Palo Alto Weekly

Real Estate - May 28, 2010

Easing Stanford faculty housing

Construction nearly finished at Olmsted Terrace, near College Terrace

by Martin Sanchez

Stanford University is building a new neighborhood near Stanford Avenue that university officials say will provide much-needed more affordable housing for Stanford University faculty members who have not already owned a home in the area.

Olmsted Terrace will consist of 39 single-family homes between Stanford Avenue and Olmsted Road on the Stanford Campus, Lisa Lapin, university communications director, said. The houses' driveways will exit onto Olmsted Road or the sections of Oberlin Street and Wellesley Street north of Stanford Avenue, Stanford faculty housing staff said.

The houses will be finished over the summer, Lapin said. A single model home will be finished "sometime in the next couple of months," at which time the other 38 homes will go on sale, she said.

Tenured or tenure-track faculty members and high-level university staff are eligible for the houses but priority will be given to tenured or tenure-track faculty members who have never owned a home on the Peninsula or certain parts of the East Bay, Lapin said.

Providing homes for new faculty members is "a very big concern" for the university, Patricia Jones, Stanford vice provost of faculty development and diversity, said. She said Stanford hired 100 new faculty members last year and 125 the year before.

"We have faculty who are just coming from being graduate students who have no savings, and we have faculty who come from other institutions in less expensive areas who bring no equity to the area," she said.

Faculty housing staff said three-bedroom house prices would start at roughly $700,000 and four-bedroom house prices would start at roughly $900,000. The final prices will be determined once a Santa Clara County assessor prices the neighborhood's individual land parcels, Lapin said.

Stanford's faculty housing staff said several restrictions on Olmsted Terrace leases allow the university to price the houses at a level that most faculty members can afford. Emeriti faculty members, as well as partners of deceased faculty members, can stay in their Olmsted Terrace home for 10 years after retirement.

Jones said Olmsted Terrace's comparatively low prices make it a "new method" of housing faculty members.

"Most of the on-campus housing before this development is not supposed to be more affordable than the surrounding community," she said.

More than 200 people have expressed interest in buying a home at Olmsted Terrace, Lapin said. The eventual house prices could deter some of those people, she said, but she still expects more than 39 would-be buyers when the homes go on sale.

"I think that this development won't change the situation that much," she said of the faculty housing issue. Most of the 850 existing houses on campus are already occupied by current or emeriti faculty members, high-level staff and the families of deceased faculty members, she said.

Noise and dust from Olmsted Terrace construction work have disturbed some residents of the nearby College Terrace neighborhood, College Terrace Residents Association (CTRA) member Melissa Campbell said.

The construction efforts have also blocked off parking spaces around Stanford Avenue, which has pushed more drivers into College Terrace to find parking, she said.

Campbell said university representatives met with College Terrace residents "over a year ago" to discuss potential conflicts over the Olmsted Terrace project and have maintained a website and e-mail account to which residents can send their concerns and comments.

"In my experience, Stanford was very responsive to our concerns. ... They have really been exemplary neighbors," she said. She cited the university's efforts to quickly clean up dust and warn College Terrace residents of construction work on Saturday mornings as examples of that "responsiveness."

College Terrace residents are glad Olmsted Terrace houses will not be directly accessible from Stanford Avenue, Campbell said. But, the new neighborhood will still increase the amount of traffic in College Terrace, she said.

"I believe there is some cause for concern about the intersection of El Camino and Stanford, especially because of the change in that intersection" she said, referring to the planned removal of right-turn lanes onto El Camino Real.

"I'm sure there will be a little transition period," she said.

Outgoing CTRA treasurer Larry Kavinoky said Stanford Avenue congestion could be relieved by diverting traffic towards alternate campus access routes such as Junipero Serra Boulevard.

Animosity between the university and its neighbors could be avoided if the university and the city of Palo Alto investigate potential traffic changes before Olmsted Terrace construction ends, he said. This "collegial" attitude would also benefit other, larger construction projects such as the planned $3.5 billion renovation of Stanford Hospital & Clinics and the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, he said.

"I think the housing is great, and I like to have it here. ... We have to do it in a way that keeps it livable for all of us," he said.

Palo Alto school board officials said children from Olmsted Terrace will probably attend Escondido Elementary, Lapin said. That decision could change if Escondido does not have room for the new students, she said.

Seven of the Olmsted Terrace homes will have four bedrooms and three bathrooms and the remaining 32 will have three bedrooms and two bathrooms, Stanford's faculty housing staff said. Average lot size is about 4,900 square feet, staff said.

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