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11/29 Community Meeting on Stanford GUP

 
San Mateo County sponsored a community meeting at Oak Knoll School to hear from residents, businesses and schools potentially impacted by Stanford University’s General Use Permit and Environmental Impact Report. The meeting was well attended and after a brief introduction my Supervisor Don Horsley,  Steve Monowitz, County Planning Director,  provided a presentation of San Mateo County's response options and goals.   The attendees then broke out into 6 or 7 breakout groups with County staff to record neighbor concerns, issues, questions, and note mitigation ideas.
 
A prelimianary (and incomplete for now) summary of some of the Break Out group discussion points follows:
  • A quick list of the obvious concerns and input that I heard:
  • Traffic, traffic, traffic: pertaining to the main roads, and also 280
  • Local traffic/parking concerns: Cut-thru traffic increasing, outsiders parking to catch shuttles
  • Fire District requires primary response routes to be clear of traffic congestion and Stanford GUP must include provisions for Menlo Fire response times and routes  
  • Stanford should recognize affects to all neighboring jurisdictions, school districts, water, sewer, fire, etc.
  • What mitigation is Stanford offering Palo Alto Fire as Menlo Park Fire provides mutual aid to each other. Increase of services should impact Palo Alto and minimal to Menlo Park Fire
  • Outside the box thinking on providing East-West transit, this ranges from:
    • Creation of a new road/tunnel from 280 to campus (between PageMill and Alpine)
    • Airport and Disneyland inspired transit systems w/parking off 280 and transit to key hubs (Stanford, Train Station, Hospital, Shopping, etc)
    • General idea that we don’t have but drastically need east-west transit - its all cars! Need some shuttle alternative to get a thousand plus cars off the road
  • Increased Noise levels of traffic and impact on children, seniors, all of us. This is another source of stress for our community.
  • Housing - lack of west menlo housing for local workers (teachers, retail workers, hospital workers, etc)
  • Lack of funding for effective housing offsets - Stanford proposes only $50M (approx) yet are adding thousands of staff, faculity, students, and all of the infrastructure jobs that go with that. In west menlo, $50M wouldn’t even buy 50 homes (not that that would be the use of those funds).
  • Traffic impact in context with all the other massive development going on and planned - what is the true - comprehensive - impact
  • Concerns about Alpine Rd… County side stepped revealing long term plans so no one was clear if Alpine would become 4 lanes instead of the current 2
  • Need to define threshold maximums now for intersections and main roads (both peak and non-peak thresholds)
  • Concern that “Peak Hour” is now already more than 2 hours and yet only 1 hour is measured - a key concern is that 'peak hour' would become all day
  • Concerns on air pollution
  • Keeping peak hour car trips the same is a not a good goal.
  • Stanford should reduce car trips by 20%, and not just for the academic activities, but across all the contiguous Stanford property. Traffic is already at catastrophic levels and all must contribute to bringing it to a sane level.
  • Stanford needs to take responsibility for traffic. Stanford is 8,180 acres (Ref #1) or 12.8 square miles. This is 30% larger land area than Menlo Park at 9.8 square miles land area ( Ref #2 )
  • Yet Stanford lets its vast number of commuters run through Menlo Park and Palo Alto, with much of it on residential streets not suited to heavy traffic.
  • Stanford needs to plan for all of its traffic. The GUP only considers the academic portion. The hospital, shopping center, SLAC, industrial park, and commercial zones should be planned together. Stanford owns an enormous amount of land west of Junipero Serra. It is only a matter of time before that is developed too.
  • The "fancy brochure they made is all spin and fluff. The various steps they are taking are also being done by all the major employers in the valley."

 

Another neighbor provided this recap:

1) San Mateo County officials see themselves representing only the unincorporated county areas near Stanford in discussions with both Stanford and Santa Clara County, and Don Horsley actually commented to the effect that Menlo Park represents itself.  (This was in regard to the discussion of the widening of the bridge on Sandhill Road, which was technically the city's jurisdiction.  Hard to imagine such a lack of coordination regarding roadways but that issue should be a big concern for us as people use northbound Santa Cruz to access the Middle Avenue and Santa Cruz Avenue cross-peninsula corridors.)   In other words, the bad thing is that MP and the county are not coordinating; the good news is that we in WMP actually have someone speaking for our interests.
 
2)   Despite West Menlo Park proximity to the Stanford campus, Stanford negotiates exclusively with Santa Clara County in terms of development approvals since the entire campus is within SC County.  In addition, there is little by way of process between San Mateo County and Santa Clara County to include our concerns in the agenda for these Stanford vs local government negotiations.  As a result, all of the transportations plans and metrics are chiefly concerned with Palo Alto issues and are largely directed at increasing Caltrain ridership and minimizing cross-bridge, East Bay traffic into Palo Alto.  Solutions that deal with traffic gridlock on our side of the campus get little attention and no funding.  Creative solutions, like a garage at the Rosewood with hospital van service, or a new Stanford dedicated ramp onto 280 are not discussed.  The latter should be a requirement of any expansion of the Stanford campus.  Stanford likes its open space, and range land but, because they own the land this one should be easy to do.  Much of the gridlock on Alpine is Stanford folks coming north on Foothill to get to northbound 280.  
 
3) The discussion with Stanford uses Stanford metrics.  Stanford metrics are self-serving, in the extreme.  So Stanford credits itself with holding "rush hour traffic" into and out of the campus steady, and reducing on campus driving.  Meanwhile, on Sandhill Road the rush hour is a three hour event in the morning and a three hour event in the evening.  For instance, the new 40,000 Sq ft Stanford building on Sandhill Road across from the Safeway will have 256 parking places, but Stanford says it will generate just 12 extra morning rush hour drivers.  That seems wildly inconsistent.  (The City of Menlo Park gets to negotiate this one, even though they have little interest in our issues.  In fact, they wanted to move the school tax money from this project FROM the La Entrada SD> TO MENLO PARK SD.)  San Mateo County needs its own metrics for impact on traffic and impact on housing.  
 
4)  As a result of counting campus ingress and egress as its metric, and ignoring either time-at-intersection or number of cars-throughput-per-light-at-intersection our emergency responders may be seriously inadequate to the geography.  In addition, people at Menlo Commons are nearly trapped and would like Stanford to consider creative local transport services (free vans)  to help locals access local resources now out of reach due to the Stanford bound traffic.  
 
5) Neither Stanford development officers nor the current superintendent of the La Entrada SD seem to recognize the cost of all of the short-term attenders in the local public schools. Stanford visiting faculty like the quality of our schools and send their children to public schools, but Stanford does nothing to support the *free* La Entrada and Sequoia Union school resources.  These students often require additional language support etc.  Stanford uses our schools to recruit, but does little to provide financial support for them.  
 
6)  Stanford has provided funds for low-income housing following its last two development approvals but none of those funds have been spent in San Mateo County to house our teachers and police officers.  Santa Clara County keeps these funds and spends them only within Palo Alto.  
 
6) Activities on the Stanford campus have changed radically from its earlier incarnation as an educational institution with 1500 undergraduates.  Stanford runs the most active hospital on the Peninsula and does not adequately address its impact.  Similarly, with  its tax-free development along Sandhill Road, it is a real estate development company, with an educational charity attached.  The tax-free status of the charity means that Stanford can avoid paying for its use of local services.   This, despite its *top three* in the country endowment  investment income.   
 
Santa Clara County...where we do not vote......is the only negotiator for local interests vs a vs Stanford. 
 
Possibly, we could find some way to use that 6 feet of the Stanford Golf Course, and parts of Sandhill Road, to make Stanford negotiate with San Mateo County.