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Residents seek school funds from Stanford's expansion

Palo Alto residents say university should help school district accommodate growing student population

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Watch or listen to "Behind the Headlines for an update on Stanford's expansion proposal with Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President Joe Simitian.


With negotiations between Stanford University officials and Santa Clara County supervisors over the university's expansion plans entering a new phase, residents came out in full force to a community meeting in Palo Alto on Thursday to request that the county protect local schools, roads and surrounding neighborhoods from the impacts of Stanford's growth.

These issues came up repeatedly on Thursday night, during a community meeting conducted county Board of Supervisors President Joe Simitian and Vice President Cindy Chavez. The two supervisors also make up a committee charged with pursuing a development agreement with Stanford — a contract that would dictate many of the terms in Stanford's expansion.

With this process, the county is entering uncharted waters. This would be the first time the county is pursuing a development agreement on a major project. The advantage of the process is that it expands the range of community benefits that the county can request or that Stanford can offer. Whereas the typical environmental-review process focuses on requiring developers to mitigate the impacts of their projects, a development agreement allows either party to propose just about anything.

"The county can say, 'Here are some things that we like which we might not be able to ask for and compel,'" Simitian said. "The university is in position to say, 'Here are things we like and here is what we'd like to see in exchange.'"

The negotiations are kicking off at the same time as county planners are considering Stanford's application for a "general use permit" (GUP), which would allow the university to build up to 2.275 million square feet of academic space, 3,150 housing units or beds and 40,000 square feet of supporting space by 2035.

At the same time, the county is moving ahead with two ordinances that aim to promote affordable housing: a new housing-impact fee of $68.50 for every new square foot of academic space and an "inclusionary zoning" ordinance that requires 16 percent of Stanford's housing units to be designated for affordable housing. The university has pushed back against the new ordinance and has proposed its own affordable-housing plan, which includes creation of 200 below-market-rate units (which includes designating existing units to below-market rate), providing funding to subsidize 38 units for "extremely-low-income" residents, and starting an "evergreen loan fund" that would pool resources from various foundations and nonprofits to support university housing.

All these factors are in play as the two sides are kicking off negotiations, a process that is expected to conclude by May, said Geoff Bradley, the county's consultant. The county is also concurrently moving ahead with its public review process for the GUP application, which the county's Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors are expected to review by July 2019.

The Thursday meeting gave residents a chance to offer their own opinions on what the county should ask for in its negotiations. More than a hundred showed up at City Hall to do just that, with many citing schools as a top priority.

Ken Dauber, president of the Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education, said he fully supports the county's proposal to require Stanford to build housing to mitigate the impacts of its academic expansion. It would be "counterproductive," however, to require Stanford to provide housing without also providing funding for the children who would be living in those units. The board had recently passed a resolution encouraging Stanford to contribute funding toward local schools as well as to identify a site that could accommodate a future school.

Dauber estimated that the financial impacts of the new students caused by Stanford's expansion could be as high as $60 million per year, a huge burden for a district with an annual budget of about $240 million.

"To have an unfunded cost of that magnitude would I think be an existential threat to the quality of education in Palo Alto," Dauber said.

Todd Collins, also a school board member, said that the board's request is common. Universities such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown and MIT and many others all make annual contractual school funding toward their communities and have for many years, he said.

"They see that a strong university needs a strong host community and that schools are a vital part of that," Collins said.

The board, he said, has no position on how much housing the university should provide, as long as they pay their fair share for schools.

Their sentiments were echoed by numerous parents and school volunteers. Nancy Krop, a member of Palo Alto PTA Council, said the council welcomes new students and is excited to welcome them to the district. She urged the county to require in its agreement with Stanford that they first "do no harm." Thus, if Stanford adds students, it should also provide monetary contributions, she said.

While school impacts generated the most comments, housing and traffic also featured prominently in residents' comments. Some argued that the area has already experienced far too much growth and that any Stanford expansion should entail significant concessions from the university. Downtown resident Tina Peak said the county should require Stanford to build a trench for Caltrain; fix all the roads and bike paths near grade crossings; construct new elementary, middle and high schools; and require all construction to be "zero net energy."

Roberta Ahlquist, an advocate for below-market-rate housing, also said Stanford's growth should be severely restricted until Stanford builds more units for its employees.

"We request that there be a moratorium on any lab or office developments until the needs of low-income workers first have been met," Ahlquist said.

