News


Stanford withdraws $138M school mitigation agreement, for now

Deal required university to pay district $5,800 for each new student enrolled as a result of growth plan

Stanford University informed the Palo Alto school district Friday that it wished to suspend further action on a tentative agreement the two entities recently reached regarding the university’s expansion plan, throwing the deal into further uncertainty.

The agreement had not yet been signed by either the school district or Stanford and was awaiting further action by the school board.

Stanford's decision, contained in a short, one-paragraph letter, came the day after the university asked that the Santa Clara County Planning Commission postpone three upcoming hearings on Stanford's general use permit, citing concerns about the feasibility of initial conditions of approval proposed by the county.

"To be consistent with this request of the county, we also seek the same suspension of actions on our agreement with PAUSD," Stanford Vice President Reidy wrote to Superintendent Don Austin. The letter was released by the district late Friday afternoon and will be discussed by the school board at its meeting next Tuesday, May 14.

In a press release Friday evening, the county stated its intent to continue with the public hearings, despite Stanford's request that they be postponed.

In a sharp letter delivered on Thursday to the county planning commission, Stanford Associate Vice President Catherine Palter criticized the county for failing to give Stanford a "meaningful opportunity" to provide feedback on the approval conditions before they were to be publicly released.

Stanford's permit application seeks to add 2.275 million square feet of academic space, 3,150 housing units, 40,000 square feet of child care facilities and other support space on the campus by 2035. A three-page summary of the approval conditions released in March would require the university to build more housing, step up its monitoring of traffic and submit future development plans for review, among other stipulations.

The county said Friday it will release a more detailed draft of the conditions of approval and related findings on the general use permit on or before May 23 in advance of the planning commission's first hearing on May 30 in Palo Alto.

The $138 million deal the district and Stanford struck to provide mitigation for students generated by new campus housing is contingent on the approval of a development agreement between the university and the county. The announcement of their agreement, however, brought an end to the development agreement talks, which the county suspended indefinitely last month.

Austin said that he's "thankful for the open communication from Stanford University and their commitment to good faith bargaining. I understand and respect their request to pause our efforts while they engage with Santa Clara County."

Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, who along with Supervisor Cindy Chavez, is the county's development-agreement negotiation team, said Friday that he and Chavez met with Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Reidy on Friday, May 3, to inform them the county would be willing to reopen talks if they are open to the public and guarantee the same benefits to the Palo Alto school district that have already been negotiated. On Wednesday, Simitian said, Tessier-Lavigne and Reidy responded that they wished the negotiations to be in private and proposed lesser benefits to the district, which Simitian said would be unacceptable.

The Planning Commission is scheduled to hold three hearings on the general use permit: May 30 at 6 p.m. in the Palo Alto City Council Chambers (250 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto) and June 13 and 27, both at 1:30 p.m. at the Isaac Newton Senter Auditorium, County Government Center (70 W. Hedding St., San Jose).

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Comments

12 people like this
Posted by Parent of 2
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 11, 2019 at 11:30 am

Well, looks like Simitian got his wish, he trashed this deal and now it's all on him to deliver as good or better. [Portion removed.]


21 people like this
Posted by Read the story again
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 11, 2019 at 1:09 pm

It would be useful for Parent to read Simitian's objections and not blindly support the mammoth developer.

For example, "Tessier-Lavigne and Reidy responded that they wished the negotiations to be in private and proposed lesser benefits to the district, which Simitian said would be unacceptable. "

[Portion removed due to inaccuracy.]


12 people like this
Posted by Parent of 2
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 11, 2019 at 5:21 pm

I only wish Simitian's objection was "We can do so much better!" All indications are that his main objection is "I'm not getting the credit!"

Simitian single-handedly blew up the district's deal, for reasons he never managed to explain ("they are using children as pawns!" is not an explanation unless we're on a soap opera). As the saying goes, you break it, you buy it. It is all on him now to deliver at least as a good a deal for the school district.


17 people like this
Posted by Carey
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 11, 2019 at 7:38 pm

PAUSD should be grateful this lousy deal was pulled. 30% mitigation of per pupil costs, no commitment for a third elementary campus, 700 kids at both Escondido and Nixon. It’s amazing the school board thought this was a good deal. To quote Ken Dauber’s campaign slogan “we can do better.”


