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Stanford suspends construction projects

Original post made on Jan 26, 2009

Faced by a loss of 20-30 percent of its endowment because of the recession, Stanford Provost John Etchemendy told the university's Faculty Senate last week that the university will cancel or suspend $1.2 billion in new construction projects.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, January 26, 2009, 9:27 AM

Comments (21)

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Posted by mark
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 26, 2009 at 12:58 pm

Thank God Stanford is running low on money; as can be seen by the way that Stanford continues to gobble up open space and spit it out as urban blight covered with stuco and wood all in the name of higher purpose and public enrichment, Standford is merely falling prey to what Adam Smith wrote would happen when capitalism reached the full stride it seems to have reached.

Stanford as an entity has become nothing more than a big self rightous bully i.e. bad neighbor to little people like me who when looking at a natural glade or meadow, see a place for more packed student housing and roadways when I see the beauty of leaving some space for my kids and their kids to enjoy.

So, what have we learned? Stanford will continue to spend unconstrained by anthing but money; not trees; not animals; not open space.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 26, 2009 at 4:50 pm

I'm tired of Palo Alto residents complaining that Stanford is "using up all the green space". Stanford has the only green space nearby because Palo Alto had no plan to preserve theirs and used it all up years ago. Stanford green space is not there so PA residents can have a place to play. It's there to support a world-class university.

If you want some place for your kids to enjoy, go to Foothills Park and Baylands Park, and work to preserve them.


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Posted by Jill
a resident of Nixon School
on Jan 26, 2009 at 5:02 pm

Just take a look at Google Earth and see where the green space dips down toward developed areas --- on Stanford land.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 26, 2009 at 8:09 pm

SOme of us are affiliated with educational institutions that live within more reasonable budgets all along. I have a hard time feeling sympathetic to Stanford U.


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Posted by George
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 26, 2009 at 8:18 pm

At a time when the US is sorely falling behind in the education of our children in the sciences and the activity of basic scientific research, I find the local NIMBYs to be incredible self serving and short sighted. When the US financial outlook looks like Italy and France in another 20 years, you people will complain that Stanford didn't do enough. We live in the shadow of the one of the top 5 scientific institions in the world. We're supposed to embrace this national and dare I say global treasure, not bash it with our Lillipution clubs ever chance we get.

Get some perspective!


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Posted by not buying it
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 26, 2009 at 8:59 pm

Obviously our kids can't learn science unless they're studying in a building that costs at least $500mm. Right.

Twenty years from now, I hope that Stanford finds value in the fact that the economy forced them to take a hard look at their free-spending habits and adopt a more appropriate financial model.


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Posted by George
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 26, 2009 at 9:23 pm

It costs a lot to construct building in one of world's most expensive places to live. Perhaps you're not familiar with the market economy. Stanford must compete with other Universities for the best students and faculty in the world. We have PhD candidates from all over the world coming here to learn, teach, and research. Sorry if the externalities of attempting to build our economy in a globally competitive world makes you cranky. We're losing to India and China, both of whom are churning out far more bachelors degree recipients in math, engineering, and science than the US is creating.

Don't fight the facts.


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Posted by not buying it
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 26, 2009 at 10:07 pm

You have that backwards, George. U.S. universities dominate the most respected higher education rankings (Shanghai Jiao Tong's ARWU and The Times). The most affluent and connected Indians and Chinese are still sending their children to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford, not to IIT and Tsinghua, and they do so because they recognize our superior academic system, an excellence that has no apparent correlation with the expense of the physical plant.

Get out of that ivory tower much?


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Posted by KT
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 27, 2009 at 12:27 am

The scientists working at Stanford University are the ones that will get this country moving on developing new and efficient means to harness energy and hopefully help get the US back in the game as a world leader!!! Too bad the majority of you don't understand what it takes to really practice cutting edge science..new and improved technology to work with is a start...up to date facilities help! Without these new structures/facilities the research takes longer! Why do you all join the ballgame and contribute to Stanford so that we can become world leaders again and hopefully takes steps to save our Mother Earth?


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Posted by Roger
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 27, 2009 at 9:18 am

Stanford like many institutions has been hit hard by the current recession. The decision to reduce spending on construction should enable the University to focus its resources on its faculty. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Look on bright side
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 27, 2009 at 10:30 pm

The world wide depression is tragic for so many people, people losing their jobs, their homes, their healthcare.
Stanford is losing a few billion from its many billion dollar endowment. Please remind me to cry. Perhaps it will now restrain its voracious greed just a little, one can only hope.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Jan 28, 2009 at 10:33 am

Palo Alto -- so much selfishness, so little insight from a community that is supposedly so educated.

Folks...a good deal of your housing value and prestige comes from the location of SU in your community. If you don't like it in PA, take the inflated profits from the sale of your home and move elsewhere on the Peninsula -- where there is no university. How about Burlingame? No University traffic and no University open space to deal with.

Some PA residents are so acrimonious and take normal town/gown friction to such unbelievable levels.


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Posted by not buying it
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 28, 2009 at 12:40 pm

Burlingame and San Mateo have prices comparable to Palo Alto's. Stanford's proximity may contribute to the "prestige" for some, but there are also many negatives associated with living next door to a big university. The negatives are growing but the advantages are not.

