If the county Board of Supervisors approves the conditions, Stanford would have to construct roughly four times as many housing units (not including student beds) than the 550 it had proposed. In addition to the 2,600 student beds, the university would also have to construct at least 2,172 housing units, of which 1,239 could be offered at market rates with the remaining 933 units at below-market rate, with a set amount for each income category.
Furthermore, at least 70% of the new housing units would have to be built on campus. The rest would have to go up within 6 miles of the campus, unless the county Planning Commission deems this requirement "infeasible" and agrees to grant Stanford an exception.
These housing units would have to be constructed concurrently with new classrooms, labs and other academic facilities. The conditions call for Stanford's academic development to be split into four phases, each consisting of 25% of the 2.275-million-square-foot maximum. In each five-year phase, Stanford would likewise be required to build a quarter of the required proportion of housing for each income category, or else the university can't move into the next phase of construction of its academic buildings.
The vast majority of the 933 below-market-rate housing units would be devoted to moderate- and low-income households (347 and 381 units, respectively). Stanford would also be required to build 133 units in the "very low-income" category and 72 in "extremely low-income" category.
The county would also allow Stanford to avoid constructing some of these units by paying housing-impact fees and earning "credits" from the county to satisfy the affordable-housing requirements. Based on a county ordinance approved last year, for every square foot of academic space, the university must pay an impact fee of about $68. The conditions of approval specify the dollar amounts that would be considered adequate to pay for units of housing in each of the below-market housing categories.
County officials see the additional housing as a needed mitigation for the additional 9,610 people that Stanford's expansion would attract. Last summer, county staff released an environmental analysis of two housing alternatives to the university's application, each of which included far more units than Stanford had proposed.
County Supervisor Joe Simitian noted during a March 14 meeting that Stanford's proposal falls well short of what's needed to house the growing Stanford population. The math, he said, is "pretty simple."
"I don't think 550 units of housing (proposed by Stanford) is sufficient to address the housing need of those 7,010 folks who are left over, after we remove the (student) beds," Simitian said. "That has been a source of discussion from almost day one with respect to the proposal."
New ways to measure traffic
The county's newly released conditions also call for some changes to the "no net new commute trips" program that was introduced in the 2000 general-use permit and that has driven Stanford to greatly reduce the rate of solo commuters arriving and leaving campus during peak hours. In addition to counting traffic during one hour in the morning and afternoon, the proposed program would also consider Stanford's traffic impacts during a three-hour peak period.
Under the county's proposed program, a violation would occur if the average annual traffic counts for the peak hour — or the peak period — exceed a baseline level by 1% or greater during any year. If this happens, the county would immediately suspend approval of any new development projects until Stanford demonstrates compliance for at least a year.
The county also plans to impose a new standard for reverse commutes. Stanford will be required to implement "all feasible measures" to achieve no net increase in reverse-commute trips during peak commute times. And Stanford would get penalized if commute trips exceed the baseline by 2% or more in the second phase of the development plan.
Another condition focuses on average daily trips to and from the Stanford campus. During and after the second phase of the campus expansion, Stanford would have to ensure that its average daily trips do not increase by 3% or greater over two consecutive years. If the standard is violated, the county would not approve the next development phase.
The proposed conditions would also require Stanford to make contributions to surrounding communities for transportation and recreation improvements. This includes $450,000 for Clark Avenue and Newell Road connections in East Palo Alto; $250,000 for bicycle improvements at Bol Park in Palo Alto; $250,000 for the Oak Grove Avenue connection in Menlo Park; and $250,000 for improvements at Santa Cruz Avenue and Alameda de Las Pulgas in unincorporated San Mateo County.
Under the proposed conditions, Stanford would also contribute $375,000 for park improvements in Palo Alto, including tennis court upgrades at Terman Park and Weisshaar Park and playground improvements in Cameron Park. And if it goes beyond the minimum requirements and builds more than 4,425 housing units, Stanford would be required to pay for the replacement of turfs at Heritage Park in Palo Alto and at Stanford Hills Park in Menlo Park.
Stanford has concerns
The proposed changes, released in a 125-page document, are not entirely unexpected. In March, county staff released a one-page summary of its proposed conditions, which included the new number of housing units.
Stanford, for its part, has vociferously opposed the conditions and requested earlier this month that the Planning Commission delay its review. Catherine Palter, Stanford's associate vice president, cited the summary in her May 9 letter to the county, in which she suggested that the conditions are steering the planning process toward "a permit that Stanford cannot accept."
Palter also suggested that the additional housing demanded by the county would result in "significant detrimental environmental impacts to our neighbors and would impair Stanford's use of its academic space."
The summary of conditions, she wrote, "calls for transforming a college campus into an urban apartment complex."
"At the end of the day, a permit will be valid and effective only if the applicant views the comprehensive project as feasible and accepts the permit," Palter wrote. "An applicant will not elect to build a project under conditions that the applicant considers to be unworkable. Stanford is no different from other applicants in this respect."
Stanford is also still hoping to reach a development agreement with county — a negotiated contract that would allow each party to go beyond state requirements and propose further community benefits and development conditions. Such an agreement would provide the kinds of community benefits that neighboring jurisdictions and the Palo Alto school district have requested from Stanford, the university reasserted in a statement released Wednesday.
"A development agreement is the appropriate tool for providing these benefits, and we believe Santa Clara County should delay taking action on the conditions of approval and engage with Stanford in comprehensive development-agreement discussions," the statement reads. "The regulatory certainty provided through a development agreement will enable the university to provide additional community benefits. Stanford is ready and willing to engage in talks with the county."
Among the benefits noticeably missing from the conditions of approval are those pertaining to Palo Alto Unified, which on April 15 announced it had negotiated a $138 million deal with Stanford, to last for 40 years, contingent on the approval of a development agreement. That deal has been put on hold following the county's suspension of development-agreement talks.
Instead, the conditions of approval require the university to provide funding for Safe Routes to Schools bicycling improvements as well as standard district-impact fees. School district Superintendent Don Austin said on April 16 that those impact fees would total about $4.2 million in the same time frame.
Despite Stanford's request that the planning commission delay its review of the conditions of approval until it has a development agreement at hand, county officials on May 10 decided that the hearings on the conditions of approval should proceed as planned.
The first of these will be held at 6 p.m. on May 30 in the Council Chambers at City Hall. The second and third will be held on at 1:30 p.m. on June 13 and June 27 in Isaac Newton Senter Auditorium at County Government Center, 70 W. Hedding St., San Jose. •
This story contains 1442 words.
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