24 people like this
Posted by Strong Spine
a resident of Midtown
on May 11, 2019 at 10:00 pm

I am thankful Simitian and Chavez are keeping an eye on Stanford. In no way should such development at this scale be negotiated behind closed doors and in piecemeal sweetheart side deals without the County keeping the big picture in mind. There will be much to mitigate with this growth and even as a PAUSD parent who wants great things for our district, there's way too much at stake for so many communities, including the school District, to not have these negotiations be coordinated by the County in the light of day and the public eye.


6 people like this
Posted by Jim H
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 11, 2019 at 10:18 pm

Jim H is a registered user.

PAUSD Board seems to be just signing off on anything these days. Stanford agreement, Me Too raises, safety directives.

It reminds me of Radar from MASH when he'd distract the colonel to get him to sign off on whatever Radar wanted.


24 people like this
Posted by Cover-up Culture
a resident of Community Center
on May 11, 2019 at 10:45 pm

I'm sick of Stanford bashing. They have no legal obligation to pay. We already have a legal system. If they can go after Stanford, they can go after each and every one of us and say we're not paying our fair share even when we are. Stop the smears and character assassination and intimidation. Go bully someone else seiu, the teacher's union, Joe Simitian, and his/their mouthpiece, the esteemed publication. This was always about a new revenue source for the teacher's union to maintain their salary levels, and housing for them and seiu members, not about the bargaining chip students or our community.


11 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 12, 2019 at 9:31 am

Crescent Park Resident is a registered user.

@Carey. Everyone knew the $20k quoted by the School Board was grossly inflated. How inflated? Well, turns out $5,800 was the right number. Read the past articles carefully. And talk to a School Board member. Also, it’s 200 students, not 700. And don’t forget the additional cash from Stanford. By law, Stanford would have been required to pay about $4.3 million to the schools as they developed... not $138 million.


Like this comment
Posted by nope
a resident of College Terrace
on May 12, 2019 at 10:27 am

[Post removed.]


9 people like this
Posted by Lori
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 13, 2019 at 1:20 pm

I am so frustrated by misleading phrases such as “Stanford Expansion” and “Stanford Growth”. The reality is that Stanford was faulted for not having enough housing on-Campus and therefore creating additional commuter trips. So, they are building more housing on-Campus, which will reduce off-Campus housing pressure and commuter trips and actually reduce the number of Stanford connected children in nearby communities. Stanford is not increasing the graduate student population. They are building housing to bring graduate students currently housed off-campus on-campus.


2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2019 at 3:46 pm

Posted by Crescent Park Resident, a resident of Crescent Park

>> @Carey. Everyone knew the $20k quoted by the School Board was grossly inflated. How inflated? Well, turns out $5,800 was the right number.

Can you please show me the calculations for that. Please be very specific about the assumptions.


6 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2019 at 5:10 pm

> If they can go after Stanford, they can go after each and every one of us
> and say we're not paying our fair share even when we are

Simply absurd comment!


11 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2019 at 5:12 pm

> Everyone knew the $20k quoted by the School Board was grossly inflated.

This is the right number.


5 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 13, 2019 at 9:52 pm

Crescent Park Resident is a registered user.

@Anon; @Joe. I take it you've been following this process. If so, go back and read some of the comments on the previous articles about this including a blog piece by Steve Levy on Paloaltoonline. In a nutshell, $20K was calculated by taking the total budget and dividing it by the total number of students in the district. Given that the number varies year to year by several hundred, this was a rough estimate at best. It included all the fixed costs and did not look at marginal costs. To generate $20K in property taxes, one would have to pay $45K in property taxes for a single child. The "line" has been that since it's a negotiation, it's okay to start ridiculously high. Many parents are upset about this approach and are asking the School Board for some honest numbers. Turns out $5800 per student IS full mitigation. Please, pressure the School Board yourselves.


16 people like this
Posted by nope
a resident of College Terrace
on May 14, 2019 at 8:26 am

The Weekly's coverage and editorial on this subject has been either wittingly or unwittingly covering up one critical fact. The County and Stanford -- both well represented -- entered into an agreement for ground rules governing Development Agreement negotiations. that agreement explicitly provided that no no agreement with other parties such as PAUSD could be finalized prior to April 15 which would be presented by Stanford to the County during the negotiations. That was the full and complete agreement of the parties as to the date.

