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Residents sound off on Stanford's expansion

Questions linger over university's ability to address growth impacts

More than 200 residents of Palo Alto and surrounding communities attended a meeting on Stanford University's proposed expansion Tuesday, with many citing traffic, parking, housing and foothills protection as their top concerns about the project.

Hosted by Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, the meeting focused on the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for Stanford University's General Use Permit (GUP). If approved by the county, the permit would allow Stanford to build 2.275 million square feet of academic space, in addition to 3,150 housing units and 40,000 square feet of child care centers by 2035.

The attendance at the meeting reflected the community's growing awareness and interest in the GUP, according to Simitian.

"With land use projects, folks typically become increasingly aware the closer you get to a decision day," he said. "The last one of these that we conducted here in City Hall had maybe 150 people, but many months prior to that, the planning staff had a hearing here, in Palo Alto ... that I think literally drew half a dozen people."

Simitian and his team sponsored this week's meeting to give residents an additional chance to make comments on the DEIR.

"What we heard tonight was consistent with what I've been hearing throughout the process, which is concerns about traffic, housing, protection of the foothills and open space, schools and maximum build-out," he said. "I think what's helpful is that every individual comment brings a slightly different perspective, and the conversation becomes an increasingly refined one over time."

Julianne Frizzell, a Palo Alto resident of 22 years, voiced her concern over "massive growth, seemingly without end, on the Stanford campus."

"Palo Alto and the Menlo Park area already experience too many negative impacts of Stanford's growth," she said.

Wynne Furth, a 20-year resident of Palo Alto, said Stanford should go further with their assessment of the development by also considering the indirect impacts of their growth on the community.

"I believe the environmental impact report needs to provide alternative housing for everyone who will be supporting incremental developments, and address the existing externalizing of Stanford's housing shortages in the surrounding communities, which has had rippling, damaging effects," she said.

In response to residents' concerns that the university was not doing enough to address the full impact of the proposed expansion, Lesley Lowe, a senior environmental planner at Stanford, said the university was taking the DEIR and its assessments of impacts on the community "very seriously."

"We do not take it lightly, especially when we are committing to that standard (of mitigation) for the next 17 years," she said.

Lowe also pointed out that the university had mitigated impacts on the community in the past, stating that the university's single-occupancy vehicle rate has dropped from 72 percent in 2002 to 43 percent today.

"It's not about moving people closer for shorter trips in their cars, but moving people out of their cars," she said.

Jean McCown, the director of community relations at Stanford, also spoke in support of the university's continued development.

"Our success depends on the expansion of our academic space," she said. "We understand why people are concerned about the impact of growth, but Stanford has taken many steps to avoid the negative environmental impacts, and we are actually encouraged by the results of the DEIR."

As representatives from the university addressed residents' concerns about development, some staff members from Stanford University came forward to voice their concern about the lack of affordable housing proposed in the expansion.

Doroteo Garcia, an East Palo Alto resident who has worked on the Stanford University as a janitor for 20 years, said he commutes to work by bike every morning.

"I feel very proud to work at this institution," he said, referring to Stanford. "I feel proud that Stanford has created more jobs, but here is my question: where can these people live? Like a janitor? Like a cafeteria worker? We need affordable housing for these people."

The period for public commentary closes Feb. 2 at 5 p.m. Comments on the draft environmental report may be sent to David Rader, Santa Clara County senior planner, at david.rader@pln.sccgov.org. They can also be mailed to: County of Santa Clara Department of Planning and Development, Attn: David Rader, 70 West Hedding St., San Jose, 95110.

Related content:

• Watch Palo Alto Weekly journalists discuss Stanford's proposed expansion on a "Behind the Headlines" webcast.

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Correction: This article incorrectly stated how Doroteo Garcia gets to work. He commutes by bike. Also, his quote should have read: "Here is my question: where can these people live?" Palo Alto Online regrets the errors.

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Comments

20 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 24, 2018 at 7:02 pm

The article only mentions square feet. Exactly how many new students and employees will the school be adding?


45 people like this
Posted by Thankful for Stanford
a resident of another community
on Jan 24, 2018 at 7:33 pm

Stanford has brought far more positives to Palo Alto than it has negatives. There certain tradeoffs you should really accept for having a world class university in your backyard. To complain about traffic when Stanford has likely added hundreds of thousands to everyone's home value is hypocritical.


