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Palo Alto seeks greater say in Stanford growth plan

Palo Alto urges Santa Clara County to require expanded shuttle services, housing for university staff

A bicyclist passes by Green Library at Stanford University on June 7, 2019. Photo by Sinead Chang.

​​As Santa Clara County prepares to adopt a new plan to govern Stanford University's growth, Palo Alto officials are pushing for more housing, expanded shuttle services and a seat at the table in the coming negotiations.

The county Board of Supervisors is scheduled to start reviewing next week the proposed update to the existing Stanford Community Plan. The 2000 document, which aims to encourage compact development, created a "housing linkage" policy that requires Stanford to construct housing concurrent to or prior to academic development.

The updated version would significantly firm up this requirement by requiring that most of the new housing be built on Stanford's campus or on contiguous Stanford-owned lands in Palo Alto. The requirement was prompted by concerns from surrounding cities about the university buying up properties that are then rented exclusively to Stanford affiliates.

On Monday, as the City Council heard a presentation from county consultants about the ongoing update, the issue of where Stanford would be required to build the housing and who would be allowed to live there loomed large in the discussion. Geoff Bradley, principal at M-Group, which is leading the update, noted that the university has only built 60 housing units for faculty and staff since the current Stanford Community Plan was adopted 22 years ago, even as it added about 4,400 student beds over that span.

The university also added 1,023 dwellings outside its campus since 2000, much of it in Palo Alto and Menlo Park. This does not include its recent purchase of Oak Creek Apartments, a residential complex on Sand Hill Road with 759 units, Bradley said.

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"However, this amount of on-site housing provided for faculty, staff and other workers is too low and going forward the county plans to seek more housing actually on campus to meet future needs," Bradley said.

Palo Alto officials and residents have long expressed concerns about Stanford buying up housing, an increasingly rare and valuable commodity. In an October letter to the county, Mayor Pat Burt said the city is concerned about the "prospect of Stanford owned housing within the City being exempt from property taxes despite additional impacts of those residents on our public schools and city services."

"Palo Alto seeks full disclosure by Stanford of University owned properties within the city limits, their status, and a calculation of tax revenue lost," the letter states.

Cars exit Stanford University at the intersection of Galvez Street and El Camino Real in Palo Alto on July 21, 2022. Photo by Aliana Mediratta.

To land-use watchdogs, the county's effort to update the Stanford Community Plan has a familiar ring to it. Three years ago, the Board of Supervisors was considering Stanford's contentious proposal for a new general use permit that would allow the university to add 2.275 million square feet of academic space and 2,600 student beds by 2035. The permit application inspired the county to put forth new policies such as requiring the university to house its staff and count reverse commutes in measuring traffic impacts. These policies in turn inspired Stanford to abruptly withdraw its application in November 2019.

Then, as now, the debate over Stanford created some friction between town and gown, with cities demanding significant contributions from Stanford to mitigate potential growth impacts. Burt argued Monday that the city deserves to have a more prominent role in the negotiations and pointed the 1985 Land Use Agreement between the county, Stanford and Palo Alto. The document states that any party can request a three-party discussion about "any proposed change in general County policy governing unincorporated lands."

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"Palo Alto and Stanford further recognize that each has a legitimate interest in planning decisions made by the other, to the extent that the actions of one entity may impact housing supply, traffic, parking and utility systems in the other," the agreement states. "For this reason, each will continue to provide notification, at the earliest possible date, of any projects or proposals that may affect the other."

Palo Alto, Burt said, is not "just another community that has interests."

Two houses owned by Stanford University in Palo Alto's College Terrace neighborhood. Embarcadero Media file photo by Veronica Weber.

"It's not a two-party agreement and Palo Alto … is being asked to comment on it occasionally. It's a three-party agreement," Burt said. "And we really need to move forward with that as a foundational relationship to the negotiations, with us recognizing that in the end, it's the county's agreement with Stanford on behalf of the city and the county."