Housing for workers was also a top priority for Stanford students from the group SCOPE 2035 (Stanford Coalition for Planning an Equitable 2035). They urged the supervisors to require Stanford to make contributions to surrounding communities, particularly East Palo Alto, for construction of housing. Students from SCOPE also asked county officials to require Stanford to make traffic improvements to ease the commute for employees, some of whom have to commute for two hours to get to work. One idea that SCOPE presented was extending the Marguerite shuttle system to East Palo Alto.

Simitian noted that the county already requires Stanford to contribute affordable-housing fees, that can be used for projects outside the county. Any municipality within a 6-mile radius of the Stanford campus is eligible for funding, which includes, which includes East Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Woodside and Portola Valley. These communities have always had the option of requesting funding but that had not shown interest until now.

"There is no prohibition on using those funds beyond the boundary of Santa Clara County," Simitian said.

While some requested that Stanford build more housing, others focused on preventing development, particularly in the foothills and other open space areas. Former Palo Alto Mayor Peter Drekmeier urged the supervisors to consider requiring "permanent protection of Stanford foothills" in the development agreement. He also recommended requiring Stanford to house all of its population on its land (outside the open space preserves), possibly by converting some commercial areas in Stanford Research Park to housing.

"Stanford has a huge impact on the jobs-housing imbalance and it's time that we address that," Drekmeier said.

Numerous speakers also argued that Stanford should contribute more toward infrastructure, including improvements to Caltrain, a service that will remain vital to allowing Stanford to meet the "no net new trips" goal that was included in its current GUP and that is also expected to be included in the next one.

"The message to supervisors working toward the development agreement is clear: Get Stanford to pay their fair share of the necessary cost of an effective, working infrastructure, including schools," former Palo Alto Vice Mayor Greg Schmid said. "Pace future Stanford growth so that new students and workers arrive after the transportation and other supporting infrastructure is in place."


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9 people like this
Posted by BP
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 29, 2018 at 11:55 pm

More, more, more, everyone wants more.

Kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

8 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 30, 2018 at 6:05 am

BP @ Barron Park - lot's of requests from the surrounding community, but Stanford get's alot of money from the tax payers:

1) All those donations to their endowment fund (which is paying for the expansion), are exempt from taxes, and the people giving those donations get a tax break, and their kids get priority consideration for admission to Stanford.

2) Stanford gets alot taxpayer money for research, which could be directed towards other universities.

3) Many students pay their tuition with taxpayer funded grants (like Pell grants)

Stanford is in the business of education. the key word is it is a business, that collects $46,000 in tuition from each of it's customers, the students. Expanding the campus, means more students, more money.

15 people like this
Posted by JR
a resident of Palo Verde School
on Nov 30, 2018 at 7:22 am

Stanford had a $26.5 billion dollar endowment as of August. With only $26.5 billion in the bank, they cannot afford to pay their fair share for education. Have some compassion. Maybe when their endowment hits $500 billion they will be able to pay a few dollars, let's all chip in and donate to starving Stanford to help them get there.

12 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2018 at 10:49 am

There are many issues to be discussed regarding the Stanford GUP. I don't think the issues are all of the same type, and while the County has to consider all of them, the issues that involve ongoing operational costs need to be fenced off and dealt with one-by-one. Specifically, PAUSD needs to recover the cost of educating Stanford-housed children of students, faculty, and staff. That one should be simple.

3 people like this
Posted by Pipe dream
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 30, 2018 at 11:07 am

Clearly some people have no clue what s university endowment is and what it is to be used for. Drekmeirs comments are laughable. It was obviously too much work for him to address the issues when he was mayor, so he wants others to do it now. Imho. The foothills should be the future site for housing

Like this comment
Posted by How so?
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 30, 2018 at 11:45 am

"Dauber estimated that the financial impacts of the new students caused by Stanford's expansion could be as high as $60 million per year"

How can that be?

28 people like this
Posted by Make Stanford Pay
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 30, 2018 at 11:53 am

> Kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

Stanford is no goose laying a golden egg.

If their developments are going to impact or add to the expenditures of the PAUSD by increasing enrollment, Stanford should either pay-up or create its own school district.

11 people like this
Posted by SJW
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 30, 2018 at 1:44 pm

SJW is a registered user.

Two immediate issues that relate:

"No net new trips" which was in the old GUP has not be adhered to. What's the penalty for Stanford? Not much would be my guess. I hope the City and Country will demand verification of Stanford trip numbers.

