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Board of open-space district wants county to protect Stanford foothills for 99 years

An amended measure by Santa Clara County supervisors would extend development limits due to end in 2025

In a move that reinforced the reason for its initial creation, the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District's board of directors voted unanimously on Wednesday night to support a proposal limiting development in Stanford University's foothills for 99 years, unless the development is approved by four of five members of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.

The decision supports a recommendation by the county Planning Commission and staff to amend key documents governing development on Stanford property. The foothills and other campus greenspaces comprise about half of the university's 4,000 acres. Currently, growth in the greenspace areas is limited under a regulation that expires in 2025.

Board member Yoriko Kishimoto said there was strong support for the district's recommendation to the county.

"We're a regional board, and this (measure) goes back to the original intent of the district to protect open space in perpetuity" or for as long as possible, she said.

Protecting the Stanford foothills has special significance to the district. Saving Coyote Hill, which is part of the open space at the southwest corner of Page Mill Road and Foothill Expressway, was the first battle fought by local residents who later formed the district.

The protracted battle with Stanford took place in the mid-1960s, when the university planned to build an animal research laboratory on the site.

"To have the room to breathe was the initial call to action," Kishimoto said about the district's formation and its continued mandate.

Stanford has no specific plans to develop Coyote Hill or the other foothills. The university's currently seeking the county’s approval of a new general use permit allowing construction of more than 3.5 million square feet within its "academic growth boundary." The boundary includes the core campus and most areas east of Junipero Serra Boulevard. The proposed permit would expire in 2035.

A related county document, the Stanford University Community Plan, established the academic-growth boundary in 2000. The boundary is to remain in place until 2025, and under the current permit, any proposal to build outside of the boundary requires approval by four out of five supervisors.

As part of reviewing the general-use permit application, the supervisors are considering amending the Community Plan to maintain the academic-growth boundary for 99 years, and requiring the four-fifths vote for any development proposals outside the boundary.

As amended, the Community Plan would no longer characterize the boundary as a temporary measure that should only remain in place "until a defined level of development intensity has been achieved on lands within the growth boundary." Instead, the academic growth area would be in place "on a long-term basis if planned development can be accommodated within its boundaries."

A separate 2018 document the county created, the Stanford University Sustainable Development Study Supplement, developed three theoretical scenarios to estimate the university's development potential. It found that in the next 100 years, the university could triple its size and still keep development within the academic boundary by using smart-growth strategies. The university would still be at a comparable density to other major universities within the academic boundary footprint.

The evaluation led the county to consider the 99-year protections for the foothills, Supervisor Joe Simitian told the Weekly in an interview on "Behind the Headlines" last May.

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Comments

14 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 29, 2019 at 10:12 am

The San Andreas earthquake fault goes right through this area. Any kind of development would be extremely foolish.


6 people like this
Posted by Jonathan Brown
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 29, 2019 at 11:27 am

Jonathan Brown is a registered user.

Stanford has been on a development tear, and they've severely restricted access to the Dish and other lands they own over the years. Getting a commitment to protect undeveloped lands is important. 99 years is less than forever, but it's better than nothing.


1 person likes this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 30, 2019 at 10:41 am

Article>> It found that in the next 100 years, the university could triple its size and still keep development within the academic boundary by using smart-growth strategies. The university would still be at a comparable density to other major universities within the academic boundary footprint.

Posted by Jonathan Brown, a resident of Ventura

>> Stanford has been on a development tear

I hope someone at Stanford is keeping track of what must be increasing operational costs of all the new facilities it has been building. I think that Stanford might discover one of these days that the overhead for operating all of these new buildings is too high. Energy, maintenance, security. Everything new and glitzy is going to cost a lot of money over time.


Like this comment
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 30, 2019 at 1:26 pm

"Stanford has been on a development tear, and they've severely restricted access to the Dish and other lands they own over the years. Getting a commitment to protect undeveloped lands is important. 99 years is less than forever, but it's better than nothing."

So rather than have them build on their own space, they are buying up other areas in College Terrace and Redwood City.

Unintended consequences, anyone?


3 people like this
Posted by But why?
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 4, 2019 at 12:13 am

Nobody has explained why Stanford is growing at all. As if there aren't other Universities to attend.

If Stanford wants to get in the business of Universitying, why not just go build one in King City or some other place. LBRE offices could be relocated there to free up campus space.


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