Palo Alto Weekly, June 10, 2011
Stanford University Medical Center’s four-year quest to get Palo Alto’s permission for a massive expansion of its facilities glided past the finish line Monday night when an enthusiastic City Council voted to approve what members routinely say is the largest development project in the city’s history.
In a series of 8-0 votes (Councilman Larry Klein recused himself) that several members called the most important the council will make in many years, the council paved the way for Project Renewal — a dramatic expansion of Stanford’s hospital facilities that will add 1.3 million square feet of new development to the city.
The $5 billion project includes building a new Stanford Hospital & Clinics building, expanding the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital and making various upgrades and renovations to Stanford School of Medicine buildings and clinics.
The tortuous approval process kicked off in 2007 and included 97 public hearings and more than two years of tense negotiations between the city and Stanford over a development agreement that would allow the hospitals for far exceed local zoning regulations. Though the city and Stanford initially clashed on a number of issues, including revenue guarantees, new housing and transportation impacts, the expansion project picked up momentum, along with the council’s support, over the past year.
Councilman Greg Scharff said he was amazed by the way Stanford, the city and the greater community pulled together on the project. He praised the health care benefits Project Renewal will bring to the city. His colleagues agreed and backed Scharff’s motion to grant the project environmental clearance.
“It’s probably going to be the most important that we’ll make as a City Council in a long time,” Scharff said shortly before the 8-0 vote to approve the environmental-impact report. “I think this will benefit the community for generations.”