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University initiates public outreach program on Sand Hill corridor projects

STANFORD -- Stanford University officials are launching an extensive six-month program to share information with the community and gather public input on proposals to extend Sand Hill Road, expand the Stanford Shopping Center and construct a "Stanford West" residential community on Sand Hill Road.

The program calls for several dozen meetings with small groups of people - primarily Palo Alto and Menlo Park residents - in November and December, followed by large public workshops and hands-on "working sessions" from January until April.

Andy Coe, Stanford's director of community relations, said that the university is serious about sharing plans with the community and eliciting ideas and comments.

"We are eager to hear the comments and suggestions of the public," Coe said. "We hope that this process will assist the university in developing projects that balance the needs of the university with those of the surrounding communities."

In 1992, the university filed two applications for the Sand Hill corridor projects, starting environmental impact report processes by the city of Palo Alto. Stanford has chosen to put these applications on hold until after it has conducted its community participation program. Modified applications are expected to emerge from the participation process, Coe said.

One project application covered the long-sought widening and extension of Sand Hill Road to El Camino Real, along with a proposed shopping center expansion between Neiman-Marcus, Nordstrom and Saks.

The second application was for the development of Stanford West, a residential community of 750 apartments and townhouses on 48 acres next to Oak Creek Apartments and a senior housing community located on the old Children's Hospital site.

Coe estimated that the total public review process - including community participation, development of the impact reports and government review - would take about two years, with the aim of finishing the projects by the latter part of the decade. The sequence of construction has not been determined.

If approved, Coe said, the projects will help meet the need for housing, ensure the long-term vitality of the Stanford Shopping Center and improve traffic circulation through the area.

Participation program

The participation program got started on Oct. 26 when 20 residents of Palo Alto and Menlo Park met to hear explanations of the projects and offer opinions about the plans.

Bill Phillips, managing director of real estate at the Stanford Management Co., said that many of the attendees seemed glad for the opportunity to meet with Stanford on the projects.

Stanford has invited local citizens with past interest in the Sand Hill corridor to what will be approximately two dozen small-group meetings. These are precursors to larger public workshops and project sessions that will be scheduled for the winter in both Palo Alto and Menlo Park.

Workshop I, set for January, will provide an introduction and overview of the projects, along with a summary of discussions from earlier small-group sessions. This and subsequent workshops will be open to anyone interested in the project.

In February, local citizens will be invited to two working sessions, in which specific design issues for each project will be discussed. Designers and technical consultants will take part, Phillips said.

Workshop II is scheduled to take place in March, with the university summarizing feedback from the working sessions and soliciting additional comments on such issues as traffic and design.

Workshop III in April will be a synthesis of the earlier sessions, with the university presenting new revisions based on community input. Modified plans and applications then will be submitted to Palo Alto for environmental impact review.

Each of the three workshops will be repeated twice, for a total of nine sessions. The sessions will be held in Palo Alto and Menlo Park, and will be widely advertised, Coe said.

"Obviously, we'd like people to participate in the whole process, but even going to just one session will be helpful," Coe said.

Information on the discussion and workshop sessions is available from Susan Mineta, community outreach coordinator, at (415) 926-0240. For more general information on the projects, call Andy Coe at (415) 725-3329.

Planning for the outreach program began last spring, with Stanford Management Co., the Planning Office, Government and Community Relations, and the Office of Public Affairs all taking part.

Three projects

In their meetings with the public, Stanford officials as well as independent environmental traffic and land use planners will present ideas and gather feedback on:

  • Sand Hill Road extension - First discussed about three decades ago, the university proposes a four-lane extension of Sand Hill Road to El Camino Real near the border of Palo Alto and Menlo Park, Phillips said.

The university also suggests widening from two lanes to four the existing section of Sand Hill Road between Santa Cruz Avenue in Menlo Park and Arboretum Road near the Nordstrom department store.

The plan calls for closing Arboretum Road between Sand Hill and Quarry roads and installing a new connecting road south of Nordstrom and Saks.

A 1992 study estimated road improvement and rerouting costs at $9.1 million. The university has asked Palo Alto to contribute $2.15 million toward the public road.

  • Stanford Shopping Center expansion - The university proposes to add about 140,000 square feet of retail space to the shopping center, an increase of about 10 percent above current size.

The new space would be devoted to diverse shops rather than new anchor stores, and would be built in the area between Neiman-Marcus, Nordstrom and Saks. A net total of 700 parking spaces would be added.

Phillips, who is project director for the Sand Hill corridor, estimated that Palo Alto would gain about $1 million annually in additional sales- and property-tax revenue from the new space by the year 2000 based on current projections. The city currently earns about $7.6 million annually from shopping center taxes.

  • Stanford West residential community - This project, as presented in the current applications, would be made up of two components: 750 rental units on 48 acres next to Oak Creek Apartments, and a senior housing community of 388 independent living units located on 21 acres occupied by the old Children's Hospital.

The rental complex would consist of two-story townhouses and apartments ranging from one to three bedrooms in styles and sizes to accommodate housing needs.

To help address the imbalance of jobs and affordable housing in the area, current thinking is to give a priority for rentals to Stanford staff and faculty, Phillips said. This also will help traffic problems, because more university employees will be able to walk or bike to work or use expanded university transit service. Second rental priority probably would go to employees of businesses located on Stanford land.

The university first proposed a Stanford West project of 1,275 units in the early 1980s. Neighbors criticized the density, although that already was 20 percent below what zoning on the site would allow. The university lowered the proposal to 1,100 units, but later dropped the project.

Inspired by the residential uniqueness of the adjoining Palo Alto and Menlo Park neighborhoods, the current application for Stanford West apartments and townhouses proposes construction in a modern interpretation of California craftsman style and attempts to maximize open space, Phillips said. The site includes a 16-acre archeological preserve along San Francisquito Creek.

In addition to the 388 independent living units, the senior housing community would contain a 72-unit assisted living facility and a 54-bed skilled nursing facility. It also would include a 7,500-square-foot "Age Center" for educational and research programs related to gerontology. The independent living units will be condominiums open to anyone, with a priority for Stanford faculty and staff.


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