he process was sometimes contentious, and there were
sharp disagreements and even threats of lawsuits along the way.
But in the end, a compromise was reached on Stanford's future development
plans that seemed to mostly satisfy the key groups involved.
The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisor voted unanimously Monday
morning to approve a set of planning guidelines for Stanford development
for the next 10 years, a plan that leaves the Stanford hills protected
for at least 25 years--unless a future county board changes that.
The fight had been over the
Stanford hills and what kind of protection the land should get.
Supervisor Joe Simitian, who led the public planning process
over the last year or so, had suggested a 99-year plan for protecting
1,000 acres of the Stanford hills.
had pushed for permanent protection for all of the hills, a position
the Palo Alto and Menlo Park city councils also backed.
the end, the board approved a 25-year building ban in the hills
that could be amended later.
Once the final language in
the Stanford's new general use permit and community plan is approved
by the county board Dec. 12--a formality after Monday--Stanford
will have the green light to build 2 million square feet of new
academic buildings and 3,000 units of faculty, staff and graduate
student housing over the next 10 years.
But Stanford didn't
everything it wanted, either. The Stanford-written first draft of
its development plan was largely rewritten by county planners to
provide much more planning detail, and agreeing to keep development
out of the foothills for 25 years was also more than the university
But, as Stanford President John Hennessy
said Monday, it's a plan the university can live with.
significance of the community plan is that, once approved, it becomes
part of the county's General Plan, which would then require action
by a future county board to change in any way.
it's a good agreement for everybody," Hennessy said. "I think it's
a good balance of what Stanford would have liked and what other
members of the community would have liked...
think we can live with this agreement. I think we can continue to
be a strong university and prosper with this agreement as it currently
stands. It's certainly not the agreement we would have written...but
I think it's an agreement we are cautiously optimistic we can live
Environmental groups Stanford Open Space Alliance
and Committee for Green Foothills had a high-profile public campaign
over the last few weeks, with newspaper and TV ads and even campaign
lawn signs calling for protection of the foothills, which the county
action falls short of.
"It's a step in the right direction,"
said Peter Drekmeier of the Stanford Open Space Alliance. "It used
to be that Stanford got everything they wanted, now they just get
most of they wanted."
Drekmeier noted that he and others
had hoped for hills-core campus tradeoff, where development rights
from the foothills would be transferred to the core campus, in return
for leaving the hills alone. A version of this concept was also
part of Simitian's suggestion.
For Simitian, who was elected
to the state Assembly Nov. 7, approval of the Stanford plan ended
what had been a tiring and sometimes difficult year of work on the
Simitian's proposal for 99 years of protection
for 1,000 hillside acres caused Stanford to say it would reject
the plan with such a provision and would sue, if necessary.
threat of a lawsuit may have been a factor in the lack of support
Simitian had from his supervisorial colleagues for the 99-year,
"I can count to three," Simitian said
Monday, referring to the number of votes needed on the board to
get anything passed.
"I said at the onset of this process
that the question was whether a great university can stay great
without compromising the quality of life in surrounding communities,"
Simitian said. "I thought it could be done, and I think it has been
It isn't clear whether opposition will remain to
the plan. Denice Dade of the Committee for Green Foothills said
earlier in the process that any plan without permanent protection
for the foothills would be unacceptable.
One result of
Monday's action is that Stanford will have to submit a plan to the
county for "sustainable development" beyond what will be allowed
in the general use permit that should be approved in December.
means that the university will have to take a longer look at its
own future, which could result in some sort of ultimate build-out
or development cap being set for the campus.
"We're very much in favor of a build-out study," Larry Horton,
Stanford's director of government and community relations, said
before Monday's meeting. Hennessy said later that the "sustainable
development plan" needs to be defined further to determine what