News

Stanford is snapping up homes in College Terrace

University now owns at least 37 single-family homes in city, 700 countywide

While residents of Palo Alto's College Terrace neighborhood have for years fretted over Stanford University's purchase of homes on their blocks, new research by a group of media organizations has found that the university's housing portfolio may be larger than even residents have imagined.

Stanford University owns at least $1 billion in single-family residences countywide — or 700 homes, according to research by the San Jose Mercury News, NBC Bay Area, KQED, Telemundo, and the Center for Investigative Reporting.

In Palo Alto, Stanford now owns at least 37 single-family homes, including 32 in College Terrace, up from 23 in that neighborhood in 2017, when the Palo Alto Weekly did a survey.

The five media outlets joined forces to analyze county real-estate data for a project to answer the question of who owns Silicon Valley, Mercury News reporter Marisa Kendall said during a meeting of the College Terrace Residents Association on Wednesday night.

Residents expressed concerned about the upswing in acquisitions, which they say are increasing the cost of home ownership, taking valuable housing off the market for the general public and changing the quality of their neighborhood.

College Terrace is adjacent to the university's south side between Stanford and California avenues, southwest of El Camino Real. The neighborhood is comprised of about 900 households, according to the residents' association. That includes more than 600 single-family homes.

The university also owns five houses in the Southgate and Evergreen Park neighborhoods, across El Camino Real from College Terrace.

Stanford acquires homes through bequests and purchases, university spokeswoman Jean McCown told the Weekly in 2017. Single-family, off-campus residences in neighborhoods are popular with faculty members, especially professors. Stanford uses ground leases, by which the university retains ownership of a property while the "buyer" can build on it or purchase the existing residence.

Most of Stanford's housing is on-campus or on land it owns. The university recently has increased its housing stock on its own property by adding 180 units at its University Terrace subdivision in the Stanford Research Park between California Avenue and Page Mill Road, 68 of which are single-family homes; new residences at Escondido Village; 39 single-family homes at Olmsted Terrace, between Olmsted Road and Stanford Avenue; and a planned 10-home development in the San Juan Hills neighborhood.

Kendall did not say how many of the university's 700 single-family homes are located in Palo Alto and how many are on Stanford land. Stanford's general-use permit from Santa Clara County, which governs building on its campus, limits the number of on-campus residences the university can add.

College Terrace residents said Stanford's home-ownership is damaging the quality of their neighborhood, driving up prices and giving the university an unfair political advantage.

In terms of community life, the number of vacant or "ghost" houses the university has let stand has been an ongoing issue, neighbors contend. In May 2018, the Weekly found nine vacant properties: seven older homes and two vacant lots, which had been empty for at least a year or more. That number appears to have increased significantly. When Kendall visited the Stanford-owned College Terrace properties, she found 22 vacant, she said Wednesday. Of those, eight properties were under construction, she said.

Kent Stavn, whose family has owned property in the Terrace for generations, said Wednesday that homeless people were living in one vacant house on Oberlin Street.

"It is disconcerting," resident Irina Cross said about the vacancies. One home on Yale Street has been vacant for five years. Another, which she said is in "perfect condition," has been empty for three years.

Other neighbors said the university can afford to pay above the property's asking price and can out-bid other potential buyers. The result is that even current College Terrace residents with growing families can't buy a home in their community.

College Terrace residents also complained that purchases by Stanford for its faculty and staff are creating a scarcity of available housing. When Stanford buys homes and sells them through ground leases, those properties never go on the market again, a resident noted.

There's a balance of power that changes in the neighborhood when one purchaser owns 32 homes, one resident said Wednesday.

Ann Balin, whose family has lived in the Terrace since the 1920s, agreed. The university is changing the fabric of the neighborhood.

"I see it as an invasion. The character of the neighborhood is almost at a tipping point," she said.

Stanford spokesman E.J. Miranda said in an email that the university owns only about 5% of the single-family homes in College Terrace.

Stanford faculty have lived in College Terrace since the neighborhood's inception, he wrote.

"In an effort to meet the university's housing needs, the university has added to its inventory in College Terrace over the last few years. These acquisitions in College Terrace are part of a larger strategy by Stanford to provide housing for faculty where they have traditionally chosen to live and within walking and biking distance to campus," he wrote.

"They have been a means to supplement Stanford's larger housing efforts, including building housing communities for faculty, as represented by University Terrace," he stated.

"Many of the homes that Stanford acquired needed redevelopment or renovation," he added. "We continue to work with residents and CTRA as these homes are renovated and redeveloped and ready for occupancy."

He said the university put together its redevelopment timeline based on feedback from CTRA that the community wanted several homes rebuilt concurrently, rather than leaving the homes vacant.

Stanford not only dominates in private residential ownership in the county, the university owns nearly $17 billion in property, making it the county's largest private property owner. That includes $14.6 billion in commercial acquisitions such as Stanford Shopping Center, Kendall said. Its next closest competitors for overall property ownership are San Jose-based Irvine Co., at $5.9 billion, and Google and Apple, with about $5 billion each, the investigative report found.

The media consortium's report is expected to be published and air in mid-to-late October.

---

Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.

Comments

37 people like this
Posted by Inez
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 23, 2019 at 7:38 am

Hmmm. I think I'd rather have SU but them than absentee wealthy buyers from the Far East.


27 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 23, 2019 at 8:48 am

Stanford spokesperson EJ Miranda wrote:
“Stanford faculty have lived in College Terrace since the neighborhood's inception, he wrote.”

Actually the neighborhood and the town of Mayfield were here before Stanford University so not quite true !


8 people like this
Posted by Stanford Owns A Lot Of Property
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 23, 2019 at 8:59 am

A sizable number of Stanford graduates who are either unmarried and/or without children have bequeathed their homes to Stanford University.

There is an older landlord (Stanford MBA) I know of who has willed 7 of his rental properties (in Palo Alto, Mountain View, Sunnyvale) to Stanford University.

I guess if there's no one else to leave them to, Stanford is as good a place as any.

Curious if Stanford simply sells them off or maintains them as rental properties through a seperate agent.


29 people like this
Posted by private transacations
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2019 at 9:00 am

Actually, anon, stanford was founded in 1885:
"The university was founded in 1885 by Leland and Jane Stanford in memory of their only child, Leland Stanford Jr., who had died of typhoid fever at age 15 the previous year. Stanford was a U.S. Senator and former Governor of California who made his fortune as a railroad tycoon". The school admitted its first students on October 1, 1891,[2][3] as a coeducational and non-denominational institution."
Web Link

College Terrace was founded in 1887
"College Terrace as a community started in 1887 when Peter Spacher and Frederick Weisshaar, who had previously refused to sell the property to Leland Stanford who owned the land on three sides of the property, sold it to Alexander Gordon. He subdivided the land and laid out and named the streets and parks. Gordon had originally called the neighborhood "Palo Alto" but changed the name to "College Terrace" at the request of Leland Stanford (the name "Palo Alto" then became the name of another local, new community which had started as "University Park"). In 1891 College Terrace was annexed by the neighboring long established community of Mayfield, and, in 1925 Mayfield, in turn, was annexed by Palo Alto.[7]"

Web Link

And what are the CT residents suggesting that occurs? These sales are private transactions between a private institution and private homeowners. Do they want the city council to step in and micromanage these transacations? I am sure that will go well.

ALso how many of the current owners are sell their homes to buyers (not Stanford) at low, low prices, so that people
can "afford to own a home in the neighborhood"??


2 people like this
Posted by Stanford Owns A Lot Of Property
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 23, 2019 at 9:10 am

> Hmmm. I think I'd rather have SU but them than absentee wealthy buyers from the Far East.

The other alternative would be for the Far East investors to purchase & then rent them out to other/newer Chinese residents getting settled in Palo Alto. Perhaps a lease-buy option.

Since Palo Alto is now 40% Asian, a 40% Asian College Terrace residency rate would be considered consistant with the city's current demographic.



42 people like this
Posted by Shame on Stanford
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2019 at 9:37 am

This has terrible consequences for College Terrace, a small neighborhood with an eclectic mix of small and large homes and a lot of personality. This isn't Stanford University, this is Stanford Land Corporation coming in and taking control of a lot of this neighborhood - tearing down what gives it distinction and identity and replacing it with shiny new houses that the Corporation deems suitable for its own purposes, not the community that is College Terrace.

