PALO ALTO — Plans to build the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on a scenic foothill on Stanford University property are being challenged by residents, students and others who claim that the building would be an eyesore.
A group of local residents and Stanford students, staff and faculty have gathered more than 2,000 signatures opposing the site agreed upon by Stanford, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and the U.S. government.
The petitioners have managed to get the issue placed on the agenda for the Dec. 4 meeting of the Santa Clara County Planning Commission.
It is a tradition among U.S. presidents to choose a location in their home state, usually near a university, to house the volumes of Cabinet papers and other administrative documents from their years in office.
Reagan chose Stanford, and the university's Board of Trustees agreed to put the library on university land in the foothills.
"It will destroy the open nature of the hill . . . and create noise, traffic and pollution," said Sam Brain, a senior researcher in Stanford's radiology department and one of the most vocal opponents of the library.
Brain said he and other petitioners do not oppose the library itself, just the location chosen for it.
They are suggesting another site on which Stanford is considering building a hotel and conference facility.
But Stanford President Donald Kennedy said: "That's not a possibility. There are at least as many serious objections to that site as there are to the current proposed site."
University officials estimate the library, which also will house a 350-seat auditorium and host an undetermined number of conferences and other activities, will attract as many as 300,000 visitors each year.
The proposed site was chosen over two others because of its attractiveness and its proximity to campus, university spokesman Bob Beyers said.
Brain, 38, said the hillside site is used by joggers and walkers and by local dairy farmers as a place for their cattle to graze.
"It's very pretty, there are a lot of stream beds there . . . and it's the last piece of open space" near the university, Brain said.
University and Reagan Foundation officials are worried that the snag will delay ground-breaking and put off the hoped-for completion date of January, 1989, when Reagan leaves office.
Beyers said it is important to finish the facility by then so that Reagan's papers will be immediately accessible and will not have to be stored somewhere else first.
Charles Palm, a spokesman for the foundation, said they are "still shooting for January, 1989," and "hope at least to have enough of the building completed to receive papers and secure them in a storage area at the site."
Plans call for the library, estimated to cost $30 million, to be built on a 20-acre plot with a quarter-mile-long access road. Brain has also suggested the library be built farther into the foothills, with a 1.4-mile-long access road.
At the Planning Commission meeting on Dec. 4, county officials will discuss what impact the library might have on the surrounding community and whether it will conform with the county's general plan. Brain said he will bring the signatures his group has gathered to the meeting; Beyers promised that university and Reagan Foundation officials would be on hand to defend their side.
Beyers said the chance of the petitioners getting the site changed is "very small, miniscule," but Brain said he thinks he has a fighting chance.