40 people like this
Posted by stanford should House their low income workers
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 24, 2018 at 8:22 pm

stanford should House their low income workers is a registered user.

New Stanford housing should house their janitors, nurses, construction workers, etc. even if they are “contractors”. Stanford should house the majority of ALL its staff.


17 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 24, 2018 at 9:08 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Stanford should also house the patients and families of patients getting long-term treatment at the hospital and other health facilities. Not a month goes by that I don't get heart-rending pleas to house someone's friend or family member being when providing for their patients should be Stanford's responsibility.


30 people like this
Posted by Used to love Stanford, but no more
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 25, 2018 at 12:04 am

I am daily impressed by how much advertising for patients Stanford does.
They advertise daily in all the newspapers, on TV channel4, on Channel9, on KQED Radio several times a day, and those are just the ones I have seen.

Are they trying to fill up empty spaces to justify the need for more?

Their advertising spending is in the Millions. I used to have real affection for Stanford. Now I am revolted by their unbridled greed. It is ugly.


19 people like this
Posted by Bitty
a resident of University South
on Jan 25, 2018 at 12:49 am

Stanford is already making inroads into developing the foothills. Hey, the kand is valuable and they want revenue that comes with development. It was better when they leased the land out to ranchers to graze their cattle. Goodbye scenic foothills, hello urban sprawl.


2 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 25, 2018 at 10:57 am

East Palo Alto resident complained about commute? How close you want to be? Maybe in Stanford professor housing? Greedy?


16 people like this
Posted by Johnster
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 25, 2018 at 11:24 am

Maybe Stanford should close the Dish to outsiders? It generates lots of unneeded traffic and parking on Stanford Ave and environs. Also all those people hiking in the foothills cant help the environment. Close the Dish!


6 people like this
Posted by PAMom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 25, 2018 at 12:20 pm

Palo Alto would be just another suburb without Stanford.


12 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2018 at 12:36 pm

Posted by resident, a resident of Downtown North

>> The article only mentions square feet. Exactly how many new students and employees will the school be adding?

Good question!


16 people like this
Posted by someone from EastBay
a resident of another community
on Jan 25, 2018 at 12:43 pm

Stanford - Please, please expand to Pleasanton/Dublin/Livermore area. We have tons of land and a lot of new housing. We will consider you as "God's Best Gift" unlike the richie rich Palo Altoans who became rich only because of you, Stanford!!!!!


12 people like this
Posted by Goody
a resident of Los Altos
on Jan 25, 2018 at 12:44 pm

People complain......live near an existing airport ..complain, live near a university..complain, live near a city..complain.

Where was your brain when you moved there?? Palo airport, San Jose airport, Stanford, downtown Palo Alto, .....were all there BEFORE you, and yet you chose to live there.
Stop grumbling on you way to the bank.


8 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2018 at 1:44 pm


Posted by Goody, a resident of Los Altos:

>> People complain......live near an existing airport ..complain, live near a university..complain, live near a city..complain.
>> Where was your brain when you moved there??

When I moved here, Stanford was a university mostly known in California. It is now a big, successful business, with an internationally-known "brand". TBH, I don't like what has happened to higher education in the U.S.


Posted by someone from EastBay, a resident of another community:

>> Stanford - Please, please expand to Pleasanton/Dublin/Livermore area. We have tons of land and a lot of new housing.

Another campus might be a good idea. Other successful businesses create new campuses. For example, Amazon is looking to build a second campus in another state. UC has multiple campuses. That might be a way for Stanford to go. Perhaps the San Diego area would be a good bet. At some point, they might want to buy USC, so they probably don't want to locate too close. I wouldn't be looking at Livermore, though. Already congested, and, too close to the existing campus. Portland, Oregon would be another opportunity. Businesses need to grow or die, I guess.


11 people like this
Posted by Goody
a resident of Los Altos
on Jan 25, 2018 at 2:42 pm

Get your hatchet...kill the golden goose??
I built my home nearby Palo Alto, since I worked there 45 years ago.....I hoped for that growth, and am thrilled it happened.
Imagine this place without Stanford, SRI, etc!!! Still an unknown little school in a sleepy town.
Be happy!!!


