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Janet Davis: OPPOSITION TO STANFORD SAND HILL CONSTRUCTION

From: domainremoved <Nate>
Date: Tue, 14 Nov 2017 14:22:01 -0800

Dear Council,

I see in the email trails that Ray Mueller and T.C. Smith have seen this background but wanted to make sure the rest of you were also aware of the history. Apologies if this is redundant.

BACKGROUND:
The area was originally zoned as a residential estate and the main (historic) house was a private residence with a beautiful garden. When the owner died she bequeathed the estate to Stanford, and the terms of that bequest were not publicized, although it seems unlikely that she contemplated her garden morphing into a commercial center. The property became a conference center until it was severely damaged in the Loma Prieta earthquake and remained vacant for some years. On May 19 1999, Stanford sought a Use Permit (PLN 1999-00331) for:
OFFICE HEADQUARTERS
Use Permit
SELF-RENEWING - No RENEWAL required unless development intensifies (non-minor UP Amendment is proposed) or Violation occurs. Use permit to allow development of a professional office headquarters for Hewlett Foundation, as allowed under Section 6500(c)6 for Institutions of a philanthropic or charitable nature
This was eventually granted on Stanford’s assertion that any sub-lessees would also be charitable institutions. It is not known if this is presently the case.
During discussions it was emphasized by Stanford that there would be very few vehicles since most employees would be using bicycles and that showers and bike parking facilities were part of the plan. It was also promised that the facility would be invisible from the road and that lighting would be minimal. It was also promised that the back gate to Alpine would not be used. None of this has transpired. There are many vehicles, the place is lit up like a Christmas tree at night, and the steel roof is like a giant mirror reflecting blinding light at certain times of day. Also, the Alpine Road gate is used for ingress and egress. Even Stanford logo vehicles make illegal U-turns from that gate across traffic to get to Junipero Serra.
During discussions local residents pushed for a pedestrian/bike path through the property and this was vehemently rejected by Stanford, and the Planning Dept. stated that this could be a Condition should the main house be resurrected as a conference center..
The terms of the Use Permit are the obvious reason that Stanford is now seeking to annex the property to the City of Menlo Park.
 
Subsequently, Stanford proposed renovation of the earthquake-damaged main house and classified it as a future single family home for the University’s Provost, thus eliminating the provisions of a discretionary project which would have applied had it been classified as a Conference Center. Since the Provost is a distinguished person, the residence to all appearances, continued as a center for university functions.
 
ANNEXATION:
It is not strictly true to classify the property as an isolated island “surrounded by the City of Menlo Park.” The structures at 2108 and 2128 Sand Hill are within County jurisdiction as are the homes along Sand Hill across from the golf course and most of those along Santa Cruz Ave. (Many of the residents along Santa Cruz have been trying unsuccessfully to have their properties annexed to the City) It would seem that the annexation request is a ploy to avoid the provisions of the Use Permit – as it would appear from the “Conditions” noted in the Countiy’s Accela files!
 
HISTORIC BUILDING
The house is the historic Meyer-Buck Estate (presently the provost house for Stanford University); it was placed onto the County Historic Inventory on 2/20/2002. Any/all exterior/interior modifications shall be reviewed by the CDD, & possibly by the HRAB prior to approval of any BLD or PLN permits.
Applied | Notice | 05/23/2016
Proposed use
RJB: 1/26/15 Spoke with applicant at counter regarding use of property. The applicant is proposing the expensing the existing use of admin/offices for the HP Foundation located at APN 074-450-040. In speaking with DH, applicant would amending their existing use permit at APN 074-450-040 to incorporate the uses at the adjacent parcel. Told applicant that CEQA, especially traffic, would be a major factor in the approval of this project. Gave applicant parking and zoning information. Applicant also asked about rezoning the property. Would need rezoning and general plan amendment. The applicant also had a question about annexation into the City of Menlo Park.
Applied | Notice | 01/26/2015
It would also seem that there would be some significant tax issues to be sorted out by LAFCo should annexation be contemplated, since much of the development on Stanford lands is exempt.
 
Nowhere did I find any reference to what or who is intended to occupy such an office building should it be approved.
 
