News

Stanford, county supervisors give conflicting accounts of talks to restart negotiations

University says it is 'steadfast in its commitment to the full scope of benefits for the school district'

Stanford University has disputed the accounts of two Santa Clara County supervisors that the university's top executives offered lesser benefits to the Palo Alto school district in order to restart suspended negotiations with the county on a development agreement that would govern its campus expansion.

In a Q&A released Friday, the university said that in all discussions with the county "Stanford has been steadfast in its commitment to the full scope of benefits for the school district" that were included in a tentative agreement Stanford and the district reached in early April. That agreement, which promised $138 million over 40 years to mitigate the university's planned growth, was conditional on a development agreement being separately negotiated by the county and Stanford. The inclusion of that conditional provision prompted the county to quickly suspend development-agreement negotiations, saying that it would provide the university unfair leverage during talks.

Supervisors Joe Simitian and Cindy Chavez, who represented the county on the development-agreement negotiations team, said they spoke on the phone with Stanford President Marc-Tessier-Lavigne and Vice President Bob Reidy on May 8 to discuss restarting negotiations. The phone call followed an in-person meeting on Friday, May 3, during which they stated that the county would be willing to reopen talks if the negotiations are open to the public and guarantee the same benefits to the Palo Alto school district (PAUSD) that were negotiated with district officials, Simitian has said.

Both supervisors told the Weekly that Tessier-Lavigne and Reidy agreed on May 8 to offer the district the same deal — except for up to $15 million to build an "innovative" space to be shared by the district and university.

"The purpose of their call to us was to respond to Supervisor Chavez and Simitian saying, 'We can start talking again on the development agreement as long as you make your agreement with the Palo Alto Unified School District unconditional,'" said Scott Strickland, Chavez's chief of staff. "They came back and said, 'We can do that except for this.' There definitely was an 'except for this.'"

Stanford, however, said in its Q&A that it intends to include $16.5 million for the innovation space and facility and Safe Routes to School improvements, along with an estimated $121.9 million in ongoing per-pupil funding for new students living in tax-exempt university housing.

"Stanford and the County discussed different options for how to structure the agreement, but Stanford was very clear throughout those deliberations that it was still willing to provide all of the benefits in the agreement," the Q&A reads. "Following those discussions, Stanford has reaffirmed that the benefits should be part of a comprehensive development agreement."

Stanford did not say that it would agree to conducting development agreement negotiations publicly, as the county had asked for, and noted that the university is "not aware of any development agreement that has been negotiated through a public forum during creation of an initial draft agreement, prior to commencement of public hearings.

"Nevertheless, Stanford is open to exploring a variety of potential options for reaching agreement with county decision-makers," the Q&A states.

The university also suggested bringing in an independent third party to facilitate development agreement talks with the county.

"A facilitated process, which was successfully used during the university's talks with PAUSD, helps to ensure clear, concise and unambiguous communication and agreements," Stanford said.

The Palo Alto Unified school board agreed last week, at Stanford's request, to suspend any action on the tentative agreement. Stanford had also asked the Santa Clara County Planning Commission to delay upcoming public hearings on the university's general-use-permit application, citing concerns about the feasibility of meeting conditions of approval, a draft of which was released in March.

The county is still moving forward with the hearings, however, which start next Thursday, May 30, at the Palo Alto City Council Chambers at 6 p.m. The next two meetings are on June 13 and 27, both starting at 1:30 p.m. at the County Government Center in the Issac Newton Senter Auditorium located at 70 W. Hedding St. in San Jose.

The county has said it will release full conditions of approval on Stanford's application on or before this Thursday, May 23. The conditions will be accompanied by a staff report with recommendations on the application, including findings necessary to approve the project.

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Comments

5 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Barron Park
on May 23, 2019 at 12:18 pm

Don't trust Stanford to do good by the city.

With their billions of assets, they should build their own school system and stop flooding PAUSD with students.


3 people like this
Posted by Joe's not to be trusted
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 23, 2019 at 12:27 pm

Joe Simitian is using the district and Palo Alto kids to get something for the county. He's the one who is not to be trusted. The rest of the county is not as nearly impacted by Stanford as Palo Alto and Palo Alto kids and the community deserve for these particular negotiations to faovr our town. This is not a county issue. It is a PAUSD/Stanford issue and Joe Simitian is holding our kids hostage.