Community is a hard thing to define and to create, and College Terrace has created a strong one over many decades, taking pride in it's sweet library, childcare center, 4 parks, and neighborhood association. In part that is due to its streets lined with that eclectic jumble of home styles - that matters.

Stanford's actions are destructive to College Terrace and entirely selfish. To say otherwise is just plain denial.

[Portion removed.]


5 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2019 at 10:09 am

Posted by Shame on Stanford, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

>> Community is a hard thing to define and to create, and College Terrace has created a strong one over many decades, taking pride in it's sweet library, childcare center, 4 parks, and neighborhood association. In part that is due to its streets lined with that eclectic jumble of home styles - that matters.

I agree 47.6%. Stanford could, if it wanted to, help foster neighborliness among the long-term residents who live in these houses. Assuming someone -is- living in them. Anyone know why some are vacant when there is such a housing shortage on campus? That would seem to make no sense. In any case, we are asking Cisco, Google, Facebook, and now Stanford, to supply part of their own housing needs. Unfortunately, I think that makes sense given the current tax structure which favors the rich and super-rich.


6 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 23, 2019 at 10:11 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

In case you have not noticed SU is having a problem housing it's younger employees with young families. Since their SU land is "land-locked" they are also building in Redwood City where there is a new campus emerging. It makes sense for SU to broaden the number of homes that can house their staff.

And you are well aware that ECR next to SU land and houses is being invaded by RV's. They are part to blame for that but the problem has grown out of proportion to deal with it and the city of PA appears to be giving in to the problem.
It makes sense to buy more housing for their staff who do not want to live on campus and be subjected to the continual strife regarding RV's and future development issues.

Selling land and houses to foreign investors appears to be a topic popping up every where. The last thing this city needs is foreign investors gaming the system which is already on shaky ground. SU does not need that and the city does not need that. And if you are following the papers on China they are struggling with the financing on the world-wide purchases which are not central to their countries central interest. We had that issue of the transition of the Sheraton owner ship sale. That did not turn out well for them. So every country is farming people out to other countries while their own country is involved in strife. We do not need that here.


13 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 23, 2019 at 10:40 am

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

If they are that wealthy beyond property taxes they should be paying taxes on the revenue from their endowment which includes more than 1 billion a year for the shopping center and industrial park In ground leases


21 people like this
Posted by Tax Exempt?
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 23, 2019 at 10:46 am

Tax Exempt? is a registered user.

Is Stanford able to claim a property tax exemption for these homes after buying them in College Terrace?


10 people like this
Posted by Property tax
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2019 at 10:48 am

When Stanford buys a house above market and then sells at a lower price the house because retaining a land lease, does the assessed valuation of the property properly take into account the value of the land, or only the house with the land lease? It seems that if the assessed valuation of the land is ignored, then the school district and others are losing property tax. Can someone check this out?


23 people like this
Posted by NeilsonBuchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 23, 2019 at 10:53 am

NeilsonBuchanan is a registered user.

Let's focus on resolvable issues. In my neighborhood there are all sorts of homeowners and tenants.... some are Stanford related such as faculty, retired faculty, students. Alumni must be considerable. Not one of them has been or will be a problem. They are assets.

What are problems? Idle, unoccupied homes owned by Stanford is alarming. If this is significant, Stanford must address their wasting assets. They have every incentive to do so.

Tax revenue from those properties must be clarified. Palo Alto cannot function long-term with rising property tax exemptions. This can be put on table and negotiated with City and PAUSD.

There must be other real issues. What are they?


24 people like this
Posted by Noel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 23, 2019 at 10:57 am

I feel incredibly fortunate to live near a world class university like Stanford. I have remarkable friends who are Stanford professors and would be delighted to have Stanford professors living on my street or around the corner from me. My children have all benefited enormously from having Stanford nearby, using Stanford's facilities for gymnastics, swimming and attending math classes. They also have remarkable friends whose parents teach or work at Stanford. Palo Alto and Silicon Valley would still be orange groves and grasslands without Stanford and our schools would be full of average kids doing average stuff. Let's stay real about how lucky we are to have Stanford as a part of our community!


23 people like this
Posted by PA Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 23, 2019 at 11:02 am

Well one would hope the people who will be living in the houses will be Stanford faculty/staff families.

Take a look at how many AirBnBs are in College Terrace. Those do not add anything to the available Palo Alto housing stock. In fact, there are over 300 AirBnBs in Palo Alto, including entire houses and apartments, which are essentially hotels being run by the property owners. What does that do to the community?


17 people like this
Posted by College terraces and money
a resident of Barron Park School
on Aug 23, 2019 at 11:05 am

Shame on Stanford--stanford is doing nothing wrong. They have a mandate to provide housing. Times Change. Neighborhoods change. CT HAS For parlayed its status as Stanfords neighbor to get concessions and perks from the city. CT is responsible for the sad state of Grocery stores in PA. And as someone else asked, what do you expect the city to do. This article sounds like another of the weekly "let's push some buttons and rile up the people" articles they are so good at writing. I just got another email from the weekly praising themselves and asking for money.


6 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2019 at 11:13 am

According to the US Census, there are 658,409 housing units in Santa Clara County. Stanford's ownership of 700 not exactly a dominant number.

As long as Stanford is paying the property taxes assessed at the time of the sale, or gifting, and maintaining the properties properly -- what's the big problem?

Sounds like this is more of a problem in College Terrace than anywhere else.


19 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2019 at 11:15 am

Posted by Noel, a resident of Crescent Park

>> I feel incredibly fortunate to live near a world class university like Stanford.

That's nice. But, it doesn't negate the reality that sometimes Stanford acts a lot more like a large business than any "world class university" of yesteryear. Times change. Stanford is very unlike Cambridge University in the year 1660-1690.

However, like other large businesses, Stanford is now expected to provide a lot of housing. I see nothing wrong with that, but, if they are removing more housing from the Palo Alto property tax base, that has implications for PAUSD. I''m not interested in extracting a "flexible space" or whatever from Stanford in return-- I want them to pay their fair share of teacher salaries and benefits.


18 people like this
Posted by College terraces and money
a resident of Barron Park School
on Aug 23, 2019 at 11:18 am

Noe- college Terrace always has "problems". They are constantly making demands of the city to alleviate their first world Problems- protecting their grocery store, Facebook shuttles, parking, traffic, houses etc. It is a Neverending parade of complaints.


38 people like this
Posted by Dendromecon
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 23, 2019 at 11:27 am

Dendromecon is a registered user.

I think Palo Alto City Council should look into a ghost house tax like Vancouver.


2 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 23, 2019 at 11:45 am

@ Mark Weiss - Stanford University is *mostly* tax-exempt. They aren't completely tax-exempt. I suspect that they might be one of the biggest taxpayers in the county.


19 people like this
Posted by Silent Majority from College Terrace
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 23, 2019 at 11:47 am

Silent Majority from College Terrace is a registered user.

There are many in College Terrace, like myself, who are fine with Stanford owning homes, as long as they're paying property taxes like us.


15 people like this
Posted by Jonathan Brown
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 23, 2019 at 12:06 pm

Jonathan Brown is a registered user.

Stanford's ownership of homes is a benefit, not a detriment. They provide housing for young families and others with productive jobs who otherwise may not be able to afford to live in our area. Their buying properties that others could also have bought is not driving up prices nearly as much as other factors the huge boom in job growth in Silicon Valley. Finally, Stanford has done a good job of helping to create and contribute to our vibrant community (and sub-communities within it).


29 people like this
Posted by Corporate greed
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 23, 2019 at 1:29 pm

When I worked for Stanford it was an esteemed institution of higher education. Not so much any more.
Now we know it to be an approximately 20 BILLION dollar corporate monster, devouring everything in its path. The development experts are in charge, the money-makers.

When we list the corporate greedsters in our midst, Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook, we should add Stanford to the list. Same mentality.


30 people like this
Posted by LSJU79
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2019 at 1:32 pm

Leyland Stanford Junior University isn't really a university any more. The new "stanford" is really a multinational conglomerate, with major operations in the health care, real-estate development, sports/entertainment, and educational sectors.

These business's are managed by the same sort of ruthless MBAs that runs any other corporation and constrained by the same self-serving MBA group-think that infects all of corporate America.

By using their huge (tax-exempt?) revenues to buy up properties in Palo Alto and then selling the homes and leasing the land rights "stanford" is denying ordinary people, and its own faculty and staff, the opportunity to fully realize the American dream of owning property (land).

