Eyeing future growth on its campus, Stanford University is asking for the county's permission to add 1,600 new housing units or beds for students along its border with the College Terrace neighborhood, university officials told members of the College Terrace Residents Association last week. The units would comprise more than half of the university's total proposed new housing under its 2018 general use permit (GUP) application.
But residents of College Terrace, which lies west of El Camino Real and north of Page Mill Road, say they have borne the brunt of traffic and parking generated by Stanford and raised concerns about the proposed housing. They said that despite Stanford's existing traffic-management program, which has cut traffic by 22 percent since 2000, and a City of Palo Alto-run residential parking permit program, the neighborhood still experiences parking problems and noise late at night from Stanford visitors and residents.
Stanford's application to the County of Santa Clara is asking for permission to build 2.275 million square feet of academic and academic-related facilities and 40,000 square feet of child care space or facilities to support transportation management, such as a transit hub. To balance that academic growth, Stanford proposes to add 2,600 units or new beds of student housing and 550 faculty and staff housing units through the year 2035. The university proposes to place the faculty and staff housing adjacent to the south side of Quarry Road. Eight hundred student beds would be located by Junipero Serra Boulevard and Campus Drive and 200 would be in the center of the campus; the rest would be located to the east, adjacent to College Terrace. About 200,000 square feet of academic buildings would be added next to the new housing in an area fronted by El Camino Real.
The number of housing units or beds is tied to a ratio of housing units per square feet of academic development, said Catherine Palter, associate vice president of land use and environmental planning. For every 500,000 square feet of academic construction, Stanford must build 605 housing units.
The growth stems from Stanford's likely plan to increase its undergraduate admissions by 1,700 students over 17 years, officials said.
The 2018 GUP request to build a total of 3,510 units would be roughly 500 units greater than the county allowed under the 2000 general-use permit. But even then, the housing cap might not be a hard number. The university is also requesting a clause that would allow it to ask the county Planning Commission to approve additional housing if needed without having to go through another GUP process.
The university is currently adding 1,450 units of graduate-student housing over the 2000 GUP limit within the Escondido Village complex, which is adjacent to College Terrace, after the planning commission approved the application in 2016.
To address neighborhood concerns about increased traffic and parking, the application establishes a goal to achieve "no new net commute" trips, meaning that it keep commuter traffic from students and staff at the same level as it is now.
Palter noted the university's transportation-demand management program has reduced commuter traffic from 72 percent in 2000 to 50 percent today. The university is proposing additional measures to control and reduce traffic, including adding automated monitoring of vehicle trips into and out of campus; expanding its commuter bus service; possible expansion of its Marguerite shuttles for connections to and from transit hubs; and identifying key bicycle improvements.
The university does not plan to increase parking beyond the 2,300 spaces allowed in the 2000 general use permit, in keeping with its "no net new commuter trips" goal, but it will propose that the 2018 permit allows the university to seek approval from the county planning commission for additional parking under certain circumstances.
But College Terrace residents pointed out that traffic-management planning doesn't include what happens on weekends and nighttime parking. The traffic-reduction achievements the university claims also do not include trips to and from Escondido Elementary School; traffic management only covers "commuter activity," but not school traffic.
Mary Fitzgerald, a Stanford Avenue resident, said graduate students park on Wellesley Street at all hours of the night. The parking-permit program is in effect only during weekdays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
"It's a nightmare. Our street is packed all of the time," she said, noting the sound of car doors slamming and loud voices that continue to awaken her at 3 a.m. Students are foregoing buying parking permits on campus, she said.
Jean McCown, associate vice president of public affairs, admitted that campus residents who live in Escondido Village and who skirt parking-permit fees are a problem the university hasn't managed. She said that perhaps the City of Palo Alto could restrict nighttime parking in the neighborhood.
College Terrace resident Fred Balin said he has concerns that Stanford won't be able to meet its net-neutral traffic goals.
"Stanford has not yet identified any ways in which they will increase the scope of their transportation demand management; at present it appears to be a future suite of concepts to be accepted on faith," he said.
He was also not comfortable with a proposal to fine the university for increased traffic by having it give money to the county for traffic programs rather than the university taking responsibility for traffic improvements itself, as it does currently.
Balin also cautioned Stanford officials at the meeting that residents felt short-changed during a prior process -- the Mayfield development, which added 180 units of faculty housing along California Avenue -- because residents did not feel they had much warning to respond to the legally required comment period on environmental impacts, a period that also fell during the holidays.
McCown took note of the residents' concerns.
Stanford's GUP must go through multiple steps before it can be approved by the county, and the public will have multiple opportunities to comment.
Palter said the county anticipates publishing a Draft Environmental Impact Report in mid-September, beginning a 60-day public comment period. A final EIR that addresses public comment would be published in spring 2018.
As part of the process, the permit must undergo a county planning commission hearing and recommendation and the county Board of Supervisors will hold a hearing and vote on approving the permit.