Thursday, December 18, 2008

The great San Francisco Bay snail migration (with some exaggeration)

One nice aspect of our office on Bayshore Road is it's sufficiently close to the Baylands that I can get out on occasional walks. One day recently I had a burrito lunch walk, ending up on a wooden platform extending a little ways over the water at high tide. Everywhere under the shallow surface were snails, slowly moving about.

Seeing snails was nothing new, but this time I stayed in one place long enough to see something different. The seemingly-random, slow snail movement was actually converging on a submerged tidal channel, where a higher concentration of snails were already moving downstream - thousands of snails as far as I could see, in some kind of migration.

I don't really know what was going on. It was shortly after high tide, so the snails may have just been moving to keep below water level. Or maybe it was a real seasonal migration of some type. Still, I felt lucky to have this mini-revelation of a natural process going on in a place I had been to dozens of times before.

Another reason to keep in mind the value of easily-visited, local open space, giving us a chance for revelations that we don't see in our first visit.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cover email sent regarding Stanford Sustainable Development Study

(An earlier post summarizes information showing the Stanford Sustainable Development Study was meant to cover the foreseeable future for at least 99 years. Below is an email we sent to the Palo Alto City Council along with the summary info. -Brian)

Dear Palo Alto City Council Members,

Sometime early next year, you will have the chance to comment on the draft Stanford Sustainable Development Study, which must be approved by Santa Clara County before Stanford can apply for the second million square feet of development. The draft submitted by Stanford violates the Stanford Community Plan because it describes planning for buildout only ten years past the existing, 25-year restriction on expansion beyond the Academic Growth Boundary. The Community Plan calls for a description of the "maximum planned buildout potential" that has always been understood to apply to the foreseeable future far beyond the additional ten years proposed by Stanford. The City of Palo Alto made this its own official policy in 1999, and we ask you to strongly reaffirm this position when the issue comes before the City Council.

To understand the planning horizon contemplated in December 2000 for the Stanford Sustainable Development Study, the Committee for Green Foothills has done a preliminary review of documents that formed the origin of the Stanford GUP requirement for the Study. The first attachment is our summary and is reprinted at the bottom of this email; the subsequent four documents contain one or more additional sources.

All the relevant sources that we found support the idea that the planning horizon for the Study is either permanent or at least for 99 years, which we equate with planning for the foreseeable future. We found no support in the record for the Stanford's contention that the Study was meant to have a planning horizon that extended only 10 years past the 25-year limit protecting the Academic Growth Boundary.

We would be happy to answer any questions.

Brian Schmidt

Brian Schmidt
Legislative Advocate, Committee for Green Foothills

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Stanford Study meant to be permanent or at least 99 years

(The following document on the Stanford Sustainable Development Study was sent to multiple government officials today. -Brian)

Excerpts of statements in the administrative record for the December 2000 Stanford GUP that are related to the planning horizon for the Stanford Sustainable Development Study

City of Palo Alto recommendations of 10/12/99, reaffirmed 10/25/99 and 10/28/99:

Vision for Long-Term Build-out of Stanford University

· The Community Plan should include a long-term vision, beyond the 10-year scope of the Plan, for the ultimate build-out of the University. While it is recognized that this vision would not be as detailed as the ten-year Plan regarding Stanford's potential development, it would be helpful I providing insight into the University's future evolution.

Note: the call for "vision" for "ultimate build-out" was expressly reaffirmed in the later City documents. The ten-year reference for the current Plan was based on an expected fast buildout under the Stanford GUP. "Ultimate build-out" excludes Stanford's suggestion that Study only covers 10 years more than the Academic Growth Boundary protection to the year 2025.

City of Menlo Park recommendations of 10/21/99, reaffirmed by the City on 1/5/00:

The Community Plan should have both a total and permanent limitation, or cap, on building square footage and population with the understanding that it does not give Stanford the right to extend the limits beyond the cap.

Note: Menlo Park felt the permanent cap should be both mandatory and part of the Stanford GUP, so interpreting the Study to only add ten years of planning would not support the City's comments.

Written statement by Supervisor Joe Simitian of 10/24/00:

During the past 18 months some members of the public have proposed that we use this GUP and Community Plan process to establish a "cap" on the University's maximum development potential, "buildout" as it's often referred to....I am not inclined to propose that our Board establish a permanent cap or attempt to define at this point the ultimate buildout of the campus.

I am inclined to think, however that it would be irresponsible to simply ignore the need for a clearer notion about the ultimate capacity of Stanford lands and a clearer vision of what such a plan might entail. For that reason I'm inclined to suggest to my colleagues that the Conditions of Approval for the GUP include a condition requiring that Stanford undertake a Buildout Study regarding the buildout potential of Stanford University on all unincorporated lands within Santa Clara County.

Note: Here the then-Supervisor Simitian made synonymous the terms "cap," "maximum development potential," "ultimate capacity of Stanford lands," and "Buildout Study". The Buildout Study was later renamed the Sustainable Development Study.

Statements by Supervisors Simitian and Beall at the Stanford GUP hearing of 11/27/00:

Sup. Simitian:….I had proposed one tool, the use of Clustering Credits which to understate the case dramatically was not well-received by the University…. The question then is how do we deal with this issue of finding a real plan to prevent sprawl that is acceptable and manageable for all the parties involved, and what I would suggest is that…prior to the second million square feet of academic facilities being constructed and permits being issued, that the University be obliged to prepare a Sustainable Development Plan which would address these issues to the satisfaction of the Board….[I]t would in effect say okay, apparently Supervisor Simitian's suggestion for dealing with the issue of sprawl was something the University found unacceptable but now we'll give it to the University and give them the chance to say here's how they'd like to address the issues of sprawl….

Sup. Simitian:….Why don't we just indicate for the record that those five items [including Sustainable Develoment Study] are in lieu of the Clustering Credit language which was submitted originally in the Community Plan….

Sup. Beall: I think the general idea of clustering is something we're not abandoning….

Sup. Simitian: Right, I, whether or not clustering or rather clustering credits live to see another day is an open question, and it's certainly something that can be looked at in the Sustainable Development Study that Supervisor Beall and I have both referenced….

(Emphasis added.)

Note: Clustering credits had been proposed by environmental groups to give Stanford the ability to develop a certain amount in the core campus in return for permanent Foothills protection, while Supervisor Simitian proposed them for 99-year protection. There would be no point in considering them in the Study if the Study's planning horizon is only 10 years longer than the Academic Growth Boundary Protection that was being proposed at the time.

The Committee for Green Foothills has all the relevant documents and transcripts. We found nothing in any of the documents we studied to support the idea that the Study was meant to have a planning horizon short of permanent or 99-year time frame, which we would consider comparable to planning for the foreseeable future. Stanford's attempt to reduce the scope of the Study can only be done, if at all, through a General Use Permit amendment, and not through non-compliance.

Please contact Brian Schmidt (650) 968-7243 with any questions.