Sell the portion of the property that depreciates and retain the portion that appreciates. A clever but ruthless long term strategy to keep "stanford" faculty and staff on the "stanford" plantation.

When you think about it, the business model for the new "stanford" is really not that different from Leland Stanford's original business model, a stock-farm.


15 people like this
Posted by Big RED
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 23, 2019 at 1:57 pm

Palo Altans seem to forget that Stanford put Palo Alto on the map...not the other way around.

So what if they own lots of land & make billions of dollars?

[Portion removed.]


38 people like this
Posted by Stanford Homeowner
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 23, 2019 at 2:15 pm

As a Stanford homeowner, we have watched the same thing happening in our on-campus neighborhood. Stanford buys homes, leaves them vacant for years and tells us they need to build infill projects in our historic neighborhoods to house faculty and staff. Stanford pays no property taxes on any home it owns. Whether it is sitting there empty or being rented out, they pay $0 in property taxes. This can't bode well for local schools and infrastructure needs. If Stanford owns $1B in real estate, that is a lot of missing property taxes for the county.
I understand how the academic side of Stanford in a non-profit, but the real estate arm of Stanford is making lots of money and should be taxed accordingly. It is time to break up Stanford into the academic non-profit side and the very profitable real estate side.


9 people like this
Posted by ex college terrace resident
a resident of another community
on Aug 23, 2019 at 2:44 pm

Change is going to occur whether you like it or not. Stanford and it's alumni have done a lot of good for the world so be fair in your criticisms. Property is rather limited in the bay area so prices are going to keep exploding upwards due to the demand. Note that only academic purpose land is property tax exempt. The shopping center also pays what is called unrelated business income tax. consider the huge and incredibly wealthy donor base. They do get tax deductions for those donations and the gift process WILL continue going forward. I respectfully submit that the glass is half full for college terrace residents. Consider you can sell your home there and retire almost any where else in the world on the proceeds. Also consider that the longer you hold out from selling, the more valuable the property will be. It's bitter sweet, but i promise you that are a heck of a lot of great places and i'm living in one of them. I don't regret selling out for a minute.....


10 people like this
Posted by private transactions
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2019 at 2:48 pm

LSJU79--
"Leyland Stanford Junior University isn't really a university any more. The new "stanford" is really a multinational conglomerate, with major operations in the health care, real-estate development, sports/entertainment, and educational sectors."

Stanford has alwyas been involved in health care--the Stanford hospital and medical center has been around for decades. PA and other cities are demanding that Stanford provide housing, so they are involved in real estate development. Plus they have had housing on campus for decades as well. Sports??? Yes, Stanford has had a Division I athletic program forever. Entertainment??? Should Stanford stop bringing world renowned arts to campus??? I think Palo Alto residnets flock to these performances.
Basically your comment is the one repeated over and over again by the "Stanford can do no good" crowd, who meanwhile have benefited from Stanford being next door


Stanford Homeowner:
"Stanford buys homes, leaves them vacant for years and tells us they need to build infill projects in our historic neighborhoods to house faculty and staff."

What neighborhoods in Stanford are "historic"???? There are old neighborhoods in Palo Alto , but nothing really "historic". So what are you talking about??


17 people like this
Posted by Stanford Costing the Community
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 23, 2019 at 2:58 pm

Stanford Costing the Community is a registered user.

When Stanford buys private homes near campus it contributes to housing shortage and hurts the community in following ways:
1) They often leave them empty reducing the supply and increasing prices for other (community) renters
2) They build less on campus housing
3) They remove that property from the tax base for supporting our local schools and city services

Instead they should be building sufficient housing on campus


17 people like this
Posted by Big RED
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 23, 2019 at 2:59 pm

I suspect that many Palo Altans feel the need to be complaining about something...all the time.

It is apparent judging by these PA Weekly thread responses regarding...the Frys' building, leaf blowers, VTA buses/Caltrains, new office buildings, City Hall, Foothills Park entrances, cell phone towers, chaning demographics, Cubberley usage RVs parked along ECR ad nauseum.

Why not just be grateful...to be alive, to reside in Palo Alto, to eat good food, to have good public schools & to be able to drive the car of your choice choice & affordability?

Many folks are doing with far less so why the incessant griping?

At Stanford football tailgaters, I always invite a few of the RV transients over for beer & brautwursts...it's no big deal. And as far as modernity is changing the landscape, so be it. Did yu really expects things to remain the same? Seriously?

The newer residents from overseas (even though many are quite wealthy) seem to appreciate what PA town has to offer & so they are moving here in droves. This has made many existing PA homeowners instant millionaires...count your blessings.

The homeless people on Lytton Avenue aren't complaining about upscale PA 'quality of life' issues because they have lowered the bar on existence.

Maybe PA people should consider doing the same. Or you can choose to be perpetually disgruntled over trivialities. Time to get REAL...life is short.


9 people like this
Posted by Tax Assessment
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 23, 2019 at 3:40 pm

As a resident of a Stanford-owned home, I can tell you that homes (even those on "land lease" from Stanford) are assessed property taxes at their fair market value, which are paid for by the occupant. As to the comment by LSJU79 about Stanford "denying ordinary people, and its own faculty and staff, the opportunity to fully realize the American dream of owning property (land)" - I think they must not have tried to buy a home in the area anytime within the past six years. The young Stanford families that are living in these homes moved here to work at Stanford, and while we are paid a fair wage, it is nothing even close to sufficient to be able to ever hope of buying land anywhere within Silicon Valley. This is our only hope of being able to have a home with some appreciating value and to not live in an apartment for our entire working careers.

I agree with others, if there really are Stanford-owned homes that stay vacant for a long time, that is a definite problem - for the neighborhood and for Stanford employees. There is a very long list of Stanford employees waiting and hoping to be one of the lucky families that get a chance to buy one of these homes. If Stanford isn't allowed to find creative solutions to provide housing for its exceptional academics, then they will move to other elite universities in lower-cost markets. We have already lost many excellent mid-career faculty members because of the cost of living. Losing more of our exceptional faculty would not be good for Stanford, not good for College Terrace, and not good for Palo Alto.


14 people like this
Posted by LSJU79
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2019 at 3:49 pm

@Big Red & Private Transactions,

Putting your fingers in your ears and shouting no, no, no won't make it go away.

While you were sleeping or pretending you live in a perfect world, the university once known as Leland Stanford Junior University was transformed into the corporate conglomerate now known as "stanford". The man behind the curtain has been revealed and no one who is awake can un-see him.


15 people like this
Posted by Stanford Homeowner
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 23, 2019 at 4:06 pm

Private Transactions -
Yes indeed there are historic homes on Stanford campus in the San Juan District many over 100 years old. I know - I live in one of them. There are more than 100 homes built between 1900 and 1940 many of them by local architects such as Birge Clark. There are 7 volumes of books on Historic Houses on campus produced by the Stanford Historical Society. Many Historic House tours have taken place over the past decade in the San Juan neighborhood.
Progress is wonderful - things change - however, it is also important to remember where Stanford started and not erase the history of the place in the process.

Stanford pays no property taxes on the residential homes it owns and rents, not just the academic buildings.


4 people like this
Posted by Private transcations
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2019 at 4:28 pm

Stanford Homeowner-- thanks for the update on the historic homes. But are they really historic--palo alto has a reputation for declaring everything historic-- remember the measure passed by the council about 15 years ago declaring everything built before 1940 or something as historic!!!!

"Stanford pays no property taxes on the residential homes it owns and rents, not just the academic buildings."
While that may be true--the faculty that occupy these houses pay the tax. so the tax is paid

Web Link

"Stanford also owns about $1.9 billion in single- and multifamily homes that is taxable. These are largely homes rented to faculty on long-term leases, said Jean McCown, Stanford’s associate vice president for government and community relations. The faculty pays the property tax. Stanford student and short-term faculty housing is tax-exempt, as is almost all of Stanford’s academic and medical property."

Time to retire the "they dont pay taxes" falsehood




11 people like this
Posted by LSJU79
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2019 at 4:30 pm

@Tax Assessment,

If you are working at one of the most well endowed entities on the planet and you cannot afford to own land in its vicinity, maybe you are not really being paid a "fair" wage after all?

Also, in Palo Alto the assessed value of a home is only a small fraction of the value of the property (home + land). Do people who own homes on "stanford" owned property pay property taxes on the assessed value of the "home" or the assessed value of the property?


