trucks will be clogging for years and years. Such hubris!

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Posted by Stanford alum too
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 21, 2007 at 11:41 am

Stanford needs to work with surrounding communities, not go its independent route. Its plans affect our quality of life in dramatic ways, both positive (employment, world class medical care, intellectual and aesthetic stimulation) and negative (traffic, wear and tear on streets, need to provide housing, loss of cohesive bike routes.) Sensible solutions, like that proposed by Lenny Roberts to dump dirt where it's needed, can arise from working together to solve problems.

We need Stanford to support us, too. We house faculty, staff, students, and guests; we contribute to the school; we patronize classes and events.

Of great concern is the expansion of the shopping center, which will cause even more traffic problems for surrounding towns and negatively affect our own retail tax base. Somehow this gets lost in the discussions about Stanford expansion. Oh yeah, Palo Alto likes it. Menlo Park gets stuck with even more backed up traffic because of the longer and longer u-turn at Cambridge. Stanford doesn't seem to care about that or about Stanford-owned vacant lots on El Camino. We need to work together.

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Posted by across the creeker
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 21, 2007 at 9:43 pm

Of course, our esteemed professor of medieval history, could easily appreciate our perception of the Stanford Lands Management team as neo-feudalists. Some self imbued right of manifest destiny, defenders of the realm, and all that rubbish. They plunder the land in the name of the "Church" because of its "Mission". Read Stanford the University and its educational mission. Professor B. should read the history of the Stanfords and the Big Four. Enlightened neighbors understand the gamesmanship of that day and the current mantra of Lands Mgmt. to maximize entitlements through political manipulation at the local level.
Reality, 21st century, is that the "Farm" has become a Factory, with all its attendant negative externalities. Some of us grew up here with no connection to Stanford or Silicon Valley, but we are well aware of the past Stanford-Berkeley(Hearst) ego rivalry of powerful families. Currently it's a Texas style Bass, Trammell Crow managed
conquest approach that sees great sport in playing Palo Alto against Menlo Park and the other "lesser" "backwater" neighbors.
It's painfully obvious that many of the Stanford development cheerleaders who post on the forums have no legacy in this area.
Just "riding through Dodge", make their killing at the tables and leave the rest of us long time residents to deal with the mess.

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 22, 2007 at 8:29 am

It is a small sample size but note that the supporters of Stanford and the great value that it has created in our communities all give their names while the detractors choose to be anonymous.

I long ago made it a rule to ignore anonymous comments since their authors are by definition unknown and therefore of unknown veracity and have no standing to contribute to a vigorous public dialgue.

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Posted by SU employee
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 22, 2007 at 11:14 am

Why need a name? So as to be able to make ad hominem attacks instead of sticking to the arguments?

No one is denigrating the contributions of the Stanford community to the area. Note, however, that great value has been derived from the collaboration of bright and motivated individuals, at Stanford and at other illustrious companies throughout the Valley, and that such value has little or no relationship to the grandiosity of the buildings housing those individuals.

Also, re the original "right to use land" argument that initiated this thread: can we give that one a rest? I can't do what I want with my property, nor can any of the residents and businesses in this area. If you want to be free from zoning and use constraints, then you shouldn't be living/operating in an urban area. As we learned in grade school: my freedom ends where your nose begins. Even if history tells us that the mighty typically vanquish the weak, it would be nice to believe that we can co-exist peacefully with Stanford, but Stanford may make that impossible.

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Posted by stanford alum 3
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 22, 2007 at 2:37 pm

Stanford continues on its merry way, ignoring impacts to Menlo Park, while buying off Palo Alto when need be. They continue to throw their traffic our way and the over the top expansion of the Shopping Center and 130 foot planned towers for the hospital just show you their arrogance.

Menlo Park under the great leadership of Steve Schmidt, gave up the only leverage we had by widening the bridge. Now West Menlo is feeling the effects that were predicted. Their under cover plans to cover all their now vacant car lot with medical office have leaked out. How will they buy us off next?

