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Stanford submits application for Sand Hill corridor improvements

STANFORD -- Stanford University on Wednesday, Nov. 16, submitted formal applications to the city of Palo Alto for a series of improvements to the Sand Hill Road Corridor.

The proposals are intended to improve traffic flow and circulation, including better emergency access to medical facilities, housing for seniors and for people who work at Stanford, preservation of open space and protection of the San Francisquito Creek. Improvements to the Stanford Shopping Center also are planned.

According to Andy Coe, Stanford's director of community relations, the proposed improvements "reflect substantial public comment and input received during a seven-month community outreach program."

A major component is a proposal to improve Sand Hill Road itself. The university proposes widening the road to four lanes and extending it to El Camino Real, ridding the area of traffic "dead-ending" into the parking lot of the Stanford Shopping Center.

In response to community comment, Coe said, the extension is now proposed to be located almost exclusively on the existing Stanford Shopping Center parking lot, moving it further from San Francisquito Creek than initially proposed. It will have an average setback of approximately 195 feet from the creek.

Circulation improvements proposed

Stanford also is proposing the widening of Quarry Road to four lanes, into a fully functional three-way intersection at El Camino. Other changes to the proposal that were made in response to community input include leaving Arboretum Road open from Sand Hill to Quarry, constructing Vineyard Lane between Sand Hill and Quarry (behind the Nordstrom department store), and making improvements for bicycle, pedestrian and shuttle traffic in the area.

The proposed circulation improvements, including the additional bicycle pathways, pedestrian walkways and shuttle service, will enable people to move through the area more efficiently, provide important alternative means of transit and linkages to the shopping center, downtown, Caltrain transit center, medical facilities and the university, and reduce "cut-through" traffic on the nearby residential streets of Menlo Park, Coe said.

Stanford's original proposal called for the city of Palo Alto to contribute $2.1 million toward road improvements. The proposal now calls for Stanford to foot the entire bill, Coe said.

Stanford West senior housing

The university is proposing housing and continuing-care facilities for seniors on the 21-acre site of the old Children's Hospital, near to major shopping, transit, medical and university facilities.

The proposal calls for the construction of 388 independent living units with common facilities and recreation areas, and a Health Center with 70 "assisted living" units and 46 rooms of skilled nursing facilities. The currently proposed design has been pulled back further from San Francisquito Creek, and "compressed" to provide for more open space and to make it more functional for residents, Coe said.

The design concentrates the building program on the middle of the site and provides for a 240-foot setback from Sand Hill Road and an average setback of approximately 160 feet from the creek. Sixty percent of the site will remain open space.

Stanford West apartment plans scaled back

On another parcel northwest of Sand Hill Road, Stanford proposes the construction of 630 units of multifamily rental housing with an average density of 13 units per acre. (Current Palo Alto zoning allows for a density of up to 30 units per acre or a total of 1,440 units overall on the site.)

Priority for residency would be given to people who work for Stanford or work on Stanford land. The location and priority system, Coe said, would "increase the housing stock in Palo Alto, reduce the number of commuter trips and ease overall congestion."

In response to public comment several changes were made to the proposal for the housing complex. Coe said the latest proposal represents an effort to protect archeologically sensitive areas, preserve open space and protect the creek.

The total number of units has been reduced from 900 on two sites, as proposed by Stanford at its final "outreach" presentation last April. Open space has been increased to nearly 50 percent of the 48-acre site. A "Village Green" for recreation and a view corridor to the riparian area of San Francisquito Creek has been added to the proposal. The average setback from the creek will be approximately 270 feet.

Proposed improvements to the Stanford Shopping Center include a 12 percent increase in retail space, the inclusion of additional retail outlets, and improvements to the overall "pedestrian-friendly" atmosphere and landscaping of the center. The improvements are estimated to generate at least an additional $800,000 a year for Palo Alto, through increased sales, property and utility tax revenues.

The proposed improvements, Coe said, "were planned comprehensively, in an attempt to complement the long-term planning needs of Palo Alto and Menlo Park, and address quality-of-life issues Stanford and its neighbors face as they approach the 21st century."

Stanford's proposed improvements are now subject to the Environmental Impact Report process, to be conducted by the city of Palo Alto. That process is expected to take up to 18 months.



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