6 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2019 at 7:22 pm

Posted by Stanford Homeowner, a resident of Stanford

>> As a Stanford homeowner, we have watched the same thing happening in our on-campus neighborhood. Stanford buys homes, leaves them vacant for years

I have heard this, but, I don't understand what is in it for Stanford to hold housing vacant on purpose. Either there is some other side to this story we haven't heard, or, someone please explain what financial subtlety causes this behavior. It makes no sense to us non-MBAs.

>> and tells us they need to build infill projects in our historic neighborhoods to house faculty and staff.

Posted by private transactions, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

>> What neighborhoods in Stanford are "historic"???? There are old neighborhoods in Palo Alto , but nothing really "historic". So what are you talking about??

Actually, pre-WWII Arts and Crafts era houses -are- historic, and, some of them are genuine works of art/architecture. Perhaps there might be something about this that you lack knowledge of? A quick look at this web page might give you a glimpse:

Web Link


13 people like this
Posted by JR
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 23, 2019 at 8:19 pm

The problems with Stanford buying residential property in Palo Alto are numerous. Just recently Stanford was caught red-handed illegally treating one of their College Terrace homes as a construction material yard. Imagine waking up one day and your neighbor has illegally turned their home into Home Depot. That actually happened not too long ago, check the news.

More importantly, Stanford is using their outsized billion-dollar endowment to buy influence and elections in Palo Alto. Whoever Stanford decides to house in those Palo Alto residences will no doubt vote for Stanford interests, not Palo Alto interests. Imagine if Palo Alto decided to buy up a bunch of Menlo Park residences and influence MP local politics. MP residents wouldn't put up with it for a minute. Neither should Palo Alto residents. Stanford should be expressly prohibited from buying residential property in any jurisdiction except Stanford.


12 people like this
Posted by Private transaction
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2019 at 8:58 pm

"Whoever Stanford decides to house in those Palo Alto residences will no doubt vote for Stanford interests, not Palo Alto interests. "
Do you have real proof to back up this beyond ridiculous statement? Why would a faculty member, who owns the house, be beholden to stanford and vote "for Stanford interests" (whatever that means)

"Stanford should be expressly prohibited from buying residential property in any jurisdiction except Stanford."
That is a good one. And do you know of any case law that would allow the city to prohibit a private institution from carrying out a transaction with a homeowner????
you would have better success trying to get the CT homeowners from selling to stanford.


12 people like this
Posted by Oldie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 23, 2019 at 9:53 pm

I suspect that many Palo Altans feel the need to be complaining about something...all the time.

I suspect this writer has not, as I have, lived in numerous other places in the U.S. where “complaining” or discussing problems is not done. Things are left to those who hold the power/money, usually by devious means. The meek and mild are taken advantage of every day. I would rather live in a city where the intelligent, educated residents are always complaining and making things better. Don’t settle for the status quo.


17 people like this
Posted by MD Mom
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 23, 2019 at 10:22 pm

MD Mom is a registered user.

I am asking this question in all sincerity. Why does Stanford “have” to expand so greatly? What is compelling this need? Stanford is one of the best universities in the world. They do good things. They have a massive endowment. Why this urgent need to grow, take over land, reduce the supply of affordable housing, increase traffic, increase enrollment at our schools (without wanting to compensate for it)?

This seems to be a trend in Silicon Valley—must always be bigger, richer, more powerful. Even when you are big, rich, and powerful. Isn’t enough ever enough?


7 people like this
Posted by Stanford Homeowner
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 23, 2019 at 10:46 pm

Private transactions -
"Stanford pays no property taxes on the residential homes it owns and rents, not just the academic buildings."
While that may be true--the faculty that occupy these houses pay the tax. so the tax is paid"

There is a distinction you are missing. Homes that have a Stanford leasehold and are owned by faculty are charged property taxes that the faculty member pays. However, I am referring to the hundreds of homes both on and off Stanford land that the university owns that either sit empty or are rented to faculty - not purchased by faculty. The county can collect no property taxes on the homes that Stanford owns since Stanford is tax-exempt. As McCowan states below, taxable properties are "rented" (owned by faculty). The faculty pays the property taxes. She does not mention the homes Stanford itself owns with no leaseholder to pay the property taxes. These are the homes that have no taxes levied on them year after year and there are currently over 100 of them just on campus. This can't be good for public schools, infrastructure, etc.


"Stanford also owns about $1.9 billion in single- and multifamily homes that is taxable. These are largely homes rented to faculty on long-term leases, said Jean McCown, Stanford’s associate vice president for government and community relations. The faculty pays the property tax. Stanford student and short-term faculty housing is tax-exempt, as is almost all of Stanford’s academic and medical property."

Time to retire the "they dont pay taxes" falsehood


13 people like this
Posted by LSJU79
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2019 at 11:21 pm

@Stanford Resident,

Do faculty who own homes on "stanford" leaseholds pay property taxes on the assessed value of just the home (structure) or the assessed value of the whole property (land + structure)?

If they are only paying property taxes based on the assessed value of the home (structure) they are only paying a small fraction of the taxes paid by a typical Palo Alto homeowner that owns and pays property taxes based on the assessed value of the whole property (land + structure).


9 people like this
Posted by Stephen
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 23, 2019 at 11:28 pm

LSJU79: Taxes are paid on both land and structure(s) just like everybody else.


5 people like this
Posted by Stephen
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 23, 2019 at 11:36 pm

Should have added an example: 762 Dolores (sold June 2018).
Current assesment: Land: $3,825,000; Improvements: $561,000; Total: $4,386,000


5 people like this
Posted by Question
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2019 at 11:46 pm

I actually think -- on its own land -- land leases are a good thing. I think cities on the Peninsula should be looking to that model when it comes to retaining resident-valuable retail.

That said, this begs a big question -- if Stanford can do this, lease the land and let someone else buy the property that sits on it, can the rest of us do this in order to derive some benefit from our property but retain some investment interest?

Just curious.


11 people like this
Posted by LSJU79
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2019 at 1:13 am

@Stephen,

Your example does not prove your point. Just because the assessment is published doesn't mean the owner of a home on a "stanford" leasehold pays property taxes on the assessed value of the land plus the improvements. Why would anyone pay property taxes on property they do not own or for an owner of a property that has tax exempt status?

Can someone who actually owns a structure on a "stanford" leasehold answer this question?


7 people like this
Posted by Enough already!
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 24, 2019 at 2:58 am

Enough already! is a registered user.

@LSJU79. Yes. Taxes are paid on both land and improvements by leaseholders. I don’t know why this point keeps coming up. [Portion removed.]


6 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 24, 2019 at 5:13 am

^ Not to single out any specific property, but since an example was presented above,
the County Tax Assessor site shows more than $51,000 paid on this parcel for this year.
Sounds like real money to me. Taxes are due whether or not the home is occupied.
The tax is a lien secured by the land/structure. If unpaid, the county sells it. Right?


7 people like this
Posted by LSJU79
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2019 at 11:08 am

@Enough,

Sorry if it seems like I am belaboring this point (no Trump supporter), but I am flabbergasted and just a little incredulous to learn the County requires people living on "stanford" land to pay property taxes on property they do not own. How is that fair? The economic benefit of owning the land accrues to "stanford" not the homeowner paying the property taxes on the assessed value of that land.


15 people like this
Posted by Stanford Homeowner
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 24, 2019 at 11:46 am

As a Stanford homeowner with a leasehold, I can attest that we pay property taxes on the value of the land and the house. Mrs. Stanford stipulated that Stanford land can never be sold, hence, the faculty purchases a leasehold for 50 years based on the value of the home and land. However, if Stanford owns a home on campus and does not sell a leasehold for the property to a faculty member, but instead leaves it vacant or rents the house to someone, no taxes are paid by Stanford. This holds true of all commercial properties Stanford owns as well. The leaseholders pays the property taxes - Stanford does not.
LSJU79 - As you state this may not be fair - but it is one of many ways Stanford profits from faculty members buying campus leaseholds. Many faculty do this simply because that is the only way they can own a home in the area (there is less competition on campus for homes than on the open market).


14 people like this
Posted by Stanford Homeowner
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 24, 2019 at 11:52 am

Musical -
Stanford is a tax-exempt non-profit, therefore, if the house is unoccupied /rented but owned by Stanford, no property taxes are paid to the county. That is what tax-exempt means. To be fair - Stanford's real estate arm really should not be tax-exempt, but it is.