The city already expressed some concerns about the proposed update, including the county's proposal to allow up to 30% of the new housing to be built on Palo Alto land, contiguous to the campus. For Palo Alto, this creates a dilemma: though city officials like the idea of requiring Stanford to build housing before it could expand its academic buildings, they would prefer to see it on campus.

Some suggested Monday that if Stanford builds housing on Palo Alto land to mitigate the impacts of its academic expansion, this housing should be open to the broader public and not just people affiliated with the university. Council member Greer Stone said he was concerned that the strict restrictions on who can live on Stanford-owned houses could lead to some of these units being unoccupied.

"Whatever the county can do to force that housing stock to be actually filled, if it's not from Stanford affiliates, would be helpful," Stone said Monday.

The new Stanford Community Plan would also remove an existing provision that allows the university to sidestep the housing requirement by paying an in-lieu fee. And it would beef up transportation rules by extending the existing "no net new commute trips" requirement for new developments to reverse commutes. Stanford has resisted these changes, suggesting that it may not be feasible given the high level of housing growth that the county would also require.

'It's not a two-party agreement and Palo Alto … is being asked to comment on it occasionally. It's a three-party agreement.'

-Pat Burt, mayor, Palo Alto

Erin Efner, associate vice president for land use and environmental planning, wrote in an October letter to the county that "creating a trip counting system that is feasible and achievable is crucial for both the County and Stanford to achieve our mutual housing goals."

"Residents who live on campus may take trips off campus to support their family life, attend to other personal needs, and participate in community life," Efner wrote. "It will remain important to balance the need to reduce trips with the ability to produce housing where people become part of the community."

One amenity that both council member Tom DuBois and Burt lobbied for is an expansion of the university's Marguerite shuttle to places outside the campus. Burt noted that Stanford staff includes residents of nearby communities, including East Palo Alto, and suggested that extending the shuttle system to East Palo Alto would create a "really valuable lifeline at a far lower cost than direct housing provision on campus for the service workers."

DuBois also suggested that any Stanford growth plan should include fees paid by the university to neighboring communities for municipal services and amenities such as parks and stormwater management. Given Stanford's tax-exempt status, this payment could be classified as an in-lieu fee, DuBois said.

"Ultimately, I think that's where we should be heading: some kind of payments in lieu of tax and coming up with ways in which the fees can be divided between the agencies providing the services," DuBois said.

The county Board of Supervisors is set to discuss the proposed changes to the Stanford Community Plan on Dec. 13. The county is also working on an environmental analysis of the updated plan, which is expected to be completed next year. The plan will then return to the county's Planning Commission and board for formal adoption.

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Gennady Sheyner
 
Gennady Sheyner covers the City Hall beat in Palo Alto as well as regional politics, with a special focus on housing and transportation. Before joining the Palo Alto Weekly/PaloAltoOnline.com in 2008, he covered breaking news and local politics for the Waterbury Republican-American, a daily newspaper in Connecticut. Read more >>

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Palo Alto seeks greater say in Stanford growth plan

Palo Alto urges Santa Clara County to require expanded shuttle services, housing for university staff

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Dec 6, 2022, 1:03 am

​​As Santa Clara County prepares to adopt a new plan to govern Stanford University's growth, Palo Alto officials are pushing for more housing, expanded shuttle services and a seat at the table in the coming negotiations.

The county Board of Supervisors is scheduled to start reviewing next week the proposed update to the existing Stanford Community Plan. The 2000 document, which aims to encourage compact development, created a "housing linkage" policy that requires Stanford to construct housing concurrent to or prior to academic development.

The updated version would significantly firm up this requirement by requiring that most of the new housing be built on Stanford's campus or on contiguous Stanford-owned lands in Palo Alto. The requirement was prompted by concerns from surrounding cities about the university buying up properties that are then rented exclusively to Stanford affiliates.

On Monday, as the City Council heard a presentation from county consultants about the ongoing update, the issue of where Stanford would be required to build the housing and who would be allowed to live there loomed large in the discussion. Geoff Bradley, principal at M-Group, which is leading the update, noted that the university has only built 60 housing units for faculty and staff since the current Stanford Community Plan was adopted 22 years ago, even as it added about 4,400 student beds over that span.

