Menlo Park appeals Stanford project — will new med school building worsen Sand Hill Road traffic?

Daily Post Correspondent

The city of Menlo Park’s attempt to block a Stanford development project that officials fear will worsen traffic on Sand Hill Road will be reviewed by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors tomorrow (Jan. 23).

The project is a four-story, 153,821-square-foot office building for medical school faculty that Stanford calls the Center for Academic Medicine. It would be built at the site of a 245-space parking lot at 453 Quarry Road. The building’s three-level underground parking garage would include 830 spaces, for an increase of 585 spaces. The building would also include a cafeteria and fitness center.

Menlo Park says that county planners haven’t taken into account the cumulative traffic impacts of the project in the Sand Hill Road vicinity in its analysis of the new proposal, including 1 million square feet of growth at Stanford Hospital and the recently approved Middle Plaza project at 500 El Camino in Menlo Park.

County planning officials say that a traffic consultant hired by Stanford did evaluate cumulative impacts, and determined the faculty office project would not have any new significant impacts. The county retained a traffic consultant who agreed with that conclusion.

The faculty office project got off to a bad start from Menlo Park’s perspective. City officials weren’t aware it had been proposed until Councilman Ray Mueller spotted the project on a county Planning Commission agenda in October, a week before the commission was scheduled to vote on it.

The county agreed to delay the meeting until Nov. 16, so Menlo Park would have a chance to weigh in. But Menlo Park officials feel that their concerns about traffic haven’t been addressed. In its appeal, the city complained about the lack of notice regarding the project. The county Planning Department responded that it has added Menlo Park to its list of “interested parties” for Stanford development proposals.

Office building approval revoked

Just days before the Planning Commission voted on Stanford’s faculty office project, the Menlo Park City Council voted to revoke its approval of a different Stanford project, a 40,000-square-foot office building proposed for 2131 Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park. Council members said during the Nov. 14 meeting that they didn’t have enough information on the Quarry Road project and its possible impacts.

The battle has erupted as Stanford is seeking approval from the county for a new growth permit that would allow 2.3 million square feet of new development by 2035. The county is now working on the environmental impact report for the Stanford proposal, known as the General Use Permit, or GUP.

The square footage for the faculty office project is covered under Stanford’s current GUP. The permit from the county allocated new growth in different zones on the university’s land. However, because the university is running out of its growth allotment for the Quarry District, where the new project is located, part of its proposal is to transfer 115,000 square feet from the East Campus Development District.

In its letter appealing Stanford’s faculty office project, Menlo Park officials ask for an analysis of connecting Sand Hill Road at its east end to Palo Alto Avenue on the other side of El Camino Real.

“Currently, traffic headed eastbound on Sand Hill Road turns north to head into Menlo Park and U-turns at Cambridge Avenue or uses local residential streets in Menlo Park to cut-through the Allied Arts neighborhood to avoid congested conditions in the area,” the city said in its letter.