6 people like this
Posted by Cover-up Culture
a resident of Community Center
on May 23, 2019 at 10:27 pm

Joe and his minions, PTAC, the District, the School Board members, and the Teacher's Union have been deceptive and deceitful from the beginning.


8 people like this
Posted by PA Parent On Stanford Spin
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 24, 2019 at 10:15 am

PA Parent On Stanford Spin is a registered user.

I see that Stanford has released their spin artists on this thread, too.

Whatever problems transpired between Stanford, PAUSD and the PTAs were not of Sup. Simitian's making. It was made crystal clear up front by the County Supervisors (collectively) that any agreement between PAUSD and Stanford would have to be unconditional and completely separate from negotiations related to the environmental review process (which relates to housing, transportation, and other impacts).

Stanford and PAUSD, in making their conditional agreement, failed to respect that one very clear condition. Sloppy work creates bad feelings. We can do better on all sides.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 24, 2019 at 10:46 am

@PA Parent On Stanford Spin - "It was made crystal clear up front by the County Supervisors" - huh? Since neither Stanford, PAUSD's superintendent or board members, or the community got that memo, when do you think it as made so clear? In the other article, the school board president says the first she heard about it was when Simitian called her [portion removed] on Apr 12, after the deal had been negotiated.

When you think it is clear to you but it isn't to anybody else - it's not clear. And yes, that is definitely Joe Simitian's fault. Could he just admit he screwed up so we can move on with this thing?


2 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on May 24, 2019 at 11:46 am

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

Why are we making such a tsimmes over Joe Simitian?


8 people like this
Posted by Simitian's Cat
a resident of Professorville
on May 25, 2019 at 1:03 am

[Portion removed .]

Obviously in a negotiation both parties try to use whatever leverage they have to gain what they want as an outcome.

Joe is using a draconian "terms of permit" from the GUP process to push Stanford to grant a generous Development Agreement.

Stanford is offering money for the schools, which the County cannot obtain through the permitting process, to entice the County to make a DA instead of impose the conditions it wants to avoid.

There is nothing untoward about any of that. That's what a negotiation is. Palo Alto is so incompetent at government that it is SHOCKED, SHOCKED I SAY that deals, the sort of which the residents of Palo Alto in their jobs in the private sector (try it some time Joe!) make all the time are sometimes hard bargains.

What is untoward is the childish and bullying way Joe Simitian has acted, and the totally inappropriate way the Weekly has carried his water as he (and the paper) have thrown around untrue allegations of wrongdoing by the School Board.

The real story is that Simitian is doing a lousy job. His petulance and narcissism are not good negotiating tactics, particularly against a powerful and patient foe like Stanford. No wonder he screwed the pooch in the last GUP. Stanford must be thrilled to see him on the other side of the table again.

Because there is so much housing that labor wants in the balance Cindy Chavez is going along. What does she care about the PAUSD anyway? Bunch of cake eaters to her. That's not her constituency to say the least. She's happy to forgo benefits for people she rightfully sees as greedy and well able to take care of themselves.

The mystery is why the Weekly is going along with Joe's mishandling of the situation, cheerleading for him as he bullies the Board president, and slamming the school board with fake allegations of misconduct to do Joe's bidding. Disappointing.


7 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 25, 2019 at 10:02 am

Posted by Simitian's Cat, a resident of Professorville

>> Obviously in a negotiation both parties try to use whatever leverage they have to gain what they want as an outcome.

>> There is nothing untoward about any of that. That's what a negotiation is. Palo Alto is so incompetent at government that it is SHOCKED, SHOCKED I SAY that deals, the sort of which the residents of Palo Alto in their jobs in the private sector (try it some time Joe!) make all the time are sometimes hard bargains.

You seem to be overlooking a couple of crucial points. In private industry, "serial meetings" are often the most efficient way to get a consensus. But, they are -illegal- for governing councils and boards in California. Instead, what has to happen, in a case like this, is that in a public session, school board members should state their goals and objectives for Stanford negotiations, the Superintendent should negotiate a proposed deal, and then the school board should openly discuss the proposed deal on its merits. IF Stanford has proprietary information that by law can be kept secret, that information can be discussed in a closed meeting. No serial meetings, no secret meetings to achieve a consensus before a pretend-meeting in public. That is the law. If that open, transparent process does not achieve as good a deal as a secret process would-- that is unfortunate, but, it is the price of transparency.