4 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Meadow Park
on Aug 24, 2019 at 11:59 am

Another hidden cost is that the donors to Stanford get a tax write off while they are getting benefits (like buildings named after them, and kids getting admitted). Then this donor money is used to compete with the rest of us trying to buy houses, where my downpayment is after tax money.


6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Aug 24, 2019 at 12:18 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Stanford is a tax-exempt non-profit, therefore, if the house is unoccupied /rented but owned by Stanford, no property taxes are paid to the county"

Wrong - Under those circumstances a Possessory Interest Tax is paid.


7 people like this
Posted by Stanford Homeowner
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 24, 2019 at 12:28 pm

Peter Carpenter:

Based on reliable internet sources, a Possessory Interest tax is for government owned property not non-profit owned property.

"What Is Taxable Possessory Interest (PI)? A taxable possessory interest (PI) is created when real estate owned by a government agency is leased, rented, or used by a private individual or entity for their own exclusive use. The taxation of this interest is similar to the taxation of owners of privately owned property."

Whereas this applies to a non-profit entities:

"Organizations that qualify for federal tax-exempt status are, by law, exempt from paying property taxes in all 50 states. The value of the exemption depends on the size and nature of the real estate that the nonprofit owns."
"Nonprofits are also exempt from paying sales tax and property tax. While the income of a nonprofit organization may not be subject to federal taxes, nonprofit organizations do pay employee taxes (Social Security and Medicare) just like any for-profit company."


11 people like this
Posted by ex college terrace home owner
a resident of another community
on Aug 24, 2019 at 2:17 pm

Only property used for academic purposes is exempt from property tax. Vacant (or occupied) houses owned by Stanford in College Terraces/Menlo Park/Palo Alto are NOT property tax exempt. Any El Camino land that Stanford owns and leases to a business is NOT property tax exempt. Any land on the Stanford "academic reserve" that is leased to horse/cattle/agriculture for 3rd party operation is NOT property tax exempt. Now what might be a problem for some of you, is any off campus buildings like in RWC for the Medical Center or Alumni affairs - that property is probably considered academic purpose related and San Mateo County is losing out on property tax income.


20 people like this
Posted by margaret heath
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 24, 2019 at 2:59 pm

For over a year, on my single block and on my side of the block, I have had five empty Stanford owned homes. Stanford also bought the property behind me a few months ago, which sits empty. From my front porch and visible on College Terrace Avenue is another Stanford owned house that has been empty for over a year. In particular, on my block, we were particularly sad to see two long time neighbors, one a teacher with a young daughter at Escondido, the other a nurse practitioner, both forced to relocate out of the area.

Jean Cowan has given the impression that when Stanford purchases a property the University is immediately assessed for and has to start paying property taxes based on the purchase price. However, my understanding is that as a non-profit, as long as Stanford keeps their property acquisitions empty or rented, no property tax is paid. Only when the University sells the property is a property tax assessment triggered and owed. That new assessment is based on the full market value at the time Stanford sells the property, not the price Stanford sells the property for. While Stanford continues to own the ground lease, the new homeowner is liable for paying the full amount of the new assessed property tax. However, if Stanford decides to rent a home instead of selling there is still the question of whether Stanford will pay property taxes on the property or not.

During county negotiations for the new Stanford GUP, it has been reported is that any rental housing that Stanford builds on campus will be exempt from property taxes. In 2015 Stanford purchased the 167-unit Colonnade Apartments in Los Altos for $130 million. At the time it was reported that, as a non-profit, Stanford was exempt from paying property taxes on their new acquisition because the units were to be used as rentals. Thus the entire property was suddenly removed from the city's property tax base, which I believe may have been about $500K a year. In any case, if true a controversial hit to the city’s budget. I don’t remember if Stanford agreed to contribute to the Los Altos school district if their rental units generated new student enrollment.


3 people like this
Posted by margaret Heath
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 24, 2019 at 3:02 pm

PS I live in College Terrace, not Evergreen Park.


4 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 24, 2019 at 4:38 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

WOW - that is a slippery slope. Houses in Los Altos that have no property value. That is something to think about relative to the other discussions we are having concerning the PAUSD and CUB. Thank you - we need to have what is happening there really spelled out. And we need to understand what tax laws are being cited to make that happen. We have a lot of behind the scenes activity and leveraging going on across the board.


2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 24, 2019 at 8:07 pm

@Stanford Homeowner, thanks for the clarification. Fairness is in the eye of the beholder.


1 person likes this
Posted by endowment is taxed
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 24, 2019 at 8:54 pm

@ Mark Weiss writes:
> If they are that wealthy beyond property taxes they should be paying taxes on the revenue from their endowment ...

Um, as of recently, Stanford's endowment *is* taxed. Look up U.S. Code 4968.


22 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 25, 2019 at 9:08 am

Annette is a registered user.

One need only look at a map to understand what motivates Stanford to buy up houses in College Terrace. I figure the university has a long range plan to own the entire swath of land.

But why leave the houses vacant, especially after either tearing down the old house and building anew or remodeling? If this region weren't knee deep in a housing crisis, if homelessness wasn't increasing, if housing insecurity wasn't a serious problem, if the housing shortage and affordability issues weren't forcing people to live in the RVs lining El Camino, leaving houses vacant wouldn't be as negatively impactful as it is. But all those problems - and the accompanying social impacts on the community - not only exist but they are constantly worsening.

The City and County need to lean on Stanford about this. The university is asking that its neighbors absorb the impact of the growth proposed in the not-yet-approved GUP, yet on the housing issue we know the university is not making use of the housing assets it already owns.

Nothing can be done to stop Stanford from purchasing homes that come on the market. Hopefully there's something that can be done to make it financially undesirable for any landlord to leave a home vacant during what is being described as an unprecedented housing crisis.

Stanford: do the right thing! It's galling to see and hear your ads touting the university's laudable accomplishments and contributions that improve the quality of health care knowing that you are actively ignoring your responsibilities with respect to housing and contributing to homelessness and housing insecurity, both things that impact health, directly and indirectly.

Stanford Alums: hold onto your checks until Stanford turns this around. The university obviously doesn't need our money if they can afford to hold clearly rentable housing units off the market, and society needs to see this world class university be a good citizen in this most fundamental of ways.


8 people like this
Posted by Stephen
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 25, 2019 at 10:06 am

As usual on this topic, there seems to be a substantial element of lacking awareness of facts, something that PAW's reporting does little to rectify. The issue of tax status of properties/lands owned by Stanford or by Stanford faculty has been discussed in various threads here (but not by PAW writers), with some question answered pretty conclusively multiple times (e.g. the payment of property taxes by folks who own houses on Stanford lands). Others would still seem to be up in the air, e.g. exactly which homes/apartments/residences are not taxable and why. This would seem to be a great topic for investigative reporting to resolve. On the related schools/GUP threads, then issue of PA schools on what were formerly Stanford lands comes up frequently. Yet it is impossible to find anything definitive about how those transfers took place and with what conditions. For example, I have read in one source that if not used for a school, Paly lands would revert to Stanford at some nominal price. That would seem to be a great topic for some research by some enterprising reporter. Likewise, one can set the context of PAUSD's request for lands for a new school site by reminding us of which elementary school sites were sold (and by whom) or are now rented out and why this happened. Finally, one bit of ironic history re College Terrace (per Wikipedia): "College Terrace as a community started in 1887 when Peter Spacher and Frederick Weisshaar, who had previously refused to sell the property to Leland Stanford who owned the land on three sides of the property, sold it to Alexander Gordon. "


2 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 25, 2019 at 10:57 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

I would like to add to Stephen's complaint - the PAW comes in with a strategy to influence the narrative on any topic. Journalism majors do not typically have a great business background but the resources are here at the city staff level and legal team to help clarify thorny issues that have a legal and financial impact to the city. Go see then and clear up the financial and legal issues for any one topic - typically construction and land issues.

The PACC also has some blind spots concerning project management. Over dependence on consultants who are already directed to a specific solution. Complaints from residences who volunteer for these studies are disregarded. Not sure how the current city manager is contributing to this but appears to be taking direction from various PACC members which all have different goals and outcomes in mind.

We are blessed here in PA to have so many residents who already have these skill sets through successful business careers and can correctly identify strange leveraging activity which will have a bad outcome - legally and financially. Start listening to your residents because they have been there, done that, and are fully aware of the specification requirements for most activities. Also the pit-falls of bad planning.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 25, 2019 at 11:11 am

Posted by margaret heath, a resident of Evergreen Park

>> For over a year, on my single block and on my side of the block, I have had five empty Stanford owned homes. Stanford also bought the property behind me a few months ago, which sits empty. From my front porch and visible on College Terrace Avenue is another Stanford owned house that has been empty for over a year.

