Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian will host a public meeting on Tuesday regarding Stanford University's 2018 General Use Permit (GUP) application. As the public comment period is ending Feb. 2, the meeting will be one of the last opportunities for residents to make verbal public comments regarding the GUP.
If the permit is approved, the permit will allow Stanford University to build up to 2.275 million square feet in academic space, 3,150 housing units and 40,000 square feet of child care space and other supporting facilities between 2018 and 2035. Due to requests from the cities of Palo Alto and Menlo Park, Santa Clara County planners extended the public comment period in late November to Feb. 2.
"We had the initial comment period of 60 days — that period has been extended by an additional 60 days, which takes us to Feb. 2, 2018," Simitian said. "There does seem to be a growing awareness of, and interest in, the project, and I wanted to make sure we provided a final opportunity before the comment period closes for people to weigh in."
The meetings allow the public to make comments regarding the corresponding Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for Stanford's proposed expansion.
The proposed expansion, if granted, could bring a diverse range of consequences to surrounding communities. According to Simitian, residents are most concerned about the impact on traffic, the existing housing crisis, protection of the foothills and the issue of the campus's eventual "maximum build-out," or the point at which Stanford will stop expanding permanently.
Palo Alto officials remain concerned about lack of relative housing proposed in the expansion, which would encompass a population expansion of more than 9,600 people, including students, faculty and support staff, Simitian said in an earlier interview with the Weekly.
Traffic is an area of major concern, although since 2000, Stanford has largely upheld its policy of "no net new trips," which commits the university to limit contributions to rush-hour traffic. The university has only exceeded the commute threshold three times since it began the policy, each time doing so by only slightly more than 1 percent. Now, with the added strain from the proposed expansion, the city is unconvinced that the university will be able to continue upholding the policy.
Residents also remain skeptical of the local government's ability to mitigate the impacts of the expansion, according to Simitian. "Putting Stanford University aside for a minute, what I've heard from folks in the community is 'look, every time a project gets approved in any jurisdiction, we're told that the impacts are fully mitigated, and yet here we are, all these years later, with traffic that is worse, and a housing crisis that has grown exponentially worse,'" he said. "And understandably, people have grown skeptical about the ability of local governments to truly mitigate the impacts of development, and I think those questions are going to be front and center as we go through the process."
The hearing aims to give members of the public a last chance to submit a verbal comment regarding the EIR. Once comments are recorded, the county is "obliged to respond" to them, Simitian said. "I think almost everyone I talked to wants Stanford University to continue to prosper and succeed in its mission, but they also want Stanford University to fully mitigate the impacts of their development. That's the challenge," he said. "If people want to make sure that their issue is heard, is considered, is analyzed, then this is the time."
The meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 23, from 6-8 p.m. at Palo Alto City Hall, 250 Hamilton Ave.
• Watch Palo Alto Weekly journalists discuss Stanford's expansion on a "Behind the Headlines" webcast.