19 people like this
Posted by Used to love Stanford, but no more
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 25, 2018 at 2:48 pm

Goody,
Your critique would be valid except that Stanford is not what it was. It has become a mega developer with tentacles all over the town and the region. It is more like an octopus than a university.
The academic part of the university is not promoting the unlimited greed and development that has taken it over.

Have you driven around the campus lately? It is unrecognizable since the money makers the expansionists, have taken it over.
Only the name remains the same.


5 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 25, 2018 at 4:35 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@Used to love Stanford, but no more

Well, I still love Stanford, even though I agree with what you said about the main campus not being recognizable now, and so different from what it was many years ago. But, all their expansion plans are way beyond my comprehension and won't affect me anyway...I think. My most recent campus visits were for basketball games, and to Cantor Center for a special art exhibit. Wow!...that was 6 years ago.

I never had the privilege of attending the university, but, when we moved to Palo Alto in 1961, we spent many hours on the campus, at the library, book store, entertainment and lecture centers, and even bowling at the Tresidder Union alley. In our early years we always entered on Palm Drive. We used to go to the corner of the road that double backed to the memorial for their sdfson. We had a dog, Candy, a cocker spaniel, and she loved to run free in that area. I have pics. Those huge branches on the oak trees were already being propped up. We were often the only ones there. I can't imagine a place of solitude on the campus now. And, yes, we even took the elevator to the top of Hoover Tower for that spectacular view of our town and the surrounding area.

Ah, sweet memories...


10 people like this
Posted by midtown resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 25, 2018 at 7:30 pm

Stanford needs to house more of its students. Even in midtown there is a rental house next to me that is full of Stanford students. Only one set of students (water polo players) have been disruptive; the MBA grad students that live there now are no problem at all, but it's sad that they cannot live on campus. I hope the new residences Stanford is building will enable more of the students to live on campus and reduce the pressure on rentals and rent prices in the city.


13 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 25, 2018 at 8:23 pm

I think many commenters here have not considered Stanford's development plans in the context of its competitors. To bemoan that Stanford has become "more a developer than a university" is to ignore what is happening at all the other top tier universities. The massive expansion of main campus areas, the purchase and development of countless buildings in surrounding areas and towns, these are things every top 10 university in the US is doing. Check out whats happening at Harvard, MIT, and Northwestern, just to name a few. If Stanford wishes to remain competitive, it needs the space to do it.

If you want to see Stanford stay the same while all other universities leapfrog it, then it is a certainty that in 50 years, Palo Alto will no longer lay claim to one of the world's great universities. Instead, it will be blamed for the ruination of one.


19 people like this
Posted by Go Cardinal!
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 25, 2018 at 8:39 pm

@Joe, wow, thanks, I didn't realize that my purpose as a resident was to support Stanford's success! I wouldn't want to be responsible for their decline by trying to protect my neighborhood and quality of life. How can my needs compare to the well-being of a Great Institution? If running roughshod over the neighbors is what it takes to stay on top, then by golly, that's what Stanford needs to do. We'll just have to pitch in and do our part.


17 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 26, 2018 at 6:13 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Many people confuse Stanford the great learning institution with Stanford the greedy and reckless corporation. A great university can remain great without destroying the quality of life of its neighbors and turning their towns into urban sardine cans.


14 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2018 at 6:24 am

Posted by Joe, a resident of Stanford:

>> I think many commenters here have not considered Stanford's development plans in the context of its competitors.

Actually, I did consider it. :-)

That doesn't mean I have to like it. The modern mega-university is an odd combination the old concept of university-as-learning-institution, greatly deserving of admiration, and the new concept of, frankly, a university-as-business. People ask all of us to be loyal to universities as such, and, while I greatly admire and respect both the teaching and research aspects of the knowledge enterprise, in recent decades, the business side has become very dominant and intrusive. And, to be fair to Stanford, it was truly one of the pioneers of modern-research-university-as-business.

In my view, to the extent that modern mega-universities are businesses, they should be treated as businesses, and get no special consideration over any other business. That tends to make me get less mad at Stanford than I used to, in fact-- because I no longer expect Stanford to have that special relationship with local residents, any more than I would expect that from Cisco or Apple.

