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Sand Hill Road project gets green light

After almost three decades of wrangling, the development of Sand Hill Road will go ahead following a Superior Court judge’s decision to reject a lawsuit challenging the project.

"Obviously, we are exuberant," said Larry Horton, director of university government and community relations. "We are glad to bring closure to this issue. These projects are needed and will have a beneficial impact on the community."

Ground-breaking of the $342 million project, which will widen parts of Sand Hill Road, build housing and expand the Stanford Shopping Center, is set for February 1999. Completion of the university-financed project is targeted for the fall of 2001, Horton said.

The latest victory for Stanford follows a referendum held last November, when Palo Alto voters overwhelmingly backed the university’s plan and rejected a citizen-led alternative that would have severely limited the project’s scope. The Palo Alto City Council also has approved the project.

In a 22-page decision released on Sept. 23, retired Monterey County Judge Harkjoon Paik threw out a lawsuit filed last August by the City of Menlo Park that challenged the adequacy of the project’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR) by the City of Palo Alto.

In a state Superior Court ruling, Paik said the EIR "makes a good faith effort to provide a reasonable prediction of the environmental changes that are likely to occur in the future." He continued, "The Court cannot substitute its judgment or the judgment of Menlo Park for the judgment of the lead agency in approving the projects; nor is it the Court’s function to question the wisdom of the Palo Alto City Council."

Menlo Park has 60 days to appeal the decision to the Court of Appeals for the 6th District in San Jose. However, Horton said, the university is permitted to start construction whether or not an appeal is filed. Details of the project are now before the Palo Alto Architecture Review Board, and a variety of permits must still be obtained, Horton said.

Groundbreaking is set for next February for a parking structure for about 1,500 vehicles to be located behind Bloomingdale’s in the shopping center. "When we start building roads we will lose parking, and this will replace that," Horton said. "Then, all projects will move forward simultaneously, according to weather conditions."

The project includes building 628 rental apartments mostly for staff and faculty in a development called Stanford West next to Oak Creek housing. It will include a child care facility and convenience store. Senior housing on the site of the former children’s hospital will include 388 independent living units, 66 assisted-living units and 47 skilled-nursing rooms. Horton said that demolition of the old hospital started Sept. 23.

Sand Hill Road will be widened from two to four lanes between Santa Cruz Avenue and Arboretum Road. The road, which ends in the shopping center parking lot, will be connected to El Camino Real. Retail space at the shopping center will increase by 80,000 square feet.


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