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More Stanford housing, but worse traffic?

Original post made on Jun 29, 2018

If the Palo Alto City Council was gung-ho months ago about requesting that Stanford University build more housing on campus as part of its proposed expansion plans, a recent draft environmental analysis has dumped cold water on hopes that doing so could come without significant problems.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, June 29, 2018, 6:48 AM

Comments (58)

Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 29, 2018 at 11:07 am

Sanctimonious City is a registered user.

Liberal Progressive Math

Only at prestigious pedantic research institutions and in Democrat run cities do they believe that more people equals less traffic and pollution.

That forecast is about as likely as runaway global warming, more hurricanes and the demise of the polar bear.

Of course, it makes sense that the same intellectual mindset which believes that more taxes and regulation reduces poverty and wealth inequality would buy it.

For the ideology-driven and computationally challenged, a better analogy of how concentrations of people affect traffic and the environment would be Burning Man or Woodstock.

Posted by resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 29, 2018 at 11:13 am

Traffic gets worse if there is a big increase in jobs or students on campus. If there is a cap on jobs and students, then moving these workers closer to their jobs and providing shuttles from the housing to campus will decrease single-occupancy traffic.

Posted by Ms. Wells
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 29, 2018 at 12:09 pm

What a nightmare.

Posted by Must go higher than 50'
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 29, 2018 at 1:21 pm

Karen Holman says "going to be problematic with the whole community"

- Not problematic for me. She didn't even ask me before she made this overreaching claim. [Portion removed.] I have no problem with 100' buildings if dedicated for housing, particularly if for students.

Posted by Profiles in Cowardice
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 29, 2018 at 1:51 pm

Wolbach and Fine continue to live in their fantasy world where Californians don't own cars, don't want to travel out of their bubble to visit with friends, go to the movies, catch a sporting event, wine taste, or have dinner in a different city. People own cars, they use their cars, and increasing development will of course increase our traffic. We should have an honest debate about the pros and cons of this development and how it will impact our streets, schools, and city services, but let's not fool ourselves by pretending people won't drive.

Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 29, 2018 at 1:53 pm

A budget analysis is needed as well. For example, will the housing be exempt from property taxes? And how many more people need to hired to provide services: police, fire fighters, school classrooms, teachers, etc. or if there is no increase in staffing, will services be degraded for all the existing residents, like access to playing fields, etc.

Adding 3000+ housing units is around 7,000+ people.

Posted by No to Stanford GUP
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 29, 2018 at 11:15 pm

You add more development - you automatically add more people, more cars, more traffic, you need more schools, and parks and playing fields and community resources and you get more pollution and worse quality of life. It never ends if the development doesn't end.

It is time to tell Stanford they are big enough. Make due with the space you have and stop destroying the community where you live. Please everyone - write to the Santa Clara board of supervisors and demand that they deny Stanford's GUP (general use permit). (Supervisor Yeager <supervisor.yeager@BOS.SCCGOV.ORG>; Wasserman, Mike <>; Chavez, Cindy <>; Supervisor Simitian <>; Cortese, Dave <Dave.Cortese@BOS.SCCGOV.ORG>

Stanford doesn't need to add any more space. If they want to expand - go to an area of the country where there is room for them. We ran out of that around here a long time ago.

Posted by Palo Alto would be Gary indiana
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jun 30, 2018 at 8:15 am

Must go higher- Holman is notoriously out of touch with reality. We would have a bike bridge over 101 if not for her actions.

Profiles— is that how the playbook works? Any article dealing with the council lead to postings defaming and attacking wolbach/fine/kniss?

No to stanford GUP- Stanford is not adding space. They are trying to best use the space they have. May be time to rethink the use of the Dish area and its access to Palo Alto residents.

Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 30, 2018 at 3:01 pm

@ Palo Alto would be Gary Indiana

No, of course not, but when I read the city name...Gary mind and mouth immediately turn to one of the main tunes in "Music Man", and I start singing that song.

Re playbook comments. The voters will decide. Let all the candidates come out, along with their mentor supporters, and tell their story, what they've done to make life better, including our quality of life, here in PA. Remember promises from 2014 and 2016? That will be a challenge and a short list I fear.

They will probably tell you what hasn't been done and chastise all of us NIMBY's for the problems we have invoked on others. They will tell you all the good stuff they've done, good in their minds, but not good for many residents in PA. More housing, albeit, redefined affordable housing, and parking lite, which will inevitably mean more parking on residential streets. Oh, and our wonderful bike boulevards, and the great effort made to save retail businesses that were destined to fail anyway. The list goes on and on, but the efforts of the progressive/forward looking members of CC never ends.

