By Willa Brock
Stanford Hospital will increase its payment of community benefits to the city of Palo Alto in order to offset the impact of its proposed expansion, it announced last Wednesday.
The new $173 million offer is $49 million more than the original proposal, an increase that Stanford hopes will help its chances at a Jan. 31 study session at the City Council.
“Our ability to put forward a revised community benefits offer is a result of hearing and responding,” said Shelley Hébert, executive director of public affairs at Stanford Hospital and Clinics, “both to the issues raised in the dialogue with the community and the information available through the environmental impact report.”
The proposed benefits now include $126 million in transportation-related benefits, $12 million to the city for use in projects and programs addressing climate change and $23.2 million to the city to support affordable housing and sustainable neighborhood and community development, according to a Stanford Hospital news release.
The community-benefits payments aim to ease some of the city’s concerns about possible effects of the Stanford University Medical Center Renewal Project, including traffic, housing and environmental impacts.
Council member and former mayor Pat Burt cites increased traffic from the project as the most significant challenge.
“We have to figure out how we can accommodate a major expansion without putting the streets in a gridlock,” he said.
Stanford has agreed to purchase Caltrain Go-Passes for all its current and future hospital employees in order to mitigate the traffic impact. The recently increased price of these passes is a factor in the enhancement of the community benefits.
Burt sees this result, which could possibly reduce the expected traffic by 75 percent, as more than just a financial success. “I’ve tried this past year to reframe the public discussion,” he said. “It’s not about dollars. It’s about creative solutions.”
The new proposal would also accelerate the payment schedule. “We think one of the positive features of this new proposal is that not only does it increase very substantially in terms of its financial value,” said Hébert, “but it makes funds available to the city sooner.”
Hébert was careful to emphasize that the money for these community benefits will not come out of the Stanford endowment.
“Many people mistakenly believe that the hospitals have access to university endowment funds,” she said. “These funds come directly from the hospitals.”
The $3 billion renewal project allows for the demolition and reconstruction of the Stanford Hospital and Clinics complex and the renovation and expansion of the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital for a total addition of 1.3 million square feet.
Hébert cites several reasons for the importance of the expansion.
“We need to comply with the state seismic safety laws,” she said. “We need to ensure that we have adequate capacity to take care of our patients and the community and we need to bring some of our 1950s-era facilities up to modern standards so that the advances in both medical care and technology that are going to be happening in the 21st century are available to all our patients here at Stanford.”
She is optimistic that the proposal will be well-received by the city council, and Burt agrees. Praising Stanford’s efforts to mitigate the environmental impacts of the project by designing green buildings, he said they have also helped to reduce “town-and-gown” contention.
“It’s not only good for this project,” he said, “but I think it’s setting the foundation for a much stronger and more positive relationship between the University and the city.”