If having a top tier school in your midst were truly a panacea for a community, then New Haven wouldn't be such a dump, and Boston, with 30 universities, would be the most sought-after hometown in the world.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Jan 28, 2009 at 1:48 pm

No one said having a university is some sort of "panacea" --- but a couple of points:

Boston's problems were not caused by its universities. In fact, the income they generate (associated businesses, R/D, etc.) and the services (medical, cultural, etc. provides revenue to help the city sustain and modernize it's VERY old and decaying infrastructure. Ditto the cities that benefit from Yale, Johns Hopkins, Penn, etc.

Universities must evolve to remain current. SU is developing it's physical space as per its negotiated plan with Palo Alto. To mitigate densities on the main campus, it is moving some major operations to Redwood City. Even with the main campus' current physical growth, Stanford remains the ONLY significant open space on the Peninsula.

Palo Alto's constant complaints against Stanford, and indeed ANY development in their city, lack credibility and is SO TIRESOME.




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Posted by mendicant
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 3, 2009 at 2:42 pm

A little over 20 years ago, the Oval was a mess, the Quad was gravel, the Dish routes were dirt and lightly traveled, and (despite the fence) were easy to get to, at any time of day (or night, for that matter). The central portion of campus, defined roughly by Campus Drive, had a great deal of green space.

I regret the green space is gone. As both a PA resident, and Stanford student, I regret it. The rest, I don't have a problem with. It's the university's right to build, according to the laborious agreements with PA, Menlo Park, Santa Clara Co., and San Mateo Co. Blame Stanford, if you will, but only equally with local, elected government.

I don't necessarily agree that bigger is better. (I'm reminded of Dr. Seuss and the Lorax.) Arguably, Stanford could have preserved the central campus, and either built further away, converted rental property to academic property, or bought land for an entire new campus. But the university pursued growth, attracted the money from research grants and tuition, and determined the growth would be on the central academic lands, not the external lands.

I don't agree with the chest-beaters on either side here. I'm happy with my community character, and am pleased with the proximity of Stanford in terms of intellectualism, arts, culture, science, engineering. Would leaving more of the campus open have been a benefit? Yes. Does its absence inject a fatal flaw to the landscape? No.

If you *really* want to get hot about the issue, go back to Fred Terman and the launching of technology in the 30s and 40s (e.g. HP and Varian), long before Silicon Valley was even a dream. Go back to the 60s and 70s, when Santa Clara Valley was almost completely agricultural, the Valley of Heart's Delight. Go back to the urban planners and political leaders of the 60s and 70s, who cursed us with 50s-style planning, separating workplaces from living spaces by large distances, bridged only by roads never wide enough for the burgeoning traffic, and never spanned by adequate public transportation.

But, IMO it's a waste of time. Keep working on MROSD and other green spaces, and making our region even more accessible for hiking, walking, bicycling, boating, bayside and foothills-side. It's already pretty good, and I think can only get better. If you want to bird-dog Stanford, then try to keep any further development confined to already-developed areas, or to satellite areas (e.g. the SU Hospital campus along 101 in Redwood City), and away from spillover west of Foothill, or farther up into the hills.


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Posted by Treebound
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 6, 2009 at 9:29 am

Nice points Mendi. The reality is that Stanford has preserved the land reasonably well over the past 100+ years. The university could have taken a much more aggressive approach to development and growth, but has tried to bring balance the building vs green space. Had this land had been sold off by the Stanford family, it would have been (over)developed long ago. It's prime real estate in one of the most desirable locations found anywhere.

Mendi's point on Terman is spot on. The reality is that many of the people that complain most about Stanford's development were brought to this area through the boom of high tech, which at its heart, stemmed from Stanford. They have added to the overcrowding and exacerbated the issue. How ironic is their positioning and it undermines their argument imho.


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Posted by Jimmy Noh
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 6, 2009 at 11:25 pm

Stanford is great for the community but the president has been way to gungho with development, and not all of a high standard. The new student housing is Mc multi unit Mansion and the provost clearly didnt see the recession coming although half the faculty did. The result will be that the president and provost will keep the 30 million they made in the last boom, the Mc multi Mansions will go ahead, and the faculty will have their salaries slashed or tenure tracks stymied. And they talk about priorities!


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Posted by Support Decision
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 7, 2009 at 11:53 am

I admire the commitment to continue funding students from families of less than $100,000/year income, instead of continuing building. I think the priorities are correct.

Thank you Stanford.


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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 8, 2009 at 8:20 am

Palo Alto without Stanford= Gary, Indiana.
Stamnford pumps plenty of money into PA's coffers and all people do is whine about Stanford.
Raed Friday's PA Daily--the council's recent boondoggle--Destination Palio Alto is a failure--people come to PA because of stanford, not because of any tourist attractions PA offers.
Stanford is not the evil empire


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Posted by pragmatic
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 8, 2009 at 10:12 am

There are a few hundred thousand cities in the US that aren't next door to Stanford, and only one is Gary, Indiana. Palo Alto is a nice place to live in spite of Stanford, not because of it.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 8, 2009 at 10:32 am

One of the reasons PAUSD is so good is that people here value education - another potential Stanford influence. If you look at many of the school districts that PiE compared PAUSD to, many have colleges near by. Wellesley has Wellesley College and Babson, New Trier has Northwestern and University of Chicago, Edina has 5 colleges, Scarsdale has 7, Chapel Hill has University of North Carolina.

Last time I checked, you couldn't wear shorts in Gary, Indiana in March. Nor can you drive to the oceans, mountains, etc. in a few hours. PA is a nice place to live, period.


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