"I'm not going to give away my shot" or campaign contribution money until election time when candidates have to step up to the bar/plate and tell their stories in front of an audience, pleading their case of why they should be elected or re-elected to the CC, the shrunken CC. The incumbents have a voting record, good or bad, to defend.

Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jun 30, 2018 at 3:15 pm

Of course Standford needs to add adequate housing if they expand, is anyone even arguing otherwise?

Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 30, 2018 at 4:24 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Yes, how about not expending, because this area cannot support it? Is Stanford a school or a real estate development corporation?

Posted by Build Stanford build
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 30, 2018 at 5:16 pm

Maurucio- they are building so that university will remain state of the art. Claiming they are s real estate development company shows you do not have a clue what Stanford is and what its mission is. Anyway palo alto had no say- the university is not in city limits.

Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 30, 2018 at 8:27 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

I know very well what Stanford is: A real estate development corporation that happens to own a world class university.

Posted by Palo Alto would be Gary indiana
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jun 30, 2018 at 8:41 pm

Real estate development, or property development, is a business process, encompassing activities that range from the renovation and re-lease of existing buildings to the purchase of raw land and the sale of developed land or parcels to others.
Stanford is not renovating and releasing buildings, nor are they purchasing raw land nor are they selling developed lands to others. By definition, they are not a real estate development corporation.
[Portion removed.]

Posted by Sure about that?
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 30, 2018 at 9:24 pm

I believe you WILL find Stanford does a lot of leasing, including Stanford Industrial Park! They make a hella lot of money doing this.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 30, 2018 at 10:41 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Every college town -- Palo Alto, Princeton, etc. -- subsidizes its universities and the residents get hit with higher taxes and costs because of all of the tax-exempt land. Go do a search on Princeton University and Princeton Borough and Princeton Township; the inequities have been covered by the NYT for years if not decades.

Posted by Stephen
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 30, 2018 at 11:05 pm

A few bits of information re some of the points above
(1) [Portion removed due to factual inaccuracies.] The shopping center is in Palo Alto, something that Stanford did when the shopping center was built so that the sales tax revenue would go to Palo Alto (times were different then). The industrial park (considered by many to be the historical heart of Silicon Valley) is also in Palo Alto (see the Santa Clara Valley Assesor’s records) and thus subject to property tax, sales tax etc. Likewise, for Stanford West apartments are also in Palo Alto and apparently subject to property tax.
(2) Residential lease-holders on the Stanford campus (and off campus) pay property taxes at the same rate as we do in Palo Alto – any housing on the campus that is “owned” rather than rented is subject to property tax.
(3) There are children who live on the Stanford campus (not sure how many – ca. 100?) in Escondido and in Resident Fellow apartments in the dorms and who attend Palo Alto Schools – I don’t think any property tax paid on those residences. On the other hand, 4 Palo Alto Schools are on Stanford lands (Paly, Gunn, Escondido and Nixon).
(4) Revenue from leasing (e.g., the industrial park) is one of the revenue streams (along with endowment investments, tuition, and indirect cost recovery) that supports Stanford academic programs, i.e. education and research. I am not sure what “Sure about that” and others think Stanford does with its income, but if they were curious to inform themselves on how that revenue is spent, the Provost’s annual budget presentation is usually available online.

Posted by Palo Alto would be Gary indiana
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jul 1, 2018 at 7:14 am

[Post removed.]

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 1, 2018 at 9:33 am

Online Name is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

Posted by Kya
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 2, 2018 at 2:23 pm

Thank you Mauricio!!! Well stated.

Posted by mahm
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 3, 2018 at 4:40 pm

More housing, more transit not more parking. shuttles every 10 to 15 min around neighborhood that connect with vta, caltrain etc.that also runs more often.
It could be legal to limit the no of cars allowed per residence, or driving on designated days according to even and odd ending number on license.
Google and other companies that transport their employees open the buses to anyone on the route that needs a ride(publish schedule).
Be a walker or ride a bicycle as often as possible.

Posted by Jack
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 4, 2018 at 6:58 am

Considering there is a housing crisis, ANY attempt to add housing should be welcome and encouraged.

However, like everyone, Stanford should be pushed to maximize land use, build as tall as possible and with mixed-use and underground parking as well.

