April 14, 2009
Stanford withdraws request for shopping center expansion
Stanford University today withdrew the application to the City of Palo Alto to expand the Stanford Shopping Center with new retail space and a hotel.
The withdrawal reflects the university's position that the highest priority for the use of Stanford land within the City of Palo Alto must be the replacement and renewal of Stanford Hospital and Clinics and the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, according to Jean McCown, Stanford director of community relations.
In 2007, the hospitals applied to the city for a renovation and expansion project that would meet state seismic requirements. With ongoing delays to a draft environmental impact report, the project is at least a year behind schedule. For the Stanford Hospital and Clinics to meet the State of California's 2013 deadline, which it is hoped will be extended to 2015, the project must be approved by the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development.
Stanford officials believe that the combining of the hospital renewal projects with the Stanford Shopping Center expansion has caused confusion and distractiondiverting the focus from the urgent need to provide quality healthcare to Palo Alto and surrounding communities.
In 2006, the City of Palo Alto requested that Simon Properties, the leaseholder of the Stanford Shopping Center, bring forward an expansion proposal to provide additional sources of municipal revenue. Stanford's position at that time was that any discussion of shopping center expansion should occur only after hospital permissions were obtained. However, in order to assist the city in pursuing its goals, Stanford reluctantly agreed to have the projects considered concurrently, but separately.
"Instead, over the last almost 30 months of public review and hearings, City Council members and Planning and Transportation commissioners have implied, or even expressly stated, that the shopping center and hospital renewal projects should be considered as one large project," McCown said.
McCown said that city-commissioned housing and traffic studies have blended project impacts and approval conditions, some of which are unprecedented in Palo Alto history. The conditions, she added, are being disproportionately assigned to the hospital renewal project rather than the shopping center expansion. For example, the city has proposed requiring the hospitals to build 594 affordable housing units on land the hospitals don't own and that is outside the city's jurisdiction. However, by law, the hospitals are exempt from such housing requirements. Even if they were not, a comparable commercial project would be required to provide only 63 units.
"Another example is that both the shopping center and hospitals produce traffic impacts, but only the hospitals are identified for millions of dollars of traffic-related project conditions, such as running or paying for the Palo Alto crosstown shuttle," McCown added.
McCown said Stanford officials have decided to withdraw the shopping center application in order to allow expedited processing of the more critical hospital renewal project. In addition, removing the shopping center expansion from consideration will help reduce environmental impacts, addressing some expressed concerns that the combined projects are too large.
The Stanford hospitals serve as the only Level I Trauma Center between San Jose and San Francisco. Studies also show that two-thirds of Palo Alto adults and children who required hospitalization in 2007 were served by Stanford Hospital and Clinics and the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital. Close to 900 patients could not be treated due to lack of space. The new hospitals, McCown said, are critically needed to meet state seismic requirements, to modernize and replace outdated medical and laboratory facilities and to provide appropriate healthcareespecially in emergenciesto the community. They also will generate new jobs and stimulate economic growth in Palo Alto and the region.