Which street is this on? Also, are these vacant houses worthwhile to preserve? How old are they, what style, etc.

Question for "everyone": I still don't see what is in it for Stanford to hold these houses vacant?


7 people like this
Posted by Carrie
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 25, 2019 at 11:20 am

El Camino Real and surrounding roads are filled with huge pot holes, uneven pavement from all the construction on Stanford campus. Haven't you notice weekends when there are a number of construction trucks going up and down El Camino Real. The roads are a mess, and leads to huge maintenance costs for people with vehicles!


6 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 25, 2019 at 11:29 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

There are a number of very old homes in college terrace that go back to the original building period. My mother grew up in College Terrace / Mayfield. Those homes are being fixed up for some potential historical value. They should be designated as historical properties. Likewise in RWC there is a very old home behind the Civic Center Museum that is being fixed up. It is directly behind in the same block.
Not sure what homes are being pointed out here. - maybe more description needed? We have to save some of the historic value. They have such great stories. It is part of SU's story - the people who lived there help build the campus.


6 people like this
Posted by Jules
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 25, 2019 at 11:43 am

Stanford University advertises Excellent Palo Alto Schools when they sell the homes located on the Stanford campus:

For example, Stanford University sells a home, such as the home that was on the market recently at 668 Salvatierra St., Stanford, CA 94305, it states
EXCELLENT PALO ALTO SCHOOL and only Stanford facility/staff can purchase the home. Stanford promotes buying a home on Stanford property and by the way, use the Palo Alto Schools for free. See the link for this home and I've copied what the for sale information states:

Home description: Elegant single story traditional home close to campus. Lovely gardens and established vegetation frame this very special home which is ideal for entertaining with a family room which opens to spacious patio. Updated kitchen and baths- move-in condition. Excellent Palo Alto schools and convenient to services and Silicon Valley amenities. AVAILABLE TO ELIGIBLE STANFORD FACULTY AND STAFF ONLY.

$2,635,000
Price
3
Beds
3
Baths
2,364 Sq. Ft.
$1115 / Sq. Ft.


10 people like this
Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 25, 2019 at 12:03 pm

Campers parked on El Camino Real, near schools in South Palo Alto, hard for kids to bike to school, cars, can't see pulling out of side streets.

VTA and Stanford buses need to drive in 2 lanes to get past the buses, none of this bodes well for kids/adults on bikes, all the vehicles driving on El Camino Real.

For 2 weeks now, since August 11,2019 the following campers have been parked on El Camino Real between Los Robles and Maybell Avenue:

All three older model tan campers:
License # 5MES671
License # 8BES052
License # 1LCX192

Thanks


16 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 25, 2019 at 1:15 pm

Annette is a registered user.

In a June 12 article about Stanford pushing back regarding the county's requirements about housing, Stanford's Catherine Palter is reported to have "underscored Stanford's commitment to address the housing shortage, in recognition of the region's urgent need for more workforce housing" in a June 11 letter in which she wrote:

"Stanford understands we are in extraordinary times that require extraordinary thinking," Palter wrote. "We also recognize that Stanford has land resources that could be made available for housing. That is why, with some important adjustments to the conditions of approval, Stanford is willing to rise to the challenge and take a leadership role by embracing the opportunity to build more housing."

Once again, actions speak louder than words. If leaving houses vacant instead of either renting them or selling them is how the university is "rising to the challenge " and taking a leadership role with regard to housing, both the Palo Alto City Council and the County Board of Supervisors should seriously question the university's credibility and its sincerity in negotiations.

Require the university to walk the walk on this issue before approving the GUP.


8 people like this
Posted by margaret heath
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 25, 2019 at 3:28 pm

Stanford likely sees College Terrace as a future opportunity to house more faculty in an area of expanding commercial growth yet limited land for family homes. So while in the long run the Stanford homes in College Terrace are intended for occupation, there is no immediate use for these homes so they are kept empty.

In the meantime, Stanford has the resources to purchase any homes that come on the market, perhaps with cash, that represent good long-term investments. Starting three to four years ago, at a steady rate of 6-10 houses a year, these appear to be smaller and older "starter" homes that can be demolished and replaced with larger homes. Stanford's most recent acquisition this past July, 1360 California Avenue, built in 2002, is a 5-bedroom/4-bath home. However, Stanford was able to purchase it for $1,500,000, well below the previous sale price of $3,500,000 in 2015.

My concern, shared by some of my neighbors, is that if Stanford continues to increase their ownership of neighborhood homes with the intention of leaving them unoccupied, the percentage of "ghost" houses in College Terrace will continue to increase, and with it an increasingly negative impact on our neighborhood, at least for the foreseeable future.


1 person likes this
Posted by Paly Grad
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 25, 2019 at 6:24 pm

The current owner of 668 SALVATIERRA ST paid $2,412.80 in property taxes due in 2018/2019. The $2,412.80 included $804 for the Measure A Palo Alto Unified School District parcel tax.


3 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 25, 2019 at 8:36 pm

^ assessed value at $133K. That property hasn't changed hands in 20 years.
Zillow currently shows it listed at $2,525,000.
School district income may rise by a factor of 20.


7 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 26, 2019 at 10:04 am

>> My concern, shared by some of my neighbors, is that if Stanford continues to increase their ownership of neighborhood homes with the intention of leaving them unoccupied, the percentage of "ghost" houses in College Terrace will continue to increase, and with it an increasingly negative impact on our neighborhood, at least for the foreseeable future.

Can someone please explain why Stanford would leave a large number of houses unoccupied for years? What is in it for Stanford to do this?


4 people like this
Posted by margaret heath
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 26, 2019 at 11:17 am

@ Anon

Ask Stanford.


12 people like this
Posted by ALB
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 26, 2019 at 4:59 pm

ALB is a registered user.

E.J. Medina, the Stanford University spokesperson asserts in the article by Sue Dremann that the College Terrace Residents' Association (CTRA) has a working relationship with Stanford Real Estate Land Management. The CTRA board has never given approval for Stanford's acquisition of homes in College Terrace. There were two meetings in 2017 and one in 2018 where the board listened to presentations from Stanford's real estate representatives.

Mr. Medina never answered the question as to why there are many houses left vacant -- ghost houses. The CTRA board and neighbors are still waiting for his answer. In this pressure cooker of a market and people desperate for housing why does Stanford continue to keep these houses vacant for years? The University Terrace housing project
for junior faculty has many vacancies as well.

When I asked Nora Dahr, Director of Residential Housing, Stanford Real Estate/Stanford University, what is Stanford's real estate target for the total number of homes to be acquired in the future in College Terrace, she responded in an email dated September 11, 2018 that Stanford does not have a target for future acquisitions.

Please take into account that once this College Terrace housing stock is acquired by Stanford -- it will never go back on the market.


25 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 26, 2019 at 5:10 pm

One reason real estate investors would leave house vacant is that they are assembling adjacent parcels together to enable higher density development.


10 people like this
Posted by Private transactions
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 26, 2019 at 6:08 pm

ALB-neither stanford nor the homeowner needs approval of the CTRA for anything. In a private transactions , the CTRA can offer their opinion, but has no power to approve off said transaction ( despite the fact that CT thinks that the world revolves around them)


14 people like this
Posted by LSJU79
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 26, 2019 at 7:12 pm

Common Sense said:

"One reason real estate investors would leave house vacant is that they are assembling adjacent parcels together to enable higher density development"

Bingo! "stanford" Land Management's long term goal is to buy a majority and eventually ALL of College Terrace and turn it into University Terrace. This long term plan is hinted at by the adoption of College Terrace street names for University Terrace. This should all be pretty obvious to anyone familiar with the deceptive bullying tactic of "stanford" Land Management.

The self-serving corporate group think that is ubiquitous within the ranks of "stanford" Land Management will eventually consume and excrete all of the brand equity left in Leland Stanford Junior University to satisfy the career ambitions of its senior management. It is time for Leland Stanford Junior University to spin off the sleazy "stanford" Land Management business or give up their tax exempt status.

"stanford" Land Management seems to be using the University of Pheonix as a business model. I would not be at all surprised to see "stanford" Land Management put together some sort of private equity deal where the land under the campus is put into a fictitious entity named "Stanford University" and the classroom buildings and education business are sold off to a private equity group.