You sort of wonder why we are having a visioning process for El Camino, when the south end will be dictated one way or another by Stanford. Maybe we should just take those car lots off the table and give them them their wishes -- they might gives us a soccer field or two; then again maybe not. They didn't cough up anything for the Rosewood Hotel with the extra 100,000 square foot office building -- of course Jellin, Winkler & DuBoc gave up anything, including our swimming pool during their tenure.

alum 3

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 22, 2007 at 4:39 pm

The sample size increases and the detractors remain 100% anonymous. The detractors have not presented any facts but just opinions. Facts speak for themselves and can be independently verified but opinions only have value when they come from credible sources and anonymous sources have no credibility.
And the only ad hominem attacks have come from an anonymous detractor -"It's painfully obvious that many of the Stanford development cheerleaders who post on the forums have no legacy in this area." I was born in the Bay area and haved lived in the Palo Alto/Atherton community for over 30 years so my legacy is clear.

Constructive public dialogue cannot be done anonymously.

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Posted by Stanford watcher
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 22, 2007 at 5:32 pm

You want "facts"? How about this excerpt from the 1995 Supreme Court McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission decision:

"Protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express critical, minority views . . . Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights, and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation . . . at the hand of an intolerant society."

Our country has a long and proud tradition of allowing, even encouraging anonymity. Heard of the Federalist Papers authored by Publius?

Why not address the arguments rather than focusing on the names of the people making them (or lack thereof)? It's pretty clear that Stanford has consistently, persistently ignored Menlo Park's interests, and will continue to do so unless we get some tough negotiators on our side.

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 22, 2007 at 9:37 pm

How nice to know that the dissenters are in the minority and need the protection of anonymity.

As for arguments from the dissenters, I have heard none except that they object to whatever Stanford wants - hardly persuasive logic.

Anonymity and the absence of both facts and arguments are hardly a winning combination. Surely you dissenters can do better!!!

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Posted by peter's publius
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 23, 2007 at 9:10 pm

You're that "carpenter" with the unassailable CV and legacy that wants to dismantle local review boards and disenfranchise local control in favor of regionalism for efficiency and cost savings. If it's good enough for Stanford, it should be good enough for the rest of us? Easy to ponitificate when you are insulated in Atherton from the Stanford detritus of overdevelopment.
You want "facts" instead of opinions. Then find a copy of the Stanford Sand Hill EIR from 1997. Aptly stated therein, "any relief from cut through traffic on West Menlo streets will be offset by regional growth and development". Read the section on Hydrology that talks about bank erosion on San Francisquito Creek due to enlarged bridges on Alpine, Junipero Serra and Sand Hill accelerating stream flow. You're on the fire board, think bigger fire hose.
You used to be head of Stanford Medical Center development, so you can afford to be a cheerleader for the "Farm" and its mega schemes.
You have questionable objectivity in this forum.

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Posted by so it goes
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 23, 2007 at 11:33 pm

Thank you, publius, for showing Mr. Carpenter why anonymity can be preferable for anyone who wishes to be judged on the basis of his/her arguments rather than her/his deeds.

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 24, 2007 at 9:21 am

Fact -If Stanford did not exist and its 8180 acres or 12.78 sq miles were developed to the same densisty as all of Palo Alto which is 2,475.3/miles²there would be 31,634 residents on that land generating a fraction of the tax revenue for Palo Alto that Stanford currently provides. If this land were to be developed to the same density as Palo Alto is east of El Camino then the nuber of residents would be closer to 60,000. And those residents would generate far more traffic than does Stanford, would not permit you to walk your dog or hike in their yards, would not provide world class medical care, would not provide thousands of jobs, would not have a world class research park and would not provide any cultural or educational opportunities.

Publius demonstrates the advantage of anonymity by his/her careless mistatement of the facts- I was not head of development at the Stanford University Medical Center and have not advocated abolishment of 'local review boards'- whatever they might be. My name and CV are a matter of public record but then perhaps the facts are not important if you cannot be held accountable for what you say. As a twice elected public official and a former Palo Alto Planning Commissioner I am pleased to be judged on my knowledge of the facts and my public performance.

And again it is only the dissenters who are engaging in ad hominem arguements.

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 24, 2007 at 10:00 am

Fact -"A collection of eighty-five essays about the US Constitution, called The Federalist Papers, were written by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison during 1787-1788 under the allonym Publius in honor of his role in establishing the Roman Republic."

Note that these three distinguished American used the allonym to honor Publius - not as a means of protecting their anonymity since their collective role in producing the Federalist Papers was well known.

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Posted by no koolaid for me
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 24, 2007 at 12:06 pm

Instead of imagining a parallel universe in which the Stanford lands were engulfed in tract homes and pollution-belching cars, can we just envision a future in which Stanford tries to abide by the rules instead of pushing the envelope?