The university also added 1,023 dwellings outside its campus since 2000, much of it in Palo Alto and Menlo Park. This does not include its recent purchase of Oak Creek Apartments, a residential complex on Sand Hill Road with 759 units, Bradley said.

"However, this amount of on-site housing provided for faculty, staff and other workers is too low and going forward the county plans to seek more housing actually on campus to meet future needs," Bradley said.

Palo Alto officials and residents have long expressed concerns about Stanford buying up housing, an increasingly rare and valuable commodity. In an October letter to the county, Mayor Pat Burt said the city is concerned about the "prospect of Stanford owned housing within the City being exempt from property taxes despite additional impacts of those residents on our public schools and city services."

"Palo Alto seeks full disclosure by Stanford of University owned properties within the city limits, their status, and a calculation of tax revenue lost," the letter states.

To land-use watchdogs, the county's effort to update the Stanford Community Plan has a familiar ring to it. Three years ago, the Board of Supervisors was considering Stanford's contentious proposal for a new general use permit that would allow the university to add 2.275 million square feet of academic space and 2,600 student beds by 2035. The permit application inspired the county to put forth new policies such as requiring the university to house its staff and count reverse commutes in measuring traffic impacts. These policies in turn inspired Stanford to abruptly withdraw its application in November 2019.

Then, as now, the debate over Stanford created some friction between town and gown, with cities demanding significant contributions from Stanford to mitigate potential growth impacts. Burt argued Monday that the city deserves to have a more prominent role in the negotiations and pointed the 1985 Land Use Agreement between the county, Stanford and Palo Alto. The document states that any party can request a three-party discussion about "any proposed change in general County policy governing unincorporated lands."

"Palo Alto and Stanford further recognize that each has a legitimate interest in planning decisions made by the other, to the extent that the actions of one entity may impact housing supply, traffic, parking and utility systems in the other," the agreement states. "For this reason, each will continue to provide notification, at the earliest possible date, of any projects or proposals that may affect the other."

Palo Alto, Burt said, is not "just another community that has interests."

"It's not a two-party agreement and Palo Alto … is being asked to comment on it occasionally. It's a three-party agreement," Burt said. "And we really need to move forward with that as a foundational relationship to the negotiations, with us recognizing that in the end, it's the county's agreement with Stanford on behalf of the city and the county."

The city already expressed some concerns about the proposed update, including the county's proposal to allow up to 30% of the new housing to be built on Palo Alto land, contiguous to the campus. For Palo Alto, this creates a dilemma: though city officials like the idea of requiring Stanford to build housing before it could expand its academic buildings, they would prefer to see it on campus.

Some suggested Monday that if Stanford builds housing on Palo Alto land to mitigate the impacts of its academic expansion, this housing should be open to the broader public and not just people affiliated with the university. Council member Greer Stone said he was concerned that the strict restrictions on who can live on Stanford-owned houses could lead to some of these units being unoccupied.

"Whatever the county can do to force that housing stock to be actually filled, if it's not from Stanford affiliates, would be helpful," Stone said Monday.

The new Stanford Community Plan would also remove an existing provision that allows the university to sidestep the housing requirement by paying an in-lieu fee. And it would beef up transportation rules by extending the existing "no net new commute trips" requirement for new developments to reverse commutes. Stanford has resisted these changes, suggesting that it may not be feasible given the high level of housing growth that the county would also require.

Erin Efner, associate vice president for land use and environmental planning, wrote in an October letter to the county that "creating a trip counting system that is feasible and achievable is crucial for both the County and Stanford to achieve our mutual housing goals."

"Residents who live on campus may take trips off campus to support their family life, attend to other personal needs, and participate in community life," Efner wrote. "It will remain important to balance the need to reduce trips with the ability to produce housing where people become part of the community."