The other thing you are overlooking is that $138M may sound like a lot of money, but, that is over -40 years-. The -40 years- thing should immediately make people suspicious, frankly, because it is such a cliche' method to overstate the benefits of something. $3.45M/year, while not chump change, is also not nearly big enough to drive the entire $228M budget. In fact, it is small enough that it might just be cheaper to ignore Stanford-specific requirements and do what is in the best interest of the district as a whole.

Stanford is just doing what any big player does-- trying to negotiate a deal that it thinks is in its best interest. PAUSD should stop falling all over itself when dealing with Stanford and just negotiate the best deal that it can --transparently-- and move on.


5 people like this
Posted by Former Official
a resident of another community
on May 25, 2019 at 10:34 am

Thanks @Simitians Cat for a sensible summary.

All the CPRA requests seem to show is a superintendent doing his job, keeping his board informed. No serial meetings, no sharing of views, no reaching of consensus. And despite the Weekly's (uncharacteristically) slanted coverage, the truth seems to be that there was one properly noticed and completely compliant closed session meeting, followed less than a week later by an open session meeting to sunshine the tentative agreement.

Thankfully, the "you violated the guidelines!" trope seems to have died, since everyone who has actually read them knows that they were carefully followed (looking at you, Joe S!).

As for the school district didn't get a good enough deal - wow. You realize that for the last GUP, they got a $10M one-time payment, right? And now they are getting $16.5M plus annual payments scaled to the number of kids who actually come? If you think you could do better, please go help Trump with North Korea.

The good news is that both Stanford and the County seem to be tripping over each other now to say how much they support the school deal and how they will honor it no matter what. Remember that when the horse-trading phase comes at the end!

So all you arm-chair Brown Act gurus can go back to - well, whatever it is you do. And maybe Joe can go back to doing his job instead of complaining about the School Board doing its.


4 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 25, 2019 at 3:19 pm

Posted by Former Official, a resident of another community

>> As for the school district didn't get a good enough deal - wow. You realize that for the last GUP, they got a $10M one-time payment, right? And now they are getting $16.5M plus annual payments scaled to the number of kids who actually come? If you think you could do better, please go help Trump with North Korea.

"You do realize" that the direct yearly cost per student in certificated staff salaries and benefits per student, according to the 2017-2018 budget, is $10,800, right? So, if $5,800 is all we can get to offset that-- so be it. "You can't get blood out of a turnip." Add to that the way it was announced, and, the contingency clause, and the self-congratulations. Frankly, unprofessional.

BTW, I'm just not at all impressed with the ($16.5M) up front payment. The real cost to the district is the ongoing $130M/yr escalating cost of salaries and benefits for certificated teachers/staff. If I were negotiating a deal, I would want to recover as large a fraction of the actual $10,800 classroom cost per student per year that I could. (OBTW-- other costs, like janitors and groundskeepers, also go up with more students.) And no, $5,800 does not equal $10,800. As I said, if that is all that can be had, fine, but, it just isn't that good a deal. Is there some reason why we are supposed to pretend that it is? I guess realism just isn't in fashion.


1 person likes this
Posted by Former Official
a resident of another community
on May 25, 2019 at 5:48 pm

Anon, according to the school district, they already have over 400 students coming from Stanford without almost zero contribution, and have for decades, starting in 1960 with the opening of Escondido Village.

So the Stanford contribution history seems to be - 1960 to 2000 - $0; 2001-2020 - $10M one time (EV expanded, Stanford West built); 2020-2040 - $16.5M one time plus an estimated $60M in annual payments, which will be higher if they build more than expected.
After 2040 it seems very likely this deal will be re-opened when a new GUP is needed.

Given that backdrop, and that Stanford's is required to pay only $4M in one-time developer fees, I'd say the situation has improved a fair bit and your public servants deserve your thanks more than the scorn you seem to give them.


2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2019 at 5:02 pm

Posted by Former Official, a resident of another community

>> Given that backdrop, and that Stanford's is required to pay only $4M in one-time developer fees, I'd say the situation has improved a fair bit and your public servants deserve your thanks more than the scorn you seem to give them.