Right now, there are some major construction projects on campus. I can't remember ever driving around campus and NOT seeing a major project underway. Facilities are constantly being upgraded, and you don't hear a whimper from anyone in the surrounding communities because those kinds of improvements don't affect anyone outside the university.

However, when Stanford proposes a project that will have a dramatic and negative effect on local cities, especially Menlo Park (which receives no benefits from the shopping center sales taxes and bears the brunt of traffic heading in and out of Stanford to the north and west)then I would say we have every right to speak up and ask that our council and city staff do everything in their power to ensure that we are not steamrollered.

Some jingoists are so blinded by Stanford's greatness and glory that they can't seem to understand how others might not perceive Stanford the same way. Although I don't mind having Stanford as a neighbor (except when its demands become ridiculous) I can imagine many other uses for that land that might be more beneficial for Menlo Park residents.

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 24, 2007 at 1:25 pm

Same standards for Stanford, Palo Alto and Menlo Park - that would be great. let's look at some facts:

Open space - Stanford has preserved almost 70% of its land as open space while Palo Alto has only "about 33%" and Menlo Park probably has less than 20% open space.

Shopping Center - Stanford has created a world class shopping center which serves the entire region and provides significant tax revenues. The best Palo Alto can claim is the Town and Country Shopping Center and Menlo Park has Santa Cruz Avenue.

Emergency Care - Stanford serves the entire region while neither Palo Alto or Menlo Park have their own Emergency Care.

Energy - Stanford produces all of its own energy and plus an extra 20 megawatts at peak that is provided for public consumption. Neither Palo Alto or Menlo Park generate any energy except small amounts of methane gas from their respective garbage dumps.

Trees - There are about 43,000 trees on the Stanford campus. Neither Palo Alto or Menlo Park collect or publish comparable information.

Free public transportation - Stanford operates the Marguerite shuttle, which serves the campus and connects Stanford with downtown Palo Alto. All 30 buses, operating on biodiesel fuel, complete an 11-route system that is free to the public, with a ridership of more than 5,600 daily and more than 1.4 million annually. Neither Palo Alto or Menlo Park provide any public transportation - free or otherwise.

Local revenues - In 2002, the combination of local spending by Stanford employees, visitors and students, sales and property tax payments, utility and other direct purchases, contributed more than $1.5 billion to San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. Neither Palo Alto and Menlo Park publish comparable data but their numbers would be a small fraction of Stanford's contribution.

So let's require Palo Alto and Menlo Park to meet the same standards that Stanford already meets.

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Posted by over the creeker
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 25, 2007 at 8:49 am

Impressive, but still missing these salient facts.
Stanford provides ____units of affordable housing on its lands for it's lower paid staff (faculty/sr. admin./grad,undergrad housing excluded).
Stanford generates ______net auto commuting trips to its facilities
because of the shortage of the above staff housing.
Oak Creek and Stanford West apts. charge _____ monthly rent for a 2-3 bdrm. apt.

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Posted by creekside
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 25, 2007 at 2:07 pm

Since Stanford University is a nonprofit, it is exempt from most taxes. True, the industrial park and shopping center generate revenues, but that is an argument for getting rid of the university and rezoning that land for retail.

As for property taxes, since Stanford has owned that land for over 100 years, I assume they are protected by Prop 13, and are paying a lot less than current market value.

The neighboring communities are simply asking that Stanford abide by the same building and traffic standards that apply to Menlo Park and Palo Alto. Few other standards are relevant here (number of trees? please!)

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 25, 2007 at 5:50 pm

Please cite and give the text of the specific Palo Alto and Menlo Park ordinances to which you feel Stanford should abide.

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Posted by well raise my rent!
a resident of another community
on Nov 25, 2007 at 8:33 pm

just teasing.

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Posted by broken record
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 25, 2007 at 10:19 pm

this guy Carpenter says he was Plng. Commissioner in PA during the '70's. Anybody check out his voting record? Should be able to get it from the PA city or PA Weekly archives, maybe the library.
Was he just a rubber stamp for Stanford and its cronies,
and now reincarnated as a stumper for its 21st century schemes?
Wouldn't put it past Stanford to pack decision making bodies with friendlies in PA and MP.

