Guest Opinion: Residents have their own perspective on Stanford trails
Original post made
on Jun 29, 2012
The decade-long Stanford trails saga has been playing out in county boardrooms, city councils, and the courts. Hopefully, it will soon be completed.
Read the full story here Web Link
posted Saturday, June 30, 2012, 9:51 AM
Posted by James Sweeney
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 3, 2012 at 11:11 am
My guest opinion piece has led to many postings which, not surprisingly, go well beyond the issue I raised. The issue I raised is the appropriate criteria to spend the $10.3 million of funds transferred from Stanford University to Santa Clara County, under a contract that specifies that the funds can be used "only to mitigate … the adverse effect on recreational opportunities for existing or new campus residents and facility users that will be caused by the housing and academic development approved by the GUP".
My commentary was from the perspective of Stanford homeowners. In addition to students who live on campus, there are almost 900 homes on campus, with a population of probably about 2000 people. The Stanford Campus Residential Leaseholder (SCRL) Board is elected annually by and represents those homeowners (or more precisely, Leaseholders.)
However, much of these postings have questioned what Stanford University pays for or gets from Palo Alto and surrounding communities. But the residential community and Stanford University are different entities. We are homeowners who are impacted by Stanford University development. In fact, because we are contiguous to the academic campus, we are arguably more impacted than are residents of surrounding communities. Although we are not Stanford University, we do have two strong linkages to the University. The University owns the land under our homes and thus is our landlord. And each household has one or more adults who is or has been a University employee. Thus our interests sometimes coincide with Stanford University's and sometimes diverge. But importantly, we homeowners who live on Stanford land; we are not Stanford University.
The General Use Permit (GUP) gave Stanford University rights to develop additional academic and residential facilities. But the same GUP imposed over 100 conditions on Stanford, designed to mitigate impacts of that development. One and only one of those 100 conditions was designed to mitigate impacts on the campus residents and the "facility users." A fundamental point of my commentary is that it is only fair that the one condition that mitigates impacts on the Stanford residential community in fact be used in that way. Not only is it fair; the contract language includes that requirement.
But, I do not assert that the selected project should benefit only the residential community. It can and should benefit our neighbors as well. But it must substantially benefit the intended population.
In addition, many of these postings have questioned what Stanford homeowners pay in taxes and what services they get.
All Stanford homeowners pay property taxes under the rules established by Proposition 13. They pay at the same rate as do homeowners in Palo Alto, Los Altos, Mountain View, Menlo Park, or any city. Those taxes are collected by Santa Clara County, as are the taxes in Palo Alto, Los Altos, and Mountain View. However, there is one difference. Some taxes paid by residents of incorporated cities e.g. Palo Alto, Los Altos, Mountain View, Menlo Park are returned to those cities for public expenditures. However, the Stanford residential subdivision is not incorporated into any city, so none of the taxes we pay is returned to us to cover local expenditures.
In addition, cities include stores, hotels, or other businesses. These businesses pay taxes, much of which goes to back to the city to cover local expenditures. The Stanford homeowner community has no such tax revenue sources.
Cities pay for their local public services fire and police, road maintenance through taxes they collect. The Stanford homeowners need the same services but have no tax revenues to pay for them. Thus we directly pay for those services through monthly fees paid to the University. The University pays Santa Clara County to provide police services more precisely sheriff services and it pays Palo Alto to provide fire services. The fees paid by homeowners include their proportion of these costs. Similarly, the fees include costs of road maintenance, tree planting, outdoor environment maintenance in the common spaces. These fees are not taxes, so unlike property taxes, they are not deductions for the purpose of state and federal income taxes.
Stanford homeowners pay for schools exactly the way other homeowners pay for schools: though the general property taxes and the specific school taxes. We, like Palo Alto residents and many Los Altos Hills residents, are part of the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD). We pay for our portion of the school bonds passed, just as do Palo Alto and Los Altos Hills residents in the PAUSD.
In short, Stanford residential homeowners pay their share of taxes. The only differences is that, unlike incorporated cities, no tax revenues are returned to support our community and thus we must pay ourselves for the local public services we enjoy.