"Scorn"? I think the PAUSD board messed up by not being "above suspicion" regarding open meetings, and, especially, with the [insert pejorative here] contingency clause. But, people make mistakes.

If I feel "scorn", it is for the people who keep falling all over themselves talking up what a great deal this was going to be for PAUSD. Stanford could reasonably have been expected to pay PAUSD $8M/year, but, if Stanford pays $2.3M/year plus a bonus, well, sure, that is better than -zero-/-zilch-/-nada-/whatever. In any case, top PAUSD administrator salaries appear to be getting out of hand, so, this probably isn't a good time for PAUSD to receive more money anyway. Maybe Stanford can cut a new deal that guarantees that whatever money it gives to PAUSD be spent on classroom teachers.


5 people like this
Posted by Energizer bunnies
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2019 at 6:29 am

Totally crazy idea to trade $4 million cash for a $15 million “innovative space” aka a fancy room that teachers and students from Stanford and PAUSD can "collaborate" in. A space BTW that PAUSD must pay to staff returning multi-millions of taxpayers' dollars to Stanford’s d. and Education Schools charging when students and professors collaborate in it.

This is just a mini-me version of Jennifer DiBrienza and PAUSD’s defunct EMAC Committee’s innovative school for Cubberley a few years ago which the School Board nixed because it was expensive and not needed.

The Superintendent and DiBrienza and her friends were sharply criticized by the Weekly because of their secrecy when they tried to push it through that time.

Web Link "It's the secrecy, stupid / School superintendent works behind board's back to advance new 'innovative' high school”

Web Link “Inappropriate drive by a small cadre of community members toward opening a new school before the idea has even gone through the proper, democratic channels necessitated in a public school district"

Web Link “McGee 'urged' the [EMAC] subcommittee to work … with …Jo Boaler, a Stanford Graduate School of Education professor … along with education experts from the Stanford University Institute of Design, or d.school”

Rightly so, PAUSD is being sharply criticized because of its secrecy this time too.

Thank you Weekly for being the eyes and ears and voice for our school community all these years.


Like this comment
Posted by Engergizer bunnies
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2019 at 7:12 am

Palo Alto Weekly / July 2016

Web Link

DiBrienza's "advisor was Jo Boaler...DiBrienza worked as an elementary math specialist with Boaler's YouCubed at Stanford...

DiBrienza was involved in conversations among a group of Palo Alto parents who advocated strongly for the district to open a new, innovative secondary school, pointing to ...unmet desire in the community for a completely different kind of educational experience. Opening a new school site is less important to DiBrienza than finding a way to support more innovative programs, she said…

'We're in Silicon Valley. We innovate and create and invent for the world,' DiBrienza said. 'Our schools don't reflect that...our potential is so much greater than where we are' "


9 people like this
Posted by remember the Brown Act?
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 27, 2019 at 7:52 am

If Board President Jennifer DiBrienza

+ 2 other school board members

told Superintendent Austin in private, or in one of the text messages that Ken Dauber and Todd Collins haven't handed over, that it is OK to

trade away $4 million that the Board voted in public to keep

for

an "innovative space"

wouldn't that = a Brown Act violation?


4 people like this
Posted by personal favors
a resident of Stanford
on May 27, 2019 at 9:32 am

Stanford Ed School Professor Jo Boaler must be thrilled that Jennifer DiBrienza, her advisee and promoter, is PAUSD's Board President the year Stanford needs to please the school district to get its development plans through.

Any chance that Boaler is one of the collaborators PAUSD plans to hire to work in this $15 million innovative space?

Any chance that DiBrienza, an education consultant too, still works for Boaler or the Stanford Ed School and hopes to be on Stanford's collaborators for hire list too?

Conflict.of.interest.


4 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 28, 2019 at 8:58 am

Yeah, about "innovative space" etc.

The reason we have -schools- in the first place is that most students need the adult interaction that schools provide. Otherwise, books. "Just read the textbook" does work for some students, especially in cases where there are very good books. The heart of the PAUSD budget is the yearly expenditure on classroom teachers. Adding students means adding teachers. Any deal with Stanford should be about paying the ongoing yearly expense for teachers.


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