Stanford prepares for next major chapter of campus expansion

University looks to expand academic facilities by more than 2 million square feet and add 3,150 units of housing by 2035

Faced with a heavy demand for housing, evolving academic disciplines and anticipated growth in its undergraduate population, Stanford University is preparing to expand its campus by more than 2 million square feet over the next 17 years, according to an application the university submitted Monday with Santa Clara County.

With its application for a new General Use Permit (GUP), the university is looking to secure the county's permission for an expansion that would roughly mirror the pace of growth that the university has experienced since 2000, when it last went through the rigorous permitting process.

Much like the 2000 General Use Permit -- which enabled Stanford to expand its facilities in unincorporated Santa Clara County by 2 million square feet -- the new one would not pertain any particular academic building or housing facility. Rather, the 2018 GUP would give Stanford the license to expand its campus facilities by up to 2.28 million square feet between 2018 and 2035, while also giving the university the flexibility to select the exact location, density and function of the new buildings.

The expected growth is based in large part on recent growth trends. Catherine Palter, Stanford's associate vice president for land use and environmental planning, said 2.28 million square feet represents growth of about 1.2 percent per year, which roughly reflects the university's pace since the 2000 permit. In addition, the application asks for permission to construct 3,150 new on-campus housing units for faculty and beds for students by 2035.

The idea is to build housing in conjunction with academic facilities, based on a "housing linkage" analysis in the 2000 GUP, which showed that about 2,753 housing units are required when between 2 million and 2.28 million square foot of new academic space is built.

The application for the 2018 GUP was prompted by the fact that Stanford has developed 1.5 million square feet of academic space in the past 16 years, which is near the limit of the 2 million square feet allowed by the 2000 permit.

On housing, the university recently sought to exceed the threshold set in the 2000 document with its proposed Escondido Village, a complex that will include 2,000 beds for graduate students as well as a host of support services such as a gym, a cafe and a transit hub. The Escondido Village project exceeds the county-approved allotment by 1,450 beds.

"The authorizations in the GUP are just about exhausted, and we need to think about the next increment of what we want to do,” Jean McCown, Stanford's director of community relations, told the Weekly.

The 2000 agreement gave Stanford flexibility to apply for more housing units, however, if demand exceeds the university projections. The county Board of Supervisors agreed to allow Stanford to go beyond the GUP threshold and approved the Escondido project in March.

The 2018 GUP is expected to have a similar provision, Palter told the Weekly.

While Stanford has yet to draw up exact proposals for new facilities, the university has indicated that the vast majority of the new academic development (1.8 million square feet) would be clustered near the center of its campus. No new buildings would be constructed outside the academic-growth boundary outlined in the 2000 GUP. The San Juan district near the Foothills would not see any growth, according to Stanford's map.

(View a map of where the academic and residential space would be built.)

Housing, on the other hand, would be focused in some of the more peripheral areas of the campus, with the most dramatic increase taking place in East Campus (near Stanford Avenue), where 1,600 student beds would be added. In addition, the area around Lake Lagunita would get about 800 housing beds, while the area closest to downtown Palo Alto, around Quarry Road, would get about 550 beds. Another 200 beds are eyed for central campus.

McCown said that Stanford's desire to expand its academic facilities is driven by the same factors that prompted its expansion plans in 2000: a need to accommodate emerging and expanding disciplines. When the university was applying for the 2000 permit, she said, no one knew exactly how the 2 million square feet would be used.

Today, expansions in fields like stem-cell research and neuroscience have led Stanford to take a fresh look at the types of research facilities that would be needed to accommodate these disciplines, McCown said.

But while the university is expecting to evolve over the next 17 years, one key policy will remain unchanged from the 2000 permit: Stanford's commitment to keep commuter traffic at current levels, known as the "no net new commutes." The policy, which was adopted as part of the 2000 permit, prompted Stanford to pursue an aggressive transportation-demand-management program that has succeeded in reducing the rate of solo car commuters to campus from 78 percent to 50 percent.