“MITIGATED” NEGATIVE DECLARATION:
The basic problem with this is that there are no meaningful mitigations. As pointed out by County staff the over-riding issue is traffic impact. The text asserts that the ND is directed only to the West side of the project, but even that is woefully inaccurate. The Sand Hill/Santa Cruz and Alpine/Junipero Serra intersections are perhaps the two most congested areas of the county and much of that traffic originates from Stanford. The other big omission is an analysis of truck traffic during construction.
 
Traffic Analysis:
This whole section is inadequate, highly flawed and in some instances totally inaccurate. San Mateo County is in the process of studying Alpine Road and the Santa Cruz Corridor because the traffic is at crisis levels and there have been a significant number of accidents.
At p. 113, section 4.10.3(b) “Impact Discussion” under the heading “City of Menlo Park,” in the second paragraph it is claimed that there “no significant traffic or transportation impacts were identified.” That comment strains credulity.
Public Transport:
This is basically non-existent and it is deceptive to cite local bus routes since those buses do not operate at times that people need; the routes do not go where people need; and the travel time is too long. The SLAC bus is used by SLAC personnel coming from the railroad, but it is useless for people traveling via I-280. The same applies to the Marguerite shuttle. The one bus stop that exists on Sand Hill has no shelter and is hardly ever used. The other line is used by Menlo High School kids.
Bicycle Routes:
This section of the ND mischaracterizes the present situation. That which exists is highly dangerous. There have been cyclist fatalities on Alpine and Sand Hill. The gap between Alpine and Sand Hill intersections is a death trap for cyclists. There is no bike lane on Santa Cruz and this is highly dangerous. There is no way for cyclists to cross Alpine. The entrance to the “trail” from Junipero Serra to Welch road along the golf course is frequently blocked by cars turning onto lower Sand Hill. The so-called multi-use trail under the cantilevered section of Junipero Serra is poorly maintained, hazardous to cyclists and even more dangerous for pedestrians.
Vehicular Traffic:
Sand Hill is a virtual parking lot from El Camino to I-280 especially during morning rush hours and from about 3:30 to 6:00 p.m.
Santa Cruz Avenue: The study showed (Fig. 12) the portion of Santa Cruz Ave up to Alameda currently experiences 24,376 trips/day and estimates an additional 97 trips/day with the project. This would not seem insignificant to the residents already inundated with traffic in that vicinity, or to the cyclists battling thoughtless drivers.
Alameda is also jammed going towards SU in the morning from Woodside road to Sand Hill.
Alpine: Because Sand Hill traffic is so bad, many commuters use Alpine. Construction trucks use Alpine in preference to Sand Hill because there is at the moment a higher speed limit, no traffic lights and lack of traffic enforcement. ( During the hospital expansion grading Alpine was getting up to 17 double semi dump trucks every minute) Alpine is one long bumper-to-bumper procession from I-280 (and expanding up the freeway) to Campus Drive West every morning from around 6 a.m. In the afternoon traffic is backed up starting around 3:15 all the way to I-280. There have been times when it takes 6 iterations of lights to get through the Alpine traffic signal. Frequently it is not possible to go through the light when green because traffic coming from Junipero Serra monopolizes the entire space between Alpine and Sand Hill. Another problem is that the left turn lane to access upper Sand Hill Road is blocked by an unnecessary “bulb out” midway to Sand Hill road.
Despite frequent complaints many vehicles from the Hewlett foundation use the back entrance onto Alpine, either to turn right or to make an illegal U-turn to the left.
Although the area of Alpine Road at the rear of the Buck estate is within the City of Menlo Park’s jurisdiction, it is extremely rare that there is any traffic enforcement. The same is true although to a lesser extent, in the vicinity of the Sand Hill intersection.
Monte Rosa: This is indicated as an access to the site. However, to get to Monte Rosa one would have to use Valparaiso, Avy or another side road. Monte Rosa is already highly impacted and residents have sought Stop signs It is also close to La Entrada Middle School and Philipps Brooks School.
 
Neg. Dec. Assessment of Parking in Relation to Traffic Impact:
This is particularly disingenuous. It is proposed to build a 2 story underground parking facility in additional to surface parking for visitors. If there are to be 163 parking spaces that could account for 326 trips/day plus lunch time or other trips.
 