7 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2019 at 11:20 am

Can anyone provide the address of the homes in CT which are Stanford owned and empty?

Would be interesting to see what assessed value and taxes Stanford is paying on these properties.


8 people like this
Posted by jh
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 27, 2019 at 12:43 pm

jh is a registered user.

There was an earlier list of College Terrace homes Stanford had acquired which took many requests and the intervention of a more influential entity, before it was released. At that time the following properties bought by Stanford since 2015 were listed as:

Amhurst: 5,
Bowdoin: 1 ,
College: 3,
Columbia: 4,
Cornell: 3,
Dartmouth: 1,
Hanover: 1,
Oberlin: 3,
Princeton: 2,
S. Cal Ave: 2
Stanford: 1
Yale: 2.

Almost all of these remain unoccupied. Since that list was provided Stanford has continued to add to it's acquisitions, at least 3 this summer (Princeton, College, S. Cal), but since Stanford buys properties under different names it's difficult to know.

Perhaps it's time for the neighborhood association to ask Stanford for an updated list of acquisitions.


4 people like this
Posted by CT demands--ignore them
a resident of Triple El
on Aug 27, 2019 at 12:52 pm

There are 688 housing units in CT. Stanford has bought 20+. Much ado about nothing. The weekly trying to stir a tempest in a teapot with its headline. The association can ask whatever it wants. Stanford is under no obligation to divulge private information - - even to college Terrace!!!!!in


8 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 27, 2019 at 1:49 pm

Annette is a registered user.

@Common Sense - the reason you state makes sense but for the fact that many of the houses the university acquires are either torn down and rebuilt or remodeled. Why invest those dollars only to leave a house vacant?

Years ago I lived in the cottage @2300 Amherst. It WAS behind the house that Mark Z. rented for a while. And it was in the affordable housing category. Stanford demolished it and the lot is now empty. Last I looked, the former Zuckerberg residence is empty. Why take 2 houses out of inventory, especially now? Why even 1? Every house occupied potentially translates to fewer commuters, fewer homeless, fewer stressed-out people anxious about housing, and a healthier community all the way around.

Acquiring houses is not the same as providing housing; that happens only when the houses are occupied. Even if the long term plan is full ownership of the terrace and densification of the built environment, the university could have a positive impact on the current housing situation by leasing every home it owns.

What's the most effective mechanism for getting the university to do this?


7 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2019 at 1:53 pm

Posted by CT demands--ignore them, a resident of Triple El

>> There are 688 housing units in CT. Stanford has bought 20+. Much ado about nothing. The weekly trying to stir a tempest in a teapot with its headline. The association can ask whatever it wants. Stanford is under no obligation to divulge private information - - even to college Terrace!!!!!in

If the houses were occupied by Stanford persons, then, it would seem likely that Stanford is just acquiring housing in what seemed to be a cost-effective way.

The fact that apparently Stanford is keeping most/all new acquisitions unoccupied invites all kinds of speculation regarding what Stanford's intentions really are. Sure, Stanford is a private entity and is under no legal obligation to divulge information about what they are doing. But, if Stanford is just acquiring housing, why isn't it rented out to Stanford people during a period when the local market is extremely tight? Even if Stanford wants to replace all of CT with its own housing project one of these decades, why not rent what it has now? It still makes no sense to me.


4 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 27, 2019 at 1:53 pm

Property acquisitions appear to be public information. Today's competing Daily lists a 3-bedroom unit #300 at 2500 Columbia St closing on July 24 to Stanford for nearly $1M.


14 people like this
Posted by jh
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 27, 2019 at 2:07 pm

jh is a registered user.

It's not so much the number of homes Stanford has already acquired, which in the last three or four years is probably closer to 40 by now, but that they are almost all being kept empty. Since many of the lower terrace housing units are small apartment buildings (which Stanford is not as far as we know buying) the actual percentage of unoccupied single family homes is probably higher than first appears. However, the concern for many is that if the trend of 6-10 Stanford acquisitions a year continues for five or ten years, or longer, then how many more homes does Stanford intend to buy and keep unoccupied? Although Stanford has been asked, they have not shared their long term plans for College Terrace. Few people want empty homes for neighbors.


7 people like this
Posted by margaret heath
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 27, 2019 at 2:27 pm

@musical

Stanford University doesn't always purchase under that name, so while some listings are obvious, others may not be.


7 people like this
Posted by LSJU79
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2019 at 6:01 pm

Does anyone have a count for the total number of unoccupied homes in CT? It would be pretty safe to assume most of the unoccupied properties belong to "stanford".

If "stanford" isn't doing anything wrong why all the secrecy and scheming to disguise the ownership of the properties they have acquired?


5 people like this
Posted by Private Transactions
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2019 at 6:17 pm

LSJU79-- why does it matter how many empty homes there are in CT? And does it matter that they may belong to stanford? It real is none of your business nor the business of the CTRa or the residents of CT. These were private transactions.?
And since you brought up the issue, why do you suggest that stanford is doing anything wrong? Please share your evidence for wrongdoing. And what you call "secrecy and scheming" is just a private entity taking care of their business.
I know that you and some residents in CT are upset-- CT is used to controlling everything in their privileged little enclave, but their time of stamping their foot and getting what they want is over.
perhaps a better approcah would be to approach all Ct homeowners and telling them not to sell their private property to Stanford-- perhaps mentioning that they will be publicly shamed (gasp) by the power brokers in CT


12 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2019 at 10:09 pm

Posted by Private Transactions, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

>> It real is none of your business nor the business of the CTRa or the residents of CT. These were private transactions.?

It is everyone's business. CT is a Palo Alto neighborhood. Neighborhoods have a social fabric. IF Stanford actually is buying houses and then keeping them unoccupied, THEN Stanford is helping to unravel that social fabric. When houses are unoccupied, often, crime goes up and property values go down. Senior residents feel isolated. Parents have trouble forming local playgroups. And so on-- it is a neighborhood, where people have neighbors. Something that apparently is foreign to you, but, not to many people who live in neighborhoods in Palo Alto.

It probably won't happen in the current climate, but, during the next bust, the CT neighborhood could unravel quickly. Many cities, -rightly-, have ordinances designed to prevent this from happening.

>> And since you brought up the issue, why do you suggest that stanford is doing anything wrong? Please share your evidence for wrongdoing.

I have asked others, and, I will ask you. What legitimate interest does Stanford have in keeping the houses unoccupied right now if/when property consolidation is something that might be attempted in 10-20 years? If there is a legitimate reason, please share it, so that people won't assume the worst.


4 people like this
Posted by CT demands - ignore them
a resident of Triple El
on Aug 28, 2019 at 8:33 am

Anon- there is also such a thing as private property rights, which is something apparently foreign to you. The point is, as a neighbor, what rights do you have over your neighbors property? None. And if you are concerned about "legitimate" interests I suggest you contact Stanford directly and ask them. Personally, I think they plan to tear down groups of houses to build higher density housing to address the demands of other neighbors in PA. Not all about CT all the time.


6 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 28, 2019 at 10:41 am

Posted by CT demands - ignore them

>> Anon- there is also such a thing as private property rights, which is something apparently foreign to you. The point is, as a neighbor, what rights do you have over your neighbors property? None.

Clearly, you don't understand what a neighborhood is. Your loss. But, as a matter of fact, neighbors do legally have a lot of say. Web Link . Cities can, and do, enforce all kinds of restrictions on what you can and can't do with your private property, and have, for 200 years, the first restrictions famously being on hogs . Philadelphia passed the first such ordinance in the "US" in 1705. 100 years ago, it became universal for cities to separate certain activities from housing for reasons of hygiene.

More relevant to this discussion, however, is specifically the issue of empty houses. Vacant properties can occur for a lot of reasons, from speculation, wealthy people who may own a number of houses which they occupy seasonally, financial crises such as 2007-2009 collapse, and long-term rust belt decline. You can find examples of all of these via Google. Cities may attempt to address the speculation issue, and impact wealthier snowbirds-- this has been an issue for Vancouver, BC (see Google) where the empty-house tax intended to tax speculative ownership creating empty houses, and impacted people who live in Vancouver seasonally. Some "vacation" cities actually seem to encourage vacant condos. After all, they don't put much demand on public utilities, and they pay taxes all the same. Cities that are suffering from high rents and economically-driven homelessness, and, simultaneously, lots of empty houses, are taking a particular interest in this issue. -As they should.-

OBTW, I still haven't seen any kind of rational explanation for what Stanford has been doing.