Had Joe Simitian, the County's lead negotiator, wished to extend that date, he had the ability to seek that extension from Stanford. He failed to do that. As a result, the date passed and Stanford was free to attempt to finalize its agreement with PAUSD. That agreement was never finalized, because Joe Simitian realized his error and had a meltdown, calling people and yelling and screaming and bullying them trying to kill the deal. Which he ultimately did by having a backdoor meeting with Stanford that was closed to the district, the public, and the Weekly.

The agreement between Stanford and the County would have been perfectly legitimate and was a good deal for our students. Nothing improper was done and all your vague smears about "the intent" are just so much covering for Joe. The whole point of a written contract is that when the language is unambiguous you don't need to and would not try to discern intent. There was no ambiguity around the date. It lapsed. That's Joe Simitian's fault. Period. Cover that.

The story that should have been written by this newspaper is: Supervisor Simitian kills $138M deal for schools in fit of pique, falsely claiming deal was procedurally improper.

Then you should have tried to dig in and find out substantively why Joe Simitian was against the deal. Nothing he has said publicly about it makes sense -- vague stuff about using children as pawns etc. made no sense. What was he really up to? Do you have enough objectivity or understanding of the situation to even cover that story? It sure doesn't look like it to me.

You falsely smeared the Board including members who weren't even present with your assertions of illegality in order to carry water for Joe, meanwhile missing the real story.

My guess is that Joe was trying to throw the voters of Palo Alto under the bus, since he already has their votes for Congress and curry favor with the Labor Council through this negotiation, which hates his guts. But you will never know since you aren't even curious about why he has committed all these shocking acts.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2019 at 10:17 am

Posted by Crescent Park Resident, a resident of Crescent Park

>> Many parents are upset about this approach and are asking the School Board for some honest numbers. Turns out $5800 per student IS full mitigation.

You can keep saying it all you want, but, there still isn't a good public estimate of what the real numbers are, including assumptions. The most clarity we've gotten on this is the bald assertion that $5800 is all we can get out of Stanford no matter what the costs are. I can understand that, even if I don't like it. "Might makes right." But, if you think $5800 is the unvarnished truth, then, where are the detailed calculations? I detest self-congratulatory announcements that are intended to cover up the truth. Let's see the truth. If this deal is the best we can do, so be it.


13 people like this
Posted by nope
a resident of College Terrace
on May 14, 2019 at 10:50 am

The people of Palo Alto, including the PTAC and PTA volunteers who worked on the agreement with Stanford, deserve an explanation from the Weekly as to why the coverage is so skewed in perspective, why it is not covering Joe's failure to do a good job in negotiations including to extend the date if he wanted to do so, and the editorial that falsely smeared the district and board (and by implication, the PTA volunteers) who worked in good faith on the negotiation.

The Weekly has done the community a disservice by accepting Joe Simitian's untrue and self-serving statements while helping Joe to punch down at the school board and district superintendent.

Here are some questions for Joe Simitian, since the Weekly obviously is having a seriously hard time formulating them:

1. Why didn't the County try to extend the April 15 deadline in the groundrules?

2. Wasn't that your responsibility to do so, given that you were the lead negotiator on the DA?

3. Please explain why you have called members of the Palo Alto community [portion removed.]

4. Did you fabricate the charge of malfeasance and "breaking the groundrules" in order to cover up your own failure to extend the deadline?

5. Are you concerned that Superintendent Austin might depart PAUSD [portion removed], thus imposing a high cost on our community?

6. Is it your view that Stanford, with its endowment of nearly $30B cannot afford to give both $138M over 40 years to the schools as well as some funds for housing, traffic, and open space? Please justify this perspective.

7. Did you tell the school district that they cannot expect to get more than a relatively small lump sum and that it would be impossible to obtain funds tied to number of students over a 40 year period? Why did you believe this?

8. Are you trying to secretly trade off money for the schools from Stanford for money for the things organized labor wants such as housing for union workers so that you can try to blunt labor's opposition to your 2022 candidacy for Anna Eshoo's seat in Congress?