Non Commuter Traffic:
Nowhere does it appear that there is any estimation of how many servicing vehicles or client cars would have to be accommodated.
 
Cumulative Impact:
CEQA Guidelines 15065(a)(3) states that
“The incremental effects of an individual project are significant when viewed in connection with the effects of past projects, the effects of other current projects and the effect of probably future projects.”
This requirement has been totally ignored. There should be an analysis of the cumulative effect of at the very least of the hospital expansions and the 2018 GUP. (See Appendix for list of projects)
 
San Mateo County Jobs/Homes Imbalance:
Adding yet another 39,510 sq. ft. office in addition to the existing 48,0000 sq. ft. Hewlett foundation office space where previously the entire 14+ acres was zoned residential creates a huge and significant negative impact on the balance in an area where homes are in very short supply. This is especially egregious when the proposed development site was listed by the city as a possible site for affordable housing. At the recent meeting in Palo Alto to discuss the university’s GUP renewal many speakers from nearby communities, from the university’s graduate community, and employees of SLAC urged the university to consider more (and affordable) housing for lower echelon employees and graduate students. This site would be better used for such employees who could bike or shuttle to work and reduce the long commute times and road congestion.
 
Inducement to Further Development:
Sand Hill Road is one of the most expensive sites for office leases in the U.S. The county has already converted residential property at 2108 and 2128 Sand Hill from residential to commercial. (A condition of such conversion at 2108 was that one structure be residential, but it is not even known if this condition has been fulfilled, since there seems from casual observation, no indication that the building in question is a home.)
Allowing this monumental rezoning would act as a further inducement for more intensive development along Sand Hill and possibly Alpine Roads.
 
Tree Study:
Although this is one of the most thorough and comprehensive study the County has seen, it would be nice (if this project is approved,) that those heritage trees proposed for elimination where they infringe on likely construction, could be relocated, as has been done at other projects in the county.
 
Paleontology Study:
There are fossils all over the area of various types. When SLAC was excavated several large mammals were unearthed. I have fossils in my garden. Nowhere is it specified what type or size of fossil would trigger a stoppage.
 
Emergency Services:
At present fire engines and ambulances are often held up at the Sand Hill and Alpine intersections. Adding yet more traffic to this highly congested area is only going to increase the dangers to residents and others who need their services.
When the MPPD have been alerted to traffic problems at the intersections the response has often been that traffic control is not their job. The CHP who have jurisdiction over Alpine Road have insufficient officers to handle the numerous problems that already exist.
 
Fire Lane/PGE Easement:
Parcels 074-321-110/210 comprising 0.9 acres appear to be also zoned R1-S. Presumably this is the old “Fire Lane” over the 109 gas line. Access to this is currently blocked by the PGE/ATT switching station and a utility pole. It was unclear from the ND where and what these lots constitute.
 
CONCLUSION & SUGGESTED MITIGATIONS:
This is an ill-conceived project both from an annexation and a rezoning point of view. If, however, it is approved there certainly need to be some very significant actual mitigations and conditions.
Most importantly there needs to be a pedestrian/bike lane over the 109 pipe line or through the facility at another location. This would require:
Pedestrian crossings at Junipero Serra and Alpine light activated
A pedestrian path around the base of the Buck estate to Sand Hill road
Construction to block off right turns at the Alpine entrance to the Estate
Ban on new office building using the Alpine entrance
Complete renovation of the path under the cantilevered section of Santa Cruz and elimination of bike travel and reconstruction of this path so that it is ADA compliant at the Alpine intersection.
Lowering of the speed limit at Alpine by the Buck Estate
Lengthening of the merge lane by the Buck Estate
Conversion of the traffic light opposite Sharon Road so that there is a right turn light coming out of the estate
A substantial payment towards the construction of low income housing
A requirement that any construction trucks only use Sand Hill road
Commitment that any new office tenants be non profit
Funding towards traffic improvements on Alpine Road
Removal of the “bulb out” in the gap between the two intersections that limits left turns
 
Received on Tue Nov 14 2017 - 14:26:48 PST

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