After a year and a half on the sidelines, the concept of transforming the corner of Page Mill Road and El Camino Real into soccer fields finally kicked off Tuesday with the long-awaited announcement of a development agreement between Stanford University and the City of Palo Alto.
According to the deal, the city will lease the 6-acre Mayfield parcel from Stanford for $1 a year for 51 years. By next fall, children and adults could be competing in soccer games on two regulation fields, and warming up on a smaller practice field. Stanford will build the fields at an estimated cost of $2.5 million.
The turf is expected to be artificial, according to City Manger Frank Benest, with the city footing the cost to upgrade the turf from natural, which Stanford will pay for, to artificial.
As part of the agreement, the University also agreed to build at least 250 units of housing on two sites, one at El Camino Real near California Avenue and the other at California and Hanover Street. Between 50 and 70 of those units would be affordable housing.
The housing will improve the city's jobs/housing imbalance, according to Benest.
In exchange for the fields and housing, Stanford will receive the right to build research and development and office space on 300,000 square feet of land in the Stanford Research Park. In total, it is getting the 300,000 square feet but relinquishing the use of 438,000 square feet between the fields and the housing.
City regulations have limited Stanford's ability to build in the research park due to the impact the additional traffic and noise can have on Palo Alto.
One outstanding concern voiced in the past by south Palo Alto residents has been that additional building at the Stanford Research Park would bring more traffic to the Arastradero Road area.
According to Benest, the new development could occur anywhere in the research park. However, to ease concerns over traffic, the city is planning to install traffic signals at Arastradero and Hillview Avenue and Deer Creek Road and Arastradero.
The city is also planning to adjust the intersection of Hanover and Page Mill to accommodate for additional traffic.
The bulk of the new housing -- 17 acres -- will be located next to the College Terrace neighborhood. The intent will be to design homes that reflect the current style of College Terrace, Benest said.
He also predicted that traffic congestion will be reduced for the neighborhood, when commercial space is replaced by housing.
The housing will not be built until the current leases expire for the businesses currently occupying the land. Stanford is expected to apply to build 185 units by 2013 and the remainder by 2020.
A deal for the Mayfield land was originally proposed four years ago, when the city sought land for the Jewish Community Center. Though that deal fell through, city staff continued discussions with Stanford over the parcel.
"This has been a tough negotiation," said Larry Horton, director of government and community relations for Stanford. "It's taken a year and a half but the challenges were great."
Unlike many development proposals that come before the City Council, this development agreement is not open to tweaking by the council members.
"It's an up or down vote," said Horton.
The agreement is expected to be reviewed at two Planning and Transportation Commission meetings in January and February and voted on by the council in March. The environmental-impact report is currently available for public review and comment.
If the council approves the deal, there will be a 90-day appeal period, after which construction on the fields can begin.