3 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 14, 2019 at 11:25 am

Crescent Park Resident is a registered user.

@anon. Look, I have nothing to do with this whole thing. I don't have children at PAUSD, don't work for Stanford, etc... just a longtime resident who is a bit, well, horrified, by how our elected officials are behaving. The School Board took the "Trump" route of mis-information and fear. We can do better. We must do better for the next generation. We must demonstrate good leadershp, good problem solving skills, good negotiation skills, good analytical skills, etc. to them.


1 person likes this
Posted by again
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2019 at 2:36 pm

Nope,

If you are the same "Nope" that posted about this on another thread, readers corrected your claim that "the date passed."

The County/Stanford ground rules were in effect on April 15. The ground rules expired at midnight that night so were not in effect on April 16.

By April 15, Stanford signed off on the Stanford/PAUSD agreement as did Superintendent Austin. Apparently most of the PAUSD School Board members had too, at their April 10 closed meeting.

But there were problems. The Stanford/PAUSD agreement and the way PAUSD handled it on April 15 violated the County ground rules in effect that day: it said that it would go into effect only if Santa Clara County approved the Stanford/County Development Agreement and PAUSD went public with the deal a day too soon.

While I agree with you that this is disappointing, breaking the rules gave Joe Simitian reason to pull the agreement on fairness grounds. It might not seem fair to PAUSD but I bet all the other school districts and cities impacted, which were still at $0, appreciated what he did for them.

What the community should be demanding is to be told why Superintendent Austin and Board President Jennifer DiBrienza didn't wait until April 16 when the rules would not have applied.

That is the "critical fact."

Web Link
Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by nope
a resident of College Terrace
on May 14, 2019 at 3:19 pm

There was no violation whether or not the date was April 15 or April 16.

That is because the "ground rules" barred only Stanford presenting to the County a final agreement (this agreement never became final, because the Board never voted it up) before that date.

[Portion removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by again
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2019 at 3:26 pm

Nope,

Not sure how you are defining "good faith." But anyone who whipped PAUSD parents into a frenzy so that they would demand the things that Jennifer DiBrienza eventually admitted were not needed, like a new school and $19,000/student, probably doesn't feel like they were treated in "good faith" right now.

I am not often a critic of the people running the school district but here they were in way over their heads, which is surprising given all the money PAUSD spends on lawyers and that we have a Board member, who was elected because he is a lawyer, who signed off on this.

The smears you are directing at Supervisor Simitian are misplaced.

The only ones to blame for students and parents ending up with $0 from Stanford are the School Board members who misled and misread.

I don't think Superintendent Austin should take the fall. He's new to the district. The Board recognized that, which is why it appointed DiBrienza and Dauber to an oversight committee set up to guide him on this.

Four people owe the community an explanation why this went south and their role in it: Austin, DiBrienza, Dauber, and Dharap.


1 person likes this
Posted by Nope
a resident of College Terrace
on May 14, 2019 at 3:43 pm

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by double nope
a resident of College Terrace
on May 14, 2019 at 3:56 pm

[Post removed.]



Like this comment
Posted by again
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2019 at 4:42 pm

Add PAUSD's lawyers to the list so 6 who owe our community explanations:

Austin, DiBrienza, Dauber, and Dharap

and

John W. Dietrich, Legal Counsel, AALRR. The Board authorized DiBrienza and Dauber to talk to him about this.

and

Komey Vishakan, General Counsel


10 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on May 14, 2019 at 9:04 pm

It seems like a lot of people here do not realize that the Weekly is in Simitian’s back pocket. The school board is laying out tonight very cogently why Simitian is a liar. Too many people in Palo Alto are drinking Simitian’s and the Weekly’s Kool-Aid.


12 people like this
Posted by nope
a resident of College Terrace
on May 14, 2019 at 9:24 pm

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by JR
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 15, 2019 at 7:27 am

Stanford with their $30 billion endowment can (and does) hire the best lawyers in the world to negotiate in their interests. The school board made up of mostly volunteers does not stand a chance, and it shows in the deal they "negotiated" where Stanford would pay 30 cents on the dollar for the cost of educating their own kids.


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