Proposed Soil Cleanup At Merck

The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board recently posted notice of a proposed soil cleanup plan at 901 S. California Ave. (near Cornell St.), which is the current location of Merck & Co. in the Stanford Research Park.

Soil, soil vapor, and ground water sampling at the site detected tetrachloroethene (PCE) above environmental screening levels. PCE is a commonly used solvent in the electronics industry and electronic companies operated at this site (prior to Merck) in the 1960s and 1970s.

The proposed soil cleanup plan is to excavate the affected soil and use trucks to remove it for offsite disposal. The plan anticipates the cleanup will take four to six weeks, during which time several trucks per hour will be used to remove the soil and bring in clean fill.

The public is invited to provide comments on the proposed cleanup plan by emailing Regional Water Board case manager Madeleine Little at madeleine.little@waterboards.ca.gov by August 16, 2019.

(Note: there is a broken link within the water board’s notice. Instead, you can click here to reach the summary page for this case, and then select “Site Maps / Documents” in the horizontal bar above the case summary to access specific documentation.)

We encourage any residents who have questions about the cleanup to submit comments before the August 16 deadline.

CTRA Observer Reports for April

The College Terrace Residents Association has a group of board members known as “observers” who monitor relevant public meetings and news in their assigned area and then report back to the entire board on pertinent local actions and issues of interest to College Terrace. This month, we have an update from our Stanford observer.


Stanford

GUP/Development Agreement

The big news this month is that the Development Agreement negotiations between the County and Stanford have been suspended indefinitely. This is in response to the announcement of a “school funding and mitigation agreement” arranged separately but contingent on the eventual approval of the Development Agreement.

Meanwhile, the GUP process continues to be a moving target, with meetings constantly being scheduled/cancelled/rescheduled/etc. The current County Planning Commission meeting schedule is tentatively set as:

  • May 9 – 2nd study session
  • May 23 – 1st Public Hearing (Palo Alto)
  • June 13 – 2nd Public Hearing
  • June 27 – 3rd Public Hearing

The Board of Supervisors discussions will begin after that.

With regard to the Historic Resources section of the GUP, I was unable to attend the April 10th special session of the Historic Heritage Commission due to a Caltrain meltdown. As far as I can understand, however, the staff is recommending that the GUP EIR be approved but with the inclusion of a recommended condition of approval to require ongoing evaluation of all resources over 50 years old. This would provide some protection for the buildings excluded from the Historic Resource Report as written without requiring too much finely detailed discussion at this point. They’re scheduled to vote on it Thursday evening. I can’t be there but expect that it will be a good result and I will share my thoughts on it with the County Board (including Supervisor Simitian) and with the County Planning Commission.

The San Juan neighborhood continues to be very contentious, with discussion of requiring a full historical analysis of the neighborhood and a request for legislative tools to ensure that the board can protect the character of the neighborhood. The next meeting to discuss this is the HLUET (Housing Land Use, Environment and Transportation Committee) on Thursday morning. One item under discussion is the possibility of forming a special advisory committee for development of the area.

Fireworks

A reminder that Stanford has both a baseball game and a softball game scheduled for Saturday, April 27th. The games are to be followed by a fireworks show. I have not been able to verify but I anticipate that a County Fire Marshall will be on hand with the authority to cancel the fireworks if we’re experiencing high winds as we have recently.

Please note that the Stanford University noise hotline can be reached at (650) 724-4900. This hotline was implemented as a condition of approval under the 2000 GUP but unfortunately has not had much effect, largely because folks don’t know about it, can’t be bothered to report noise, or have given up. It can be used to report any annoying noises emanating from Stanford such as the never-ending sports announcements or loud music.

Stanford Development in College Terrace

I have submitted a code enforcement request to the City regarding the use of 757/739 College Ave as a storage yard. They have inspected it and have notified Stanford that it needs to be cleaned up.

–Pria Graves

CTRA Observer Reports for February

The College Terrace Residents Association has a group of board members known as “observers” who monitor relevant public meetings and news in their assigned area and then report back to the entire board on pertinent local actions and issues of interest to College Terrace. This month, we have updates from our Stanford and California Avenue observers.


California Avenue Business District

Khoury’s Market

The city has approved a permit application for exterior improvements to the building that include new paint, new storefront glazing, new lighting, and new planters to an outdoor seating/gathering area. The application was submitted in September and approved earlier this month.

The September application also included a proposal for exterior signage, however a decision was made to remove that item and re-submit it as a separate application. That occurred on February 8. It calls for the installation of two “Khoury’s Market” signs: one above the El Camino Real entrance way, and one on Oxford Avenue. The plans also show a horizontal illuminated, vertical projecting, “parking here” sign (i.e., a “P” within a circle above an arrow within a circle) just past the garage ramps.

Senior planning staff also informs us that:

  • The planner assigned “is working expeditiously with the applicant towards an approval, but there are no guarantees the application will be approved in March.”
  • Code Enforcement is looking into the bins that have replaced the dumpsters on Oxford Avenue across the street from the market.
  • While the roof globe lights were part of the original permit, the prior property owner had made a commitment to turn the lights off after the grocery store closes at night. Once the new owners get a building permit, they will be free to remove them.

Inside the market itself, grocery carts have been delivered and an Italian coffee machine is on order. Stop by and let a member of the Khoury family know your suggestions.

–Ann Balin


Stanford

Now that the holidays are over, things have picked up again! 

First, the County Historical Heritage Commission is continuing to look at the Historic Resources section of the GUP Application.  The County has hired a second peer review firm, JRP Historical Consulting, to address various questions about Stanford’s methodology for determining which structures are “historic”.  The HHC’s next meeting was pushed out from February 21st and is now scheduled for March 6 at 6:30 p.m. 

In addition, Supervisor Simitian approached PAST Heritage, requesting them to weigh in.  They have agreed to step up and craft a letter which will go initially to the HHC and then most likely to the County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.   

At a Community Resources Group meeting last fall, Stanford staff made the point of telling us that they had presented their historic analysis to Palo Alto’s Historic Resources Board.  But at the PAST board meeting last week, one of the HRB members expressed disappointment that this “presentation” was only a study session and they were not given the chance to make any recommendation to Council concerning this important item.  

On the main GUP path, the first two County Planning Commission study sessions have been scheduled for February 28th and March 14th, both at 1:30 p.m.  Supervisor Simitian continues to support full mitigation for impacts and a group of Stanford students have launched a petition requesting this too. 

Finally, regarding the zoning amendment in the San Juan area of the campus, the Board of Supervisors felt that there was no ground for them to deny the application.  Everything about it was consistent with the General Plan and Stanford Community Plan as they currently stand.  And since it was actually a down-zoning (from Academic Campus to Campus Residential-Low Density), they had to allow it.  However, Supervisor Simitian added an amendment directing staff to investigate possible changes to these overarching plans to give the Board tools that would allow them to deny future similar applications in the San Juan neighborhood.

–Pria Graves