Palter said that while Stanford recognizes the challenge of adding 2.28 million square feet of development without, consequently, adding traffic, the university believes it can accomplish this feat. McCown noted that this could mean expanding its shuttle system so that it serves the immediate area outside campus, thus reducing car commuters from nearby communities.

It would also likely involve more transit subsidies, vanpool programs and bicycle amenities improvements, which have proved successful since 2000. And it would almost certainly involve programs that have not yet been devised but that will be tailored to the evolving needs of students, faculty and staff.

"Every few years we need to bring in something new using our data about where people live and what's going to be the most effective way to get on campus," Palter said. "We've done enough analysis to realize that we're comfortable keeping this goal."

Furthermore, Stanford has not requested permission to build any new parking facilities on its campus. That's because the university isn't fully using the allotment for parking granted to it under the 2000 GUP.

Palter also noted that the university has studied the possibility of a "modest expansion" of undergraduate enrollment, which would increase by about 100 students per year through 2035. According to a brochure Stanford released in conjunction with its GUP application, the expansion is prompted by a "recognition of the fact that applications to Stanford have increased dramatically in recent years while spaces available have not, resulting in one of the lowest rates of admission in the nation."

"Providing a reasonable increase in the number of talented students for whom a Stanford education is accessible has therefore become an increasing priority," the brochure states.

Stanford's submittal of the application Monday is an early step in what promises to be a lengthy review process that will include community forums, reviews by Santa Clara County planning staff and the publication of a Draft Environmental Impact Report evaluating the potential impacts of the proposed new development.

The first public outreach meeting is scheduled for Jan. 25. The County of Santa Clara County will likely hold a scoping meeting for the permit's environmental-impact report in February, McCown said.

For more information and to view the application, go to


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22 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 22, 2016 at 9:35 am

More housing on campus along with shuttle busses and bike paths would reduce car traffic on city streets, if they didn't increase the number of students and faculty at the same time

22 people like this
Posted by Tom
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 22, 2016 at 11:46 am

Interesting story, full of facts -- except for one of the most important ones. Nowhere is there a mention of Redwood City. Stanford is in the process of developing about 35 acres of land there for administrative and research space. The first phase is expected to be complete in 2019, and eventually 2400 staff will be located there. Many if not most administrative units will be relocated there from campus, leaving that space available for academic buildings and housing.

This is huge for the GUP, since Redwood City is in San Mateo County, not Santa Clara, so all the car trips, etc., that will be involved with the RC campus won't count against the Santa Clara GUP. See Web Link for details.

How did this get overlooked?

24 people like this
Posted by SJW
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 22, 2016 at 12:01 pm

SJW is a registered user.

The best part of this new GUP is that it will NOT increase car usage at least that what the article in the Stanford Report said. What a joke. I guess none of these 3150 units of housing will have people who need to go to dentists, grocery stores, ballet lessons, or alike. The way Stanford crafts its information is astonishing. There will be more traffic in adjacent communities and there is no way to avoid it. GO Stanford! at least that's what the City seems to say.

50 people like this
Posted by Sighing Heavily
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 22, 2016 at 12:37 pm

Oh, please, God, NO!

Palo Alto was here before Stanford was.... tired of them impacting Palo Alto more every year, acting as if they own the city.

I have lived in other college towns, but Stanford oversteps it's boundaries far more than other schools!

24 people like this
Posted by Mutti
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 22, 2016 at 12:56 pm

Oops, Stanford was here before Palo Alto. Leland Stanford built the town of Palo Alto for his university. Before that we only had Mayfield. That was the bars and brothels along what is now California Avenue. Stanford wanted his town to be dry. No liquor stores in Palo Alto. The closest ones for many years, by state law, were in whiskey Gulch, now Four Seasons Hotel in San Mateo County, and Ernie's Liquors down in Barron Park that was out of Palo Alto city limits.

5 people like this
Posted by ACKftt
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 22, 2016 at 1:38 pm

That's right. There was no Palo Alto until Mr. Stanford created it to serve his university.

33 people like this
Posted by Okay
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 22, 2016 at 2:00 pm

Then how is it that Palo Alto High School was built four years before Stanford?????