It looks like Stanford will shortly own much of Palo Alto. Stanford had $500 million budgeted for the purpose of buying residences in Palo Alto. At least 30 homes has been bought in College Terrace with many getting demolished immediately. It's not good and very sad for those of us who love our eclectic neighborhood.

14 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 30, 2018 at 8:24 pm

Stanford; the tax exempt for profit corporation disguised as an institution of higher learning sitting on a $20B plus endowment, wants to keep riding the Palo Alto tax payer funded PAUSD gravy train.

Like this comment
Posted by lucky few
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 1, 2018 at 6:51 am

Stanford wants 550 new residential housing units for faculty and staff. Web Link
So maybe Ken Dauber figured that each unit will house a parent or two and their 5.5 school-aged kids at $20k a pop, a wild and unsubstantiated assumption. Doubtful.

More plausible is that he sees Stanford as the deep pocket for that $60m experimental school the superintendent worked hard to get built at Cubberley but was DOA because the money wasn't there.

The superintendent countered we’ll raise the money privately. That box is checked if Stanford pays for it.

If this is how he got to $60m, that new school would be on Stanford campus but would NOT be a neighborhood school for children living in Stanford's new housing.

That new school is slated to be a small Ohlone-like CHOICE middle and high school open to any Palo Alto child who happens to win its admissions lottery IF there is space after Ohlone families, who get 1st pick, are placed.

16 people like this
Posted by Facts
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 1, 2018 at 8:24 am

@lucky few - some factual errors your post, I'm afraid.

Stanford's original GUP proposed 550 staff/faculty units. The County has said that they will make them build more, and included in their EIR scenarios for up to 3000 units (not grad school beds, but staff/faculty apartments), which they estimated would generate up to 1500 kids. That's on top of the 400 PAUSD kids coming from low/no tax Stanford rental housing (Escondido Village, Stanford West, etc.) TODAY.

The District has consistently told Stanford and the County that their student generation estimate is much lower than what the District has seen. Dauber's seems to be using the District's forecast to get to $60M. If it is even half of that (which is what the County used for their forecast), it is still a huge amount - $30M hires 300 teachers!

The Superintendent who wanted to build an experimental school at Cubberley was shot down by the board 3 years ago (lack of need, not lack of money); he has been gone for over a year. The current Supe wants to build a neighborhood elementary school at Stanford, so kids living along Sand Hill Road (where Stanford West is and new housing is planned) don't have to go 2 miles each way to get to school. The Board specifically asked Stanford to identify land for this school.

4 people like this
Posted by The Public Interest
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 1, 2018 at 12:59 pm

To maintain resource levels for our current students, the less rental housing built on Stanford land (tax exempt), the better.

Less rental housing built at Stanford means fewer potential students for PAUSD who aren't bringing property tax revenues to defray the costs of educating those students. That means more resources can be devoted to our current students, and any potential additional students.

PAUSD School Board, advocate for our students. Stanford's original GUP application had less proposed rental housing. Advocate for that --- which is what is best for our students.

3 people like this
Posted by Last of the Baby Boomers
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 1, 2018 at 2:03 pm

Roads/routes through Palo Alto are already saturated. Without some extraordinary mitigation like underpasses for crossing Caltrans tracks we should tell County Supervisors to say no to the GUP application.

Without annual contributions for unfunded students we should tell County Supervisors to say no to the GUP application.

Without a school near Quarry Road we should tell Supervisors to say no to the GUP.

We do love Stanford and we do love Palo Alto. We are just plain saturated. So without these mitigations we need to tell County Supervisors to say no to the GUP application.

5 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Owes Stanford Zero
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 1, 2018 at 2:23 pm

Why does Palo Alto always kowtow to Stanford? Is it because Palo Alto would be a nothing town without the influence and prestige of Stanford University?

Going back in time, PA was once a second-tier community compared to the likes of Mayfield (which refused to acquiesce the Stanford demand for a 'dry town').

Stanford built Palo Alto and the city has been remunerating Stanford in one form or another for the last 125 years. When will it ever end?

2 people like this
Posted by The Public Interest
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 1, 2018 at 3:53 pm

Stanford is vital to Palo Alto's wealth and has provided its economic underpinnings over the years and contributes to them now.

Our school board should advocate for our students, not for other stakeholders, like staff, nor for county or city priorities, which are also beholden to the same set of stakeholders.

8 people like this
Posted by What's the frequency?
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 2, 2018 at 6:25 am

What does that mean? What's the connection between Stanford, students, and stakeholders?

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