Palo Alto Weekly

News - October 18, 2013

Planned Stanford housing means enrollment bump for schools

University, school officials ponder likely impact of family-friendly units

by Chris Kenrick

With nearly 250 new units of family-friendly Stanford University housing on the horizon, Palo Alto school officials are puzzling over where to put the new kids come 2016, when people start moving in.

One hundred eighty of the new units will be owner-occupied housing in upper College Terrace in the vicinity of the former Facebook headquarters, where California Avenue dead-ends into Amherst Street.

Another 70 units, which will be for rent, will face El Camino Real just south of California Avenue, between the Wells Fargo Bank and Bank of America buildings.

Stanford and school district officials met last week to discuss the planned developments, with school officials straining to predict how many new students the housing will generate.

With Escondido Elementary School already the district's second-largest elementary at 583 students, Superintendent Kevin Skelly seemed inclined to project the new enrollment for Nixon Elementary School (current enrollment 482), Terman Middle School and Gunn High School.

But all agreed it's a high priority to determine school boundaries for the new developments before groundbreaking occurs next year.

"As soon as someone knows they're living someplace they're in our attendance office (trying to register their children)," Skelly said.

The new housing in upper College Terrace will be a mixture of condominiums (112) and single-family houses (68), ranging from two-bedroom condos at 1,080 square feet to four- and a few five-bedroom houses of up to 2,700 square feet. The houses will average 2,150 to 2,200 square feet.

Skelly asked Stanford officials to improve pedestrian and bicycle access to Nixon from upper College Terrace by seeking improvements to a steep, winding path that now links the area with Peter Coutts Road.

"I can't see any scenario where access to Peter Coutts isn't important," he said.

Stanford hopes to use the new housing to help recruit faculty members. Sales will be restricted to faculty, with the office of Provost John Etchemendy determining which categories of faculty are eligible.

"It's hoped that (the new housing units) will help with recruitment but also with retention, and add to the overall supply," said Christopher Wuthmann, associate director of design and construction for Stanford's real estate operations.

The El Camino housing, on the other hand, will be rental units available to members of the general public whose salaries fall within low-income guidelines.

There will be 24 each of one- and two-bedroom units and 22 three-bedroom units. Qualifying income levels were not specified and vary according to the program. They are sometimes expressed as up to 60 percent of Santa Clara County median income, which was $112,400 for a family of four as of May 2011. Sixty percent would be $67,440.

Though Stanford plans to build the El Camino units using tax-advantaged financing available for low-income housing, the building ultimately will be managed by an affordable development company "to make sure people are qualified and that we're renting to the right people," Wuthmann said.

Stanford currently generates 681 K-12 students in the Palo Alto school district, up from 603 in 2009-10. The increase is traced to recent Stanford housing developments such as Olmsted Terrace, off of Stanford Avenue adjacent to Escondido Village.

The university and the school district have a long history of cooperation, with five local schools located on land once owned by Stanford.

They are Palo Alto High School, Gunn High School, Escondido, Nixon and Menlo Park's Oak Knoll School.

Paly was transferred to the school district by a grant deed with a reversionary interest that provides it comes back to Stanford if ever not used for school purposes. The other school lands were acquired by eminent domain condemnation that Stanford willingly accepted, according to Jean McCown, a Stanford assistant vice-president and director of community relations.

In other business at the Oct. 10 Stanford-Palo Alto Unified School District Liaison Committee meeting, officials discussed potential effects of the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital expansion on enrollment at the district-run Hospital School as well as use of the Paly parking lot for Stanford football games.

Representing Stanford were McCown, Wuthmann and Larry Horton, a senior associate vice-president and director of government and community relations for the university. Representing the school district were Skelly, Board of Education President Dana Tom and member Heidi Emberling, and Ann Dunkin, the district's chief technology officer who also deals with enrollment projections.

Staff Writer Chris Kenrick can be emailed at ckenrick@paweekly.com.

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