>> To bemoan that Stanford has become "more a developer than a university" is to ignore what is happening at all the other top tier universities. The massive expansion of main campus areas, the purchase and development of countless buildings in surrounding areas and towns, these are things every top 10 university in the US is doing. Check out whats happening at Harvard, MIT, and Northwestern, just to name a few. If Stanford wishes to remain competitive, it needs the space to do it.

I don't ignore it. Yet, there are only so many square miles here. Seriously, I think Stanford, and other private universities, need to consider doing what public universities have been doing since WWII, which is to open multiple campuses in other locations as a way to accommodate growth.

>> If you want to see Stanford stay the same while all other universities leapfrog it, then it is a certainty that in 50 years, Palo Alto will no longer lay claim to one of the world's great universities. Instead, it will be blamed for the ruination of one.

Or, Stanford could find an innovative way to approach this problem that didn't require trying to shoehorn an ever-expanding business into a small area on a peninsula. Maybe the math department could explain geometry to the development side of Stanford.


10 people like this
Posted by jerry99
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 26, 2018 at 8:04 am

Palo Alto is already too crowded and the streets too congested. Residents want a complete end to new growth, new hotels, new businesses, and new housing.
We want more police and the ability to walk downtown at night and not have our cars or homes burglarized. We want parking downtown and on California Ave. Most of that is gone or used by employees of downtown businesses. And we want an end to Social Engineering and new low income housing and apartments [portion removed.]


16 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 26, 2018 at 11:09 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Bigger is not necessarily better, and more often translates into less in the long run.

Stanford has taken on a highly corporatist approach to higher education. It is now really a greedy and aggressive corporation. Just like local tech companies who keep squeezing in more and more people into an area that is already extremely congested, forcing a significant lowering of quality of life and a radical change in the life style of local residents who had chosen to live here because the area was not overly dense and urban, Stanford is refusing to find innovative solutions. Instead of branching out and opening campuses in other areas, it insists on massive growth triggers in an area that absolutely cannot sustain them anymore.


11 people like this
Posted by Little Larry Leverhad
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 26, 2018 at 2:01 pm

Stanford has thousands of acres of land, plenty to build housing and the like. Why don't you just let them do that? They know what they are doing, have proved that. The community is dragging them down, way down.


1 person likes this
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 26, 2018 at 5:02 pm

I hope that they take all of this planning and apply a change to Searsville Lake and the dam. The dam is over 100 years old and needs to be removed/modernized to prevent any breakage that could occur in the next great rainfalls. All of the dams in Santa Clara County are now deficient and in need of upgrade and repair. The campus and city are directly downstream from the lake. This topic has been discussed a great deal in the past. Having numerous water agencies "in charge" of various portions of the lake and river has led to lack of resolution.


5 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2018 at 8:47 am

Posted by Little Larry Leverhad, a resident of College Terrace

>> Stanford has thousands of acres of land, plenty to build housing and the like. Why don't you just let them do that?

So, you're opposed to all land-use planning and zoning? Just let whatever big business do whatever it wants whenever it wants? All the while, making use of transportation capabilities owned and maintained by the public?

This goes far, far beyond Stanford. Ever since sprawl became fashionable, the public has subsidized roads and road use, directly and indirectly, for private benefit. The public has a legal and moral right to weigh in on decisions that affect the surrounding area.

>> They know what they are doing, have proved that.

I'll grant you that. ;-)

>> The community is dragging them down, way down.

Anybody can see that. (◔_◔)


15 people like this
Posted by Grumpy Old Guy
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Jan 27, 2018 at 9:30 am

There's only one condition that I'd ask about Stanford's development. They give up their tax exempt status property taxes owed on all of the new development. I'm willing to see exemption for their classrooms - but they're charging fair prices for their restaurant (food service) operations which competes against local restaurants, golf course (which again competes against our own course), and provides housing (not exactly rent free for their students). It'd be a complex task to go through their and evaluate their business model. In actuality, they are a business cloaked in the name of a non-profit that has a tremendous endowment that is also tax free.


17 people like this
Posted by LSJU79
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2018 at 3:53 pm

Nailed it Old Guy!

Stanford™ is a diversified corporate conglomerate with operations in the for-profit education, land development, and medical sectors, that has cloaked itself as a university to capture tax advantages not available to other businesses competing in these sectors.