NIMBY’s will object to any progress but Stanford should be urged to add much more housing than its proposing.

Posted by George
a resident of another community
on Jul 4, 2018 at 7:22 am

Is that surprising for anyone, though? Development is a great thing, no doubt. Good for the economics, more career opportunities, access to more facilities. But of course there are always going to be disadvantages that come with growth and development especially rapid ones. Traffic is really only one of them. More people, more cars, more trafic- it's logic.

But I guess in the end you have to accept those downfalls and ask yourself if the pros outweigh the cons? I think they do. You can't have everything so you have to get used to what you get. Simple as that really. Any big city has terrible traffic but people have adapted and learned to navigate it.

Posted by @mauricio
a resident of another community
on Jul 4, 2018 at 7:49 am

"Yes, how about not expending, because this area cannot support it?"

The unfortunate realization for you that you chose to live right next to a world-class university does not mean that the area can't support Stanford expanding.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 4, 2018 at 8:29 am

Online Name is a registered user.

@mauricio, maybe the world-class university should start supporting the neighborhoods instead. A Redwood City neighborhood had to sue them to stop 24-hour expansion construction that was messing up their sleep. I called a Stanford friend to read her their arrogant let-them-eat cake statement and she couldn't stop talking about her own battle with them over their Menlo Park construction projects.

Posted by @Online Name
a resident of another community
on Jul 4, 2018 at 9:15 am

Palo Alto was founded to support Stanford, not the other way around.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 4, 2018 at 9:36 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Absolutely. It was founded by Stanford after Mayfield (Cal Ave area and environs) refused to accept Stanford's demands that it ban alcohol and close the breweries and other businesses not to Stanford's liking. Mayfield was later annexed by what became Palo Alto.

Posted by @Online Name
a resident of another community
on Jul 4, 2018 at 10:00 am

And now Palo Alto is an enclave of retirees who can't deal with the fact that cities grow and change, especially University towns. Stanford will be here after you, it will continue to grow and expand after you, and so will Palo Alto.

Posted by question
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 4, 2018 at 10:07 am

If Palo Alto was founded to support Stanford, then I assume it was to have a community where professors could live, raise kids, have good schools, safe streets, some shopping and leisure options. Eventually the town/city developed took features of it’s own.

Does Stanford now have the call to change how Palo Alto grows? Do they impose traffic or other costs? Does Stanford have a right to impose a vision of Palo Alto that is different from the original reason why people made community here?

I find Stanford very impersonal and while alumnae may have a greater connection, not everyone who has come to live in Palo Alto has that connection. I am more worried about safe streets, over development, and City’s bad management of projects and finances. Should Stanford take over some of these challenges?

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 4, 2018 at 10:27 am

Online Name is a registered user.

There are also many Stanford alums who are so furious at Stanford they've stopped contributing. Maybe Stanford should start giving PA residents free tuition for their extremely pricey continuing ed courses and discounts on their very pricey travel programs as partial compensation for all the inconveniences, road closures, congestion, construction hassles and RVs lining El Camino?

Note they're not just expanding in PA; they're also buying up properties in Menlo Park, Redwood City, Los Altos etc. where they also get huge tax breaks on their properties.

Posted by Me
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 4, 2018 at 10:31 am

Why does the same poster “resident of another community” get to post using multiple names ? (@whoever”) That violates the TOS.
Plus they are clearly trolling.

Posted by Pat Burt
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 4, 2018 at 10:55 am

Pat Burt is a registered user.

This DEIR is a very informative analysis, not only as it informs the next GUP, but as it demonstrates that additional housing will increase car trips unless there are new and stronger programs to reduce car travel. This applies to new housing in Palo Alto and surrounding communities as well.
Stanford does need to add more housing on campus and they need to help support affordable housing nearby for its thousands of modest income workers. But they must also concurrently expand their alternative transportation programs.
Among those measures, the MARGARITE bus system should be expanded and integrated with the city shuttle, something that Stanford has opposed in the past. The buses need to provide better service to East Palo Alto and East Menlo Park where many of Stanford’s service workers do not have good access to East-West transit. They also need to improve their bike system on campus and feeding campus.
And Stanford needs to be brought into the Palo Alto grade separation project and contribute their full fair share of its very high cost. The grade separations are needed to accommodate their many car trips that will contribute to gridlock with traffic and train growth. That train growth is also an essential part of their proposed Transportation Demand Management (TDM) program.
Lastly, Stanford needs to accept full responsibility for the cost of their additional K-12 students within our school system. Their property tax exemption is a huge burden for PAUSD which, as a Basic Aid District, relies primarily on local property taxes.
Put simply, Stanford needs to accept responsibility for fully mitigating the impacts they create. These costs are significant to them and significant to the surrounding community, but with a $24 Billion endowment they are more than able to meet their responsibilities.

Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 4, 2018 at 10:57 am

mauricio is a registered user.

...Any big city has terrible traffic but people have adapted and learned to navigate it...

Exactly, but Palo Alto is not a big city and is utterly unequipped to become one, even if its residents agreed to become a big city, assuming they are ever asked. Stanford, land developers and the local politicians and city staff who serve them, want to turn Palo Alto into a big city, and it remains to be seen if at some point residents would put a stop to this nonsense.

Posted by SCB94303
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 5, 2018 at 2:44 am

SCB94303 is a registered user.

I feel that any of the Palo Alto residents who chose to live in Palo Alto and do not like what Stanford University plans to do can choose another community where they won’t have Stanford as a neighbor so they can stop complaining about Stanford. I moved here because my husband was offered a job at Stanford, and I am very proud to have Stanford as a neighbor and proud to live in this community, and I happen to love it here. I feel that Stanford was here before you residents who don’t like it and that Stanford can do whatever it wants to do with its own land, and the people who don’t like it, as I said, can move out to where they would be pleased with their community as I am with mine.

Posted by regulations
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 5, 2018 at 5:04 am

@SCB94303, tell that to the CEQA people.

Posted by Palo alto would be Gary indiana
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jul 5, 2018 at 11:36 am

Pat burt believes that Stanford is the cash cow that can be moved for palo Altos benefit. He wants Stanford to build housing, provide a shuttle for the city, pay for the grade separation and other assorted items.
And what has the city and pat burt done to provide affordable housing-- nothing. In fact, burt as a pasz member of council, opposed attempts at affordable housing. He now wants Stanford to pay for his failures as a council member.
Stanford needs to look into developing the dish area, while closing it off to palo alto residents. In addition the leases of pslo alto schools need to be looked into also.
Really, pat, maybe you need to look at your lack of action to address these matters before you try to force Stanford to pay for your insatiable desires ay someone else's cost.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 5, 2018 at 11:56 am

Online Name is a registered user.

What has Stanford done to provide affordable housing? Or even temporary housing for the RV dwellers who are its construction workers and patients and their families getting long-term care at Stanford Health who can't afford the absurdly high hotel/motel rates? I know a nurse who's taken pity of some of those families and taken them into her home. I regularly see pleas on Next Door from families and patients.

Posted by Palo alto would be Gary indiana
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jul 5, 2018 at 12:30 pm

Online name-- Stanford west as one example. Faculty housing near el csmino.
The construction workers do not work for Stanford. They work for the contractor. Which city provides housing for hospital patient families? But there is HOME Apartments in Los Altos run by the assistance league that provides affordable housing. Maybe your child check the facts before making claims

Posted by Pat Burt
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 5, 2018 at 2:11 pm

Pat Burt is a registered user.

@Palo alto would be Gary
Ad hominem attacks are not constructive arguments, even when the accusations are true. But your claims about my history with affordable housing are just plain false and fabricated.
I have never been affiliated with PASZ and I supported the Maybell senior affordable housing project in opposition to them.
Beyond that, I have consistently supported affordable housing throughout my 20 plus years in civic life. As a neighborhood leader I supported Alma Place single room occupancy for very low income tenants as well as the Oak Court Apartments for families. As a planning commissioner and on city council I was a strong supporter of our affordable projects, including The Opportunity Center, the JCC/Moldaw projects, 801 Alma, The Tree House, Stevenson House renovation and Maybell. I also supported increasing the affordable housing impact fees in late 2016 which the current council majority reversed. More recently, I have been involved with advocay for greater renter protections, including consideration of a cap on rent increases. Perhaps you can share what you have done to support these or other affordable housing projects or initiatives.
More on topic, my post above did not advocate that Stanford pay for the city's needs, but rather than they pay their fair share of the costs to mitigate the impacts of their development.
Healthy, thoughtful debate on these issues is valuable, even if we do not agree. Misrepresentations and invention of false claims is not productive or responsible.