11 people like this
Posted by Wrong
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 22, 2016 at 2:05 pm

Paly was founded in 1898. Stanford in 1885.

6 people like this
Posted by paly
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 22, 2016 at 2:06 pm

Stanford University was founded in 1885. Palo Alto High didn't come along until 13 years later.

32 people like this
Posted by Okay
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 22, 2016 at 2:43 pm

Then why did Stanford celebrate their 100- year anniversary in the autumn of 1994?

It was claimed at the time that Stanfordbwas FOUNDED in 1894, four years AFTER Paly!

2 people like this
Posted by Paly
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 22, 2016 at 2:55 pm

Paly & Gunn High & PAUSD offices are located on Stanford land leased for $1 a year as long as they remain public schools.

4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of another community
on Nov 22, 2016 at 5:42 pm

The Stanford University project was started by Leland and Jane Stanford in 1885, and after 6 years of planning and building the campus, opened its doors and enrolled its first students in October 1st, 1891.

The city of Palo Alto was incorporated April 23, 1894 and Paly was founded in 1898.

12 people like this
Posted by LS
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 22, 2016 at 6:05 pm

Kudos to Stanford for constructing a significant amount of housing units. Such housing units will take students out of Palo Alto housing stock making units available to non-Stanford students. Palo Alto has yet to develop policies that result in any significant housing development.

13 people like this
Posted by win-win
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 22, 2016 at 10:14 pm

These new Stanford housing units will allow Stanford to continue to attract top-notch grad students, faculty and staff while, at the same time, reducing demand for Palo Alto housing, allowing downtown and Stanford Research Park tech workers to more easily find housing. One question: will these new units count towards Palo Alto's ABAG requirement? If so, win-win-win.

5 people like this
Posted by kh
a resident of another community
on Nov 23, 2016 at 3:54 am

How many scholarships does Stanford give to local financial need students (who qualify for admission)? By local I mean within Santa Clara/San Mateo counties, with special emphasis on communities like EPA. With their endowment I hope it's a big number, is it? Also what do they do for community outreach?

13 people like this
Posted by Forest
a resident of Escondido School
on Nov 23, 2016 at 8:36 am

Stanford admins converting half of student with children housing into singles and couples graduate housing. This impacts a small but diverse community of students that have children such as women, veterans, low income, and first generation. The future for diversity at Stanford will forever be limited when we loose this resource. Please email the trustees that you support diversity in housing.

7 people like this
Posted by to Forest
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 23, 2016 at 11:24 am

By converting some family housing into housing for single students Stanford will be able to accommodate far more graduate students in affordable housing units. This will be very beneficial to their graduate and professional programs. [Portion removed.]

3 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Nov 23, 2016 at 11:55 am

Scholarships are based on need, not where you live.

13 people like this
Posted by EV resident To: "To Forest"
a resident of Escondido School
on Nov 23, 2016 at 12:12 pm

It's important to be sensitive when making religious comments, and especially if that means singling out a particular religious group as not diverse. In our experience, we have had a substantial number of Mormon family neighbors (my estimate is 15%--maybe because they tend to have kids earlier), but also often an equal of number of Muslim and Jewish families (often 15% each, depending on the years), as well as other Christian and Hindu neighbors, and neighbors who I don't know their belief systems. On top of that, there is a *huge* proportion of international families--my count is over 70% international, let alone the racial and cultural diversity within the "American" families and mixed families. It is not easy to raise kids in this culture. I think Forest's point is valid that as a matter of diversity--yes, diversity--let alone human decency and work-life balance, etc., etc., Stanford needs to support families. Any either/or trade-offs are artificially created.

20 people like this
Posted by Glenn
a resident of Mayfield
on Nov 23, 2016 at 12:13 pm

30% of stanford students with children are international Web Link

I lived in escondido and many of my student neighbors were single parents (off campus with childcare is nearly impossible), nursing mothers (need to return home to nurse), low income like myself (no chance to attend stanford without this housing), and first generation. A vast range of minority groups rounded out the mix. There is a diverse community from the religious cultures across the globe. As the article above relates - I learned about Jewish sabbath rules, Catholic customs, Buddhist respect for life, and Muslim customs to accept neighbors as family. It was the greatest experience of my life. I lived immersed in diversity and it is something that has stayed with my kids as a permanent understanding and appreciation for diversity.