13 people like this
Posted by LSJU79
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2018 at 5:03 pm

Used to love Stanford said:

"Only the name remains the same"

Even the name is being changed. Jane Stanford named the University Leland Stanford Junior University to honor of her only child (Leland Jr) who died of typhoid at the age of 15.

Leland Stanford Junior University is gradually being replaced by the new corporate identity stanford™ (with a small uppercase s) developed by corporate branding firm Bright of Marina Del Rey, who has also done identity work for UCLA, the Grammys, Muscle Milk and Safeway.

"Stanford rolling out new wordmark"
The Stanford Daily ~ November 15, 2012 Web Link


13 people like this
Posted by Stanford commands
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 27, 2018 at 5:44 pm

Yawn. The endless complaints remind me of the boy who cried wolf. Palo alto needs to get their act together before complaining about their neighbors.


1 person likes this
Posted by Even stolen money talks
a resident of another community
on Jan 29, 2018 at 5:53 am

[Post removed.]


7 people like this
Posted by Charlie
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 29, 2018 at 2:29 pm

Many of the people posting seem to think that all of Palo Alto's woes, like traffic and high rents, would be just fine if it wasn't for Stanford. Where is your ire and hand-wringing when google and facebook and Palantir expand their campuses and hire more employees?

Stanford has done far more to protect the foothills than most any city on the peninsula, and has also successfully reduced car traffic to/from campus. One way to reduce traffic more would be to stop inviting Palo Alto residents to enjoy the free museums, the concerts at Bing Concert Hall and the first rate college athletic programs!


11 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 29, 2018 at 5:51 pm

Posted by Charlie, a resident of College Terrace

>> Many of the people posting seem to think that all of Palo Alto's woes, like traffic and high rents, would be just fine if it wasn't for Stanford. Where is your ire and hand-wringing when google and facebook and Palantir expand their campuses and hire more employees?

That wasn't me. I just commented that "stanford™ " has lost its university specialness with me and needs to be considered along with google and facebook and Palantir and the HP's (do they still matter?) etc. stanford™ has actually done more than many local corporations. Many of their shuttle buses are hybrids, and now electrics, also. google™ also has shuttle buses, (all diesel as far as I have seen). Some companies don't take these measures at all. Considered as a corporation, stanford™ isn't doing too badly.

>> One way to reduce traffic more would be to stop inviting Palo Alto residents to enjoy the free museums, the concerts at Bing Concert Hall and the first rate college athletic programs!

OK, now I'm getting annoyed. stanford™ has generally reduced its community outreach, and, Bing is annoying for another reason, there having been surprisingly few concerts, all overpriced (for non-students). Back in the day, ticket prices for the community at Memorial Auditorium and Dinkelspiel were much more reasonable. stanford™ doesn't need us any more to fill seats I guess.


6 people like this
Posted by Fearful of an octapus
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2018 at 6:50 pm

Stanford wants to rest on it laurels- which were well deserved at one time. They are still one of the great educational instituations in the country; however, there is a feeling of a huge octapus weighing down and grabbing all that it can without regard to the impact is has on whatever else exists around its grasp. It is time to bring Stanford under control and, use legal force if necessary to make it responsible to the surrounding people/communities. If they get their way, eventually, there will be no Foothills for the multitude of us living here. Do we have a right to complain about what they do with their property - ABSOLUTELY, as it seems they don’t recognize their responsibility to those of us who still want to have a quality of life as their congestion eats up our quality of life.

Stanford is spreading out onto El Camino - up and down. On to 101, up and down, business complex development in the interior of business parks. How can they possibly claim that this expansion won’t affect our lives? Where will these thousands of people live, school their children, shop, obtain recreation, drive. One of the biggest jokes is the claim that there will be no increase in traffic. No doubt, I don’t understand rocket science or the complexity of the neurological system of the body - but I don’t need to. It is very easy to know that with out a growth limit and built in controls, Palo Alto and the surrounding communities will be choking at the expense of their (seemingly) assumptions we will accept whatever the former great institution wants us to swallow.

To the County Supervisors - please make sure you curtail the growth to an amount that is NO WHERE NEAR what Stanford wants so that we can breath and maintain a quality of life we are also entitled to. Plus we pay taxes and Stanford is a “non-profit” ??????

THANK YOU


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