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 1, 2007 at 4:28 am

As I stated earlier my name and record are a matter of public record - go check the record and you will find my name on the Palo Alto General Plan issued in 1977 and also that I was the sole author of the Report on Parking and Transportation at Stanford which led to both the paid parking system at Stanford and the Stanford free shuttle system among my many public service contributions.

Unfortunately none of the detractors are either publicly known or would appear (how could one know for sure given their anonymity) to have ever served in elected public office or on a public commission. or committee.

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Posted by former mp resident
a resident of another community
on Dec 2, 2007 at 10:34 am

for Mr. Carpenter: how do you stand on the MA High School Performing Arts lawsuit filed by Atherton?

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Posted by confused
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 5, 2007 at 9:57 am

I don't understand the logic here. If Stanford or any other property owner could build whatever they want, why would we need planning commissions or general plans or zoning or other ordinances? The last time I checked, we live in communities not in individual fiefdoms where we can do whatever we please and to heck with everyone else.

The original example of dumping dirt wherever Stanford wants ignores the fact that the trucks taking the dirt will wreck the streets and foul the air of other communities. The environmental impacts at the dump site should be examined, too. I was impressed with the sensible win-win idea posed by Lennie Roberts to at least put the dirt to good use at a place where dirt is needed to reclaim baylands. I hope we never abandoning common sense in favor of laissez-faire.

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Posted by Paul Collacchi
a resident of another community
on Dec 8, 2007 at 6:06 pm

Just to put the debate back on a more factual footing.

Santa Clara County Planning information for Stanford University can be found here: Web Link

The actual General User Permit ("GUP") can be found here: Web Link

For the record, GUP stands for General USE PERMIT. It is quite literally the document that gives Stanford its legal entitlement to expand campus development. The amount of development enabled is the following:

•Academic and academic support facilities (an additional 2,035,000 net square feet (sq. ft.) plus the square footage remaining under the 1989 GUP)
• Childcare or community centers (an additional 40,000 sq. ft.)
• Temporary trailers and surge space (up to 50,000 sq. ft.)
• Parking structures and lots (2,300 net new parking spaces)
• Housing (3,018 housing units)

The amount of the entitlement used up is monitored here:
Web Link

According to the 2007 report, there is a remaining balance of 1.7M sf of the 2M sf of academic development, and ~2600 of its 3018 housing units.

So much for historical fact. Now for some opinion.


It is always with great amusement that I read the passionate winds from a professors emeritus no less blaming a document that ALLOWS massive campus development for LIMITING campus development. One might as well blame the US constitution for limiting human rights rather than creating them.

A good friend who also works for "the company" and has long been involved in our local efforts to monitor Stanford development tells of how artfully the Stanford internal propaganda machine, read Larry Horton, blames the GUP and manipulates internal community perceptions of it to justify Stanford's own internal decisions. (The most recent internal controversy involving the so-called Munger housing for law students.)

The good professor emeritus, who, with all due respect, has the world turned on its head, is a good example of how otherwise smart people, isolated from contact with us little people in the community, can be so easily fooled by Larry Horton and crew. He is not the first.

I can appreciate that there are those whose passion for "property rights" is so great that it forces them to preempt the Supreme Court as the definer of what "property rights" means, but generally, if you read your history books you will see that property rights are mostly addressed by the so-called "takings" clause of the 5th amendment, and that historically, this has been interpreted to mean "some" use of one's property" as opposed to "no" use of one's property or "unlimited" use of one's property.

Since Stanford already has "some" use of its property, it has no real basis to claim "more" or "other" or "all" use of its property, and so expansion of the University is quite properly and legally under the discretionary authority of local government agencies, who, historically and again in 2000, gave the University every bit of academic expansion it asked for.

The only thing I ask of the professor emeritus, is a little less ignorance, a little more gratitude, and a little less wind.

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Posted by UCalum
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 10, 2007 at 10:49 am

Paul, you've been sorely missed!

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Posted by itchy feet
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 10, 2007 at 3:11 pm

Paul has gotten much wiser since leaving Menlo Park. Maybe we should all move out of town?

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Posted by will o wisp
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Dec 10, 2007 at 8:49 pm

at least he voted against the Sand Hill widening (won by 3-2 vote), all the while defending his pal Schmidt. Stanford has a green light to max out its GUP, but no limit in PA and MP because Schmidt rolled over and there is nothing to stop them on LOS intersection standard violations.