The key point that concerns me is women in academics. Biologically women cannot put off children like men can. Currently, many of the women in academics do not have children. This trend will not support equal participation in academics. When women are equally represented in academics, all of the current student with children housing will be needed. Without that resource - the facilities alone will dictate the participation of women as well as other demographics of diversity. Housing for children with students is a rich resource for these communities.

36 people like this
Posted by All the Same
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 23, 2016 at 12:25 pm

It would be greatly appreciated if Stanford would cease to make decisions and actions that impact the city of Palo Alto adversely!

Stanford does not have the right to crowd and pollute Palo Alto and treat this city as if they own it from the water table to the sky!

I have never seen such an unfriendly, self-centered school; not even MIT comes close.

Having lived on two continents and travelled on four, I have never visited nor heard of any major university with such a self-serving arrogance!

16 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Native
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 23, 2016 at 9:28 pm

Why does Stanford always have to grow?

Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 24, 2016 at 6:32 am

"How many scholarships does Stanford give to local financial need students (who qualify for admission)? By local I mean within Santa Clara/San Mateo counties, with special emphasis on communities like EPA. With their endowment I hope it's a big number, is it? Also what do they do for community outreach?"

Answer: Free to all where family income is less than $65K; almost if not completely free to family income under $125K

See program details here: Web Link

4 people like this
Posted by one question
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 24, 2016 at 6:51 am

"Stanford does not have the right to crowd and pollute Palo Alto and treat this city as if they own it from the water table to the sky!"

How is this different than all the buildup in Mountain View? Stanford (apart from the shopping center and Stanford Reasearch Park) is not part of Palo Alto.

14 people like this
Posted by Menlo Parker
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 25, 2016 at 12:35 pm

In my nice, older neighborhood in Menlo Park near the train station, Stanford recently purchased two lots next to each other, each with a small one story house, built in the early 1900s. Each house was torn down and replaced with three oversized houses with no back or front yards. The new three houses on each lot face each other; six large houses crammed onto every inch of space where there were once two. Since Stanford owns the property, the buyers need to be affiliated with Stanford, and they will never own their homes to pass along to their children.

I never see any sign of life when I pass these new houses, so I'm not sure anyone even lives there. I hope Stanford isn't planning on buying up more land in Menlo Park and leasing only to Stanford people.

6 people like this
Posted by cm
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 25, 2016 at 2:29 pm

Stanford should only be allowed to build more housing. Until they can house every student, professor and worker on campus and the medical center they should not be allowed to build one more square foot of space for any other use. They are one of the major drivers of overpopulation, gridlock, pollution and decreased quality of life in the area!

Like this comment
Posted by Stephen
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 25, 2016 at 2:59 pm

@Menlo Parker:
Just curious - the new Stanford houses in Menlo Park are on Laurel, right? Looking at the zoning map, where they are located is zoned R3 "Apartment District" - per the Menlo Park planning department, one use is (§16.20.020 -1):

"Three (3) or more dwelling units on lots less than ten thousand (10,000) square feet;"

Do the new houses violate this zoning?

2 people like this
Posted by Speedwalker
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 26, 2016 at 2:17 pm

Stanford is the lifeblood of the entire Silicon Valley. Without Stanford, there'd be no Palo Alto. Without Stanford, there'd be no Yahoo, Facebook, Google, or what have you. Stanford provides jobs, vitality, cultural enrichment, and great human capital to the community. Be thankful and stop whining. They're the only reason your property is worth anything in the first place.

11 people like this
Posted by Maybe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 27, 2016 at 3:15 pm

Stanford does not "own" Palo Alto or Silicon Valley or the people who live in it; yet they act as if they do.

They overfill our public schools, and pollute our water, soil and air-- and that's not even counting their rather frequent hazmat spills!

I won't even start with all the people their hospital mains and kills, BUT one of the reasons it is SO overpriced is that they have lost SO many multi-million dollar malpractice suits!

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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