One amenity that both council member Tom DuBois and Burt lobbied for is an expansion of the university's Marguerite shuttle to places outside the campus. Burt noted that Stanford staff includes residents of nearby communities, including East Palo Alto, and suggested that extending the shuttle system to East Palo Alto would create a "really valuable lifeline at a far lower cost than direct housing provision on campus for the service workers."

DuBois also suggested that any Stanford growth plan should include fees paid by the university to neighboring communities for municipal services and amenities such as parks and stormwater management. Given Stanford's tax-exempt status, this payment could be classified as an in-lieu fee, DuBois said.

"Ultimately, I think that's where we should be heading: some kind of payments in lieu of tax and coming up with ways in which the fees can be divided between the agencies providing the services," DuBois said.

The county Board of Supervisors is set to discuss the proposed changes to the Stanford Community Plan on Dec. 13. The county is also working on an environmental analysis of the updated plan, which is expected to be completed next year. The plan will then return to the county's Planning Commission and board for formal adoption.

Comments

Wilma Flores
Registered user
Ventura
on Dec 6, 2022 at 10:02 am
Wilma Flores, Ventura
Registered user
on Dec 6, 2022 at 10:02 am

Stanford does not answer to Palo Alto and vice versa. Whatever goes on in these two locales is their own private business and Stanford is under no moral or economic obligation to provide additional housing that benefits those who want to reside in Palo Alto simply for the sake of living in Palo Alto.

With the effective countywide mass transit system that we have now, aspiring PA residents should consider residing in less dense communities like Gilroy and Morgan Hill and commute accordingly by Caltrains, VTA, or one's personal EV. Simply put on some music and enjoy the ride!

Stanford University is well known for its vast wide-open spaces and to disrupt this topography to benefit projected Palo Alto housing needs would be a travesty.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 6, 2022 at 10:52 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Dec 6, 2022 at 10:52 am

High time Stanford started providing its fair share of housing while it keeps rapidly expanding, forcing its construction workers and long-term patients at Stanford Med into those RVS on El Camino.

"The university also added 1,023 dwellings outside its campus since 2000, much of it in Palo Alto and Menlo Park. This does not include its recent purchase of Oak Creek Apartments, a residential complex on Sand Hill Road with 759 units, Bradley said."

1,023 minus 759 = 264 and how many more housing units in College Terrace has Stanford taken over lately??

Between Stanford University and Stanford Med, they have a total population that in 2021 approached Palo Alto's yet PA has a housing target of 6.,086 and their piddling 264- units don't come close to helping.

Write to PA City Council and the County!


Native to the BAY
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Dec 6, 2022 at 11:39 am
Native to the BAY, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Dec 6, 2022 at 11:39 am

Stanford owns the land at2500 ECR (Mayfield Place). Part of the 264 number mentioned above. While the 196 up Cal Ave at Stanford Terrace live in a lap of luxury, very very poor service working residents at Mayfield live in near squalor, unfair, filth and despair. Because Stanford leases to Related they refuse to take any responsibility for the almost complete break down of everything at Mayfield Place: overflowing trash, rats, burst pipes, no hot water or at best, inconsistent , broken locked amenities like the no acccess to computers, printers, no access to dedicated resume building kiosk, on and on and on. Unit appliances broken cracked , mail and packages get stolen, locked bikes stolen, no onsite management , no onsite contract resources for residents . The issues and conditions at Mayfield are terrible. Yet because the outside is all spit and Polish the city ignores the reports of actual nuts and bolts of the interior conditions breaking down and terrible managed. Here’s an irony. Stanford ilk can live at Mayfield, yet Palo Alto non-Stanford folk can’t live at Stanford Terrace. So much for the Mayfield agreement.


Interested Reader
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Dec 6, 2022 at 11:46 am
Interested Reader, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Dec 6, 2022 at 11:46 am

Any agreement with Stanford, the City and the County has to include Stanford paying their fare share of grade separations. Since the pandemic, Palo Alto is now the #1 Caltrain station- ahead of San Francisco, thanks to the constant stream of workers going to the Stanford Hospital and the University. Stanford is highly dependent on Caltrain to keep their No Net New Trip numbers in check. Stanford needs to help upgrade the Caltrain grade separations since gate down time is the main cause of local traffic, and the main user of Caltrain is Stanford.