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Posted by Paul Collacchi
a resident of another community
on Dec 18, 2007 at 9:34 am

Above, I noted that Stanford aggressively uses and exploits the GUP to justify administrative decisions including unpopular ones, relocating groups off campus. The email below, apparently from the Dean of the Medical School, justifies the decision to move administrative groups off campus by writing:

"Because of the General Use Permit and other restrictions we are virtually out of space for growth in our research and teaching programs."

Notice also the platitudes: “I would like to extend my thanks and admiration to the individuals moving to the new location. They have shown a pioneering spirit and a generous attitude towards the practical adjustments needed to effectively conduct their work from a remote site."

The GUP enabled 2M square feet of new academic and academic support construction, of which 85% or 1.7M square feet is still available.

>>Date: Mon, 17 Dec 2007 18:51:29 -0800
>>From: Julia Tussing <>
>>Subject: [irt_ais_staff] [som_moves_staff] Dean's newsletter on SMP
>>Please note the entry in the Dean's newsletter about the move to
>>SMP in this week's Dean's Newsletter, reproduced below:
>> From the Dean:
>>****Moves to SMP Completed
>>The relocation of the majority of School of Medicine administrative
>>groups to Stanford Menlo Park (SMP) is now underway and will be
>>completed this week. As you may recall from earlier newsletters,
>>the driving force behind the decision to move these administrative
>>groups is the need for academic programmatic space here at the
>>Medical School. Because of General Use Permit and other
>>restrictions we are virtually out of space for growth in our
>>research and teaching programs.
>>Administrative groups moving include:
>> * Office of Facilities Planning and Management [
>> [url deleted]
>> * Office of Institutional Planning
>> * SPCTRM [ url deleted]
>> * Communication and Public Affairs [ url deleted]
>> * Information Resources Technology [
>> url deleted ] - IT Infrastructure Services Group
>> (Networking, Data Center and Service Desk), IT Security and
>> Privacy, Web and Systems Engineering, Finance and Administration.
>> Not moving are the Office of the Senior Associate Dean for IRT,
>> Lane Library, Educational Technology Services, The Center for
>> Clinical Informatics, the Center for Immersive and
>> Simulation-Based Learning (CISL) and SUMMIT.
>> * Human Resources Group [ url deleted] (except for
>> Employee Relations staff and the Director of Organizational
>> Effectiveness. These individuals will remain in MSOB.)
>> * Research Management Group [ url deleted]
>> * Finance (Controllers Group, Faculty Compensation Group, and
>> Budget and Planning Group)
>>I would like to extend my thanks and admiration to the individuals
>>moving to the new location. They have shown a pioneering spirit and
>>a generous attitude towards the practical adjustments needed to
>>effectively conduct their work from a remote site. In addition,
>>they are trendsetters; the University administrative groups moving
>>to Porter Drive this summer to make room for the new GSB campus
>>will be facing similar challenges and will be able to build on our
>>experiences. Finally, this move also serves as a laboratory for
>>future relocations, including the eventual one to Redwood City slated for 2012.
>>I would also like to thank the Offsite Steering Committee, led by
>>Julia Tussing in the Dean's Office and comprising directors and
>>administrators from the groups moving ([names deleted]) as
>>well as representatives from academic departments (names deleted), with [name deleted] facilitating.
>>A number of initiatives to ensure that business continues
>>efficiently have been implemented. Touchdown space in which SMP
>>staff can work while on campus is being configured on the ground
>>floor of the Alway building, and analogous space is being arranged
>>at the Menlo Park campus for visitors from the School of Medicine
>>site. In order to keep peak hour traffic down and allow easy access
>>to campus, a shuttle service provides fast transportation between
>>SOM and Stanford Menlo Park; a bike fleet is also available, and we
>>have preserved access to Commute Club membership.
>>Please do your best to be supportive of these groups during this
>>transitional period, and to applaud their efforts in making this
>>work well for everyone. Details about the move, transportation, and
>>the location can be accessed on the SMP website [
>>[url deleted ].
>>Julia Kennedy Tussing
>>Managing Director for Finance and Administration
>>Stanford School of Medicine, Dean's Office
>>Alway Building, Room M121
>>300 Pasteur Drive MC 5119
>>Stanford, CA 94305-5119

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Posted by Holding My Nose
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Dec 18, 2007 at 10:50 am

Yet one more example of "the powerful and obnoxious odor of mendacity" at Stanford. Yes, the goose continues to expel, but I certainly wouldn't call them "golden eggs," Mr. Carpenter.

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

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