4 people like this
Posted by CT demands - ignore them
a resident of Triple El
on Aug 28, 2019 at 10:49 am

Anon- well when stanford starts putting animals in these empty houses be sure to cite that article. And feel free to contact the city council to enact an empty house tax.
So you contacted Stanford and they did not explain what they are doing.


13 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 28, 2019 at 11:19 am

Annette is a registered user.

To "CT Demands - Ignore Them" - as Stanford's Ms. Palter stated, these are extraordinary times. As in there are extraordinary problems begging for solutions. So what if Stanford is legally entitled to do what they are doing? Stanford's OWN affiliates need housing and Stanford is in a position to accommodate that simply by leasing the homes they own that are within walking/biking distance of the university. The leases can be structured in such a way so as to not interfere with the university's long term objectives, whatever they might be.

Stanford currently has a GUP-related campaign that essentially amounts to virtue signalling aimed at convincing the outside world how good the university is and thus how deserving it is of approval of its enormous growth plan. And this is on top of the bragging about their TDM program. I appreciate much about Stanford and have enjoyed living near a world class institution, and know that Palo Alto is unique among peninsula cities b/c of Stanford. But I think Stanford's policy on this is fundamentally flawed.

The university is missing an easy opportunity here that's a four-way win. The university would get immediate ROI in the form of rental income, some people would gain housing, the neighborhood would be enhanced, and there'd be X fewer commuters on the roads. All that at essentially no cost to the university since they already own the houses. And they could probably add the positive impact on traffic to their TDM stats.

Stanford needs to step up here and demonstrate what it means to be a leader during extraordinary times.


2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 28, 2019 at 11:22 am

What about the issue of empty bedrooms in your own house?


5 people like this
Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 28, 2019 at 12:27 pm

@ musical "What about the issue of empty bedrooms in your own house?"

What about the empty bedrooms in your house?


4 people like this
Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 28, 2019 at 12:40 pm

@Private Transactions

"perhaps a better approach would be to approach all Ct homeowners and telling them not to sell their private property to Stanford--"

The funny thing is that there was someone selling two properties who was absolutely adamant she would not sell to Stanford, and as far as was concerned she did not. But guess what, the next thing you know they are owned by Stanford!


6 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 28, 2019 at 1:01 pm

Posted by mjh, a resident of College Terrace

>> The funny thing is that there was someone selling two properties who was absolutely adamant she would not sell to Stanford, and as far as was concerned she did not. But guess what, the next thing you know they are owned by Stanford!

So, she expected "Li Wei" and "John Smith" to move in with their families, and got "Leland Stanford, Jr" instead? It does make one wonder how many houses in CT Stanford -really- owns, and, -why-. Mainly, why not lease all of them out to people who urgently need housing? I just don't get it. It isn't like Stanford isn't already in the landlord business, including neighborhoods much further away than CT.


14 people like this
Posted by margaret heath
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 28, 2019 at 2:07 pm

@Anon
"There are 688 housing units in CT. Stanford has bought 20+"

Actually the number of Stanford owned vacant homes acquired in the last four years is now approaching 40. However, as the lower terrace has many small apartment buildings, the percentage of vacant single family homes is higher than might first appear.

Although university representatives have been asked what Stanford's long-term goal for ownership of College Terrace homes is, this information has not been forthcoming, as is their right of course. However, this leaves the impression that acquiring College Terrace homes is a long term investment goal which will continue into the foreseeable future.

However, this leaves many residents becoming more and more dismayed at the prospect of an increasing percentage of vacant homes. With no end in sight, the impact this could have on our streets. At this rate can we expect to have 60-80 vacant homes four years from now? What will the neighborhood be like a decade from now?



12 people like this
Posted by LSJU79
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 28, 2019 at 10:15 pm

@Private Transactions & Demands,

"stanford' is no ordinary private citizen or ordinary private business. The taxpaying people of this country have granted "stanford" the very exceptional privilege of tax exempt status. With exceptional privilege comes exceptional responsibility... and public scrutiny.

When "stanford" accepted tax exempt status they entered into a social contract with the American people that some good they provide to the public, out-weighted tax revenues lost to their tax exempt status.

For "stanford's" education business the public good is pretty clear. For "stanford" Land Management the public good gets a little murky, especially when "stanford" Land Management uses its tax exempt status to unfairly compete with the average citizen, and even its own faculty, for real-estate and the American dream of owning a home and a small piece of land.

What is the public benefit when "stanford" Land Management uses its tax exempt status to unfairly compete in the real-estate market for land which "stanford" Land Management develops into higher density housing (which it sells) but which also wildly inflates the cost of the land, and all land, that "stanford" Land Management holds off of the market as a long term investment?

The name says it all. "stanford LAND Management" understands that land is where the money is, and housing is where the sucker are.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 29, 2019 at 12:42 am

So, we are torn between selling our land to people who have (likely) not paid taxes in their homelands, or selling it to a tax exempt educational institution.
There are plenty of ghost homes in my neighborhood, and many people wonder if they were simply used as places to park dirty money.
The ghost home tax did nothing to help the situation in Vancouver.
Horrid situation we are in.
There are billions of people wishing they lived in an area cleaner than they came from, and lots of people who are willing to make their living exploiting this situation.
Go Stanford. Buy my house...please.


5 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Aug 29, 2019 at 8:03 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"For "stanford's" education business the public good is pretty clear. For "stanford" Land Management the public good gets a little murky,"

Under the terms of its original Trust Stanford cannot sell its land and hence its original Trust lands are inextricably linked to its educational activities. Stanford is required as the steward of the Trust to maximize the value of its lands in order to support its educational mission. And in maximizing the value of its land Stanford has been a far better steward than has any of its surrounding communities as shown by the large amount of its land which has been retained in open space and the countless amenities that Stanford makes available to non-Stanford residents.


2 people like this
Posted by Timbuktu
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 29, 2019 at 10:32 am

@Peter Carpenter
While Stanford can't legally sell the lands that were originally donated to the Stanford, are you also saying that all subsequent land acquisitions can't be legally sold? If Stanford should acquire a home in Timbuktu tomorrow they would then have to hold it in perpetuity?


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Aug 29, 2019 at 4:30 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"are you also saying that all subsequent land acquisitions can't be legally sold? "

No, new land acquisitions are not controlled by the terms of original Stanford Family gift of The Farm to establish the university.


3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 29, 2019 at 4:37 pm

I know of other universities in populous areas like Boston that are doing the same thing.
The areas around Princeton, and Cornell are being purchased by foreign buyers (based overseas) and rented back to students and staff at sky high rates. Also, these universities may need some of this land for expansion later on.
Just saying...it is not only College Terrace and Stanford.
Universities are trying to protect themselves; as we should all be doing ourselves.


7 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 29, 2019 at 4:49 pm

Posted by Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto

>> The areas around Princeton, and Cornell are being purchased by foreign buyers (based overseas) and rented back to students and staff at sky high rates.

I'm not saying whether or not this is or is not true. But, I am wondering what your sources for this are? I'm looking for things in credible news sources like NYT or Reuters, rather than something on social media. For example, the following is something that someone (re-)posted in another thread wrt college admissions from a 2016 Reuters report: Web Link

>> Also, these universities may need some of this land for expansion later on.

I've seen this a number of times, where universities nibble away at areas similar to CT, though usually in areas with less purely residential character.

>> Universities are trying to protect themselves; as we should all be doing ourselves.

Sure. But, normally, universities just purchase a property in an adjacent area where the purpose is quite obvious. For some reason, Stanford is being very secretive about this, which -I personally- find concerning. "Stanford is private", blah, blah, but, Stanford is also a low/no-tax non-profit. I feel transparency should be normal for all non-profits, so that we can all be confident that the non-profit is serving its public purpose rather than serving its own administration.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields


Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Su Hong Palo Alto's last day of business will be Sept. 29
By Elena Kadvany | 13 comments | 4,652 views

Electric Buses: Challenges and Opportunities
By Sherry Listgarten | 23 comments | 2,759 views

Troubling safety issues in our fair city
By Diana Diamond | 16 comments | 1,403 views

Natural Wines?
By Laura Stec | 1 comment | 1,039 views

Premarital, Women Over 50 Do Get Married
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,004 views

 

Register now!

On Friday, October 11, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

More Info