Consider Your Options.
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2022 at 12:13 pm
Consider Your Options. , Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Dec 6, 2022 at 12:13 pm

I agree with Interested Reader 100%.



Interested Reader
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Dec 6, 2022 at 1:49 pm
Interested Reader, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Dec 6, 2022 at 1:49 pm

@Wilma Flores - Stanford, Palo Alto, and the County all answer to each other as part of a formal agreement known as the 1985 Land Use Agreement (or the Tri-party agreement). Here is a link to that document: Web Link

The article is about how they are trying to update that agreement - and all three parties are EQUAL in that contract - and Stanford is therefore under economic obligation.


MyFeelz
Registered user
JLS Middle School
on Dec 6, 2022 at 2:08 pm
MyFeelz, JLS Middle School
Registered user
on Dec 6, 2022 at 2:08 pm

The Stanford dictatorship says gimme gimme gimme and the City (which wouldn't exist without Stanford) says "yes my lord".

Wilma, "effective" and "countywide" are not terms that work in Santa Clara County. Are you sure you are from here or are you taking a break from some kind of performance art, and reading METRO magazine?

Native ... The Mayfield place is a perfect example of everything that's wrong with "affordable housing". Here's a tip to bypass city and county corruption and get something done about an uninhabitable situation: "The State of California Department of Consumer Affairs can help with questions or complaints regarding landlord/tenant relationships, including repair issues, safety violations, and Health and Safety Code violations. For further information, call (800) 952-5210, or visit the website at www.dca.ca.gov." PA is not exempt from state law. Don't need to get a grand jury involved in it, either. Epecially since the City ignores grand jury recommendations.


lulu
Registered user
Los Altos
on Dec 6, 2022 at 4:38 pm
lulu, Los Altos
Registered user
on Dec 6, 2022 at 4:38 pm

Stanford needs to construct park and rides, and use their Marguerite system to transport employees/students onto campus. The line of traffic exiting 280 and 101 at Page Mill and Oregon Expy is terrible and the number of cars clogging our local roads is deplorable. They need to take some responsibility for the increasing amount of traffic they are creating.


Jerry
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 6, 2022 at 4:48 pm
Jerry, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Dec 6, 2022 at 4:48 pm

@Wilma, the real travesty here is housing in Palo Alto and surrounding communities has become unaffordable to many in the middle class. At the same time, deep-pocketed Stanford has been buying up and leasing surrounding subdivisions for use by students and facility. See @Online Name's most erudite comment.

It's about time that Stanford engages fairly and recognizes the problems caused by this policy.
Greer Stone's comment about restrictions on who lives in Stanford housing shouldn't just be a concern-- it should be a cause to pull the fire alarm.


Mac Peterson
Registered user
Stanford
on Dec 7, 2022 at 8:43 am
Mac Peterson, Stanford
Registered user
on Dec 7, 2022 at 8:43 am

Concurring with Wilma Flores. Stanford University is merely looking after its own people which is what Palo Alto is trying to do except that Palo Alto is fruitlessly trying to accommodate a plethora outsiders who should be residing elsewhere due to affordability factors and considerations.

If one cannot afford a Mercedes, consider driving a Hyundai instead.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 7, 2022 at 10:02 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Dec 7, 2022 at 10:02 am

"Any agreement with Stanford, the City and the County has to include Stanford paying their fare share of grade separations."

And their share of police resources since at least 1/3 of all reported crimes happen at Stanford Shopping Center which sits on Stanford land and from which Stanford profits.

They're so self-interested they even objected to paying school tax for their always-growing population at PASD schools.


MyFeelz
Registered user
JLS Middle School
on Dec 7, 2022 at 4:36 pm
MyFeelz, JLS Middle School
Registered user
on Dec 7, 2022 at 4:36 pm

@Online Name, don't forget they should shoulder 1/3 of the cost of the webcams they want to have detectives watching 24/7 in certain superior neighborhoods.


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