The staff's conditions, which are subject to approval by the county Board of Supervisors, would upend Stanford's proposed plans by requiring an additional 1,622 units of faculty and staff housing, for a minimum of 2,172 units, along with the 2,600 student beds that Stanford had proposed. The university could go beyond the minimum requirement and build up to 2,892 housing units and 2,807 student beds, according to the county conditions.
The staff also is proposing a requirement that at least 70 percent of the housing — or 1,520 faculty/staff units — be built on campus.
The proposal, which board President Joe Simitian discussed in a Town Hall meeting on March 14 in Palo Alto's City Council Chambers, also includes a 99-year prohibition on development in the foothills (which can only be overturned with approval of four of five board members) and a revised methodology for measuring Stanford's traffic impacts, with more consideration of reverse commutes and a new emphasis on limiting the growth of average daily traffic.
The new general-use permit (GUP), much like the one the Board of Supervisors approved in 2000, will require Stanford to meet a goal of "no net new car trips" on campus. But whereas the existing permit gauges Stanford's compliance by measuring trips during a "peak hour," the new permit would base it on a three-hour "peak period" under the county's proposal.
While all these conditions are yet to be reviewed by the board, at least one member has already embraced some of them. In explaining the county position on housing, Simitian noted that Stanford's expansion plan would bring an estimated 9,610 new people to the campus, according to the environmental analysis for the GUP. The student beds, he noted, would only take care of 2,600 people (assuming one person per bed). This, Simitian noted, leaves 7,010 people looking for housing.
"I don't think 550 units of housing is sufficient to address the housing needs," Simitian told the crowd during the Town Hall, which was co-sponsored by the Palo Alto Weekly. "This has been the source of discussion pretty much from day one with respect to the proposal."
The list of conditions did little, however, to address the topic that many in the community turned out to hear about: the impact of Stanford's growth on the Palo Alto Unified School District. Prior to the Town Hall, dozens of residents, including parents, students, school district officials and City Council members, rallied outside City Hall at King Plaza to demand "full mitigation" from Stanford, a phrase that Simitian also used in describing his goals for the project.
The list of conditions only calls for Stanford to relocate a designated school site from the east side of the campus to the west side. It does not, however, require the university to either contribute funding to the school district or to help it build a new school to serve the expected influx of students — two ideas the Palo Alto Board of Education had officially requested of Stanford last November.
Simitian said the lack is a function of state law, which limits the county's ability to address school impacts as part of its environmental-review process.
"We don't have as many tools as we would like in the land use process to help our schools," Simitian said at the rally. "We can address traffic, we can address housing, we can address open-space protection, but what we don't have by virtue of state law is a lot of tools to help us help our local schools and the kids they serve."
Stanford's unwillingness to commit to these measures has frustrated many in the school district. However, Simitian expressed some hope that the district and Stanford will be able to reach an amicable resolution on school impacts in the coming months. Palo Alto Unified Superintendent Don Austin said the district and Stanford have agreed to start confidential discussions about benefits and mitigations.
Jean McCown, Stanford's assistant vice president and director of community relations, said in a statement on March 14 that the university "will seek to have the results of direct discussions between PAUSD and the university included as community benefits in the final agreement with the county."
Stanford is unlikely to embrace the county's recommendation for more faculty and staff housing. Catherine Palter, associate vice president for land use and environmental planning, said in a statement last week that the university's original housing proposal is based on a "careful planning process" and represents a "reasonable, responsible and paced approach, consistent with our values as a residential university committed to sustainable development and service to the community."
"The analysis in the county's final environmental-impact report validates the careful planning that went into the 2018 general-use permit application. The result of that process is a proposal that we feel balances the needs of the university and the community while addressing potential impacts over the life of the permit," Palter said.
This story contains 887 words.
Stories older than 90 days are available only to subscribing members. Please help sustain quality local journalism by becoming a subscribing member today.
If you are already a subscriber, please log in so you can continue to enjoy unlimited access to stories and archives. Subscriptions start at $5 per month and may be cancelled at any time.