Posted by Palo alto would be Gary indiana
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jul 5, 2018 at 2:25 pm

I will stand by my comments despite burts attempts at revisionist history. Also note that anyone a council member is criticized, it is considered an attack. Burt clearly stated above that Stanford needs to expand their shuttle system into Palo alto. They need to build housing and they need to support housing nearby ( had Stanford ever opposed affordable housing in palo alto? I think not. It is palo alto and pat burt that gave speed affordable housing). Stanford also needs to pay their "fair share of the track work ( who will determine the fair share? Pat burt?). Is palo alto also asking MV and MP to pay for the track work in palo alto? Why not? Don't mv and mp car trips go through palo alto? What I have done is irrelevant. You are the public servant that accomplished little in your 8 years on the council.

Posted by regulations
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 5, 2018 at 2:58 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Real name = truth
a resident of another community
on Jul 5, 2018 at 3:13 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Palo alto would be Gary indiana
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jul 5, 2018 at 5:17 pm

Another example of the way of thinking by burt and others that someone else should pay for palo Altos needs is the proposed hotel tax increase. Higher than anaheim!!!!. Let's get visitors to play for our needs. Maybe we can add on a caltrain track work surcharge to the hotel bill also.

Posted by Stephen
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 5, 2018 at 6:16 pm

Mr. Burt’s comment about Stanford paying property taxes is somewhat misleading or perhaps misinformed in a number of ways.

First, all the of the residential leaseholders pay property taxes. For example, the new houses and condos on California Ave. are subject to property taxes. I suspect that many of the younger faculty who have purchased homes and condos recently have very large property tax assessments. I looked up Stanford West - apparently these properties are also subject to property taxes. That means that the only children whose parents are not paying property taxes or the ones who live in EV and are the children of resident fellows (faculty and staff who have apartments in the dorms). I have never seen a number as to how many children this actually involves, but it would seem reasonable to work out an assessment for those children, although presumably there should also be an offsetting calculation of the rental value of the Stanford land that Paly, Gunn, Nixon and Escondido occupy.
Moreover, on the revenue side, the Stanford Shopping Center and Stanford Industrial Park (both of which are in Palo Alto) contribute substantial sales and property taxes.

Second, other than schools, property taxes typically serve to support services a city provides its residents. In the case of Stanford, because the campus is not actually in the city of Palo Alto, the university has its own fire and police departments, and its own utilities. It is responsible for maintenance of its road network. Thus, I am not sure as to what services Palo Alto provides Stanford. If the issue is one of recovering costs associated with commuters driving though Palo Alto to reach Stanford, then I would suppose that Palo Alto also should be paying substantial similar impact fees to East Palo Alto, Mountain View and Menlo Park. If the concern is effect on regional housing supply, I am puzzled by the fact that local developers are never asked to provide housing to accompany the offices they develop, nor to provide land for schools, nor to fund local bus lines.

More generally, it would be good to remember what Stanford does - education and research. It is not a company or a real estate development enterprise. All income that Stanford earns from various sources goes to support that dual mission. For example, in the Department of Civil and Environmentalk Engineering, the one I know best, teaching and research focuses on issues like sustainability of cities, management of water resources, earthquake engineering and renewable energy. I am sure that one could provide similar examples for every other department and school at Stanford.

Finally, it is good to recall a bit of history: the first map of Palo Alto (not Mayfield) describes it as “The Town of The Leland Stanford Junior University” – Stanford and Palo Alto have grown up together in the intervening 130 years (or so). It seems like the best way forward is to find ways to collaboratively address the in-common problems of housing, traffic, flooding, etc. I am hopeful that this is approach Palo Alto’s City Council and Stanford’s leadership will take as the new GUP moves forward.

Ps: I don’t doubt Mr. Burt’s commitment to affordable housing and I do appreciate the substantial time he has devoted to serving the people of Palo Alto through elected office.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 5, 2018 at 7:41 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Are they paying taxes on both the land and the improvements? Often land is assessed at a higher value that the house and other improvements.

Posted by Curious
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 5, 2018 at 7:54 pm

If a home in Palo Alto is sold, the land is sold with it. A good part of the value of a home is now in the land itself.

What happens to homes on Stanford land where the land itself is never sold, just leased, and only the home built on top of it sold. Does that depress the price of the home and therefore the property taxes? Will the thirty or so homes in College Terrace that Stanford has bought in the last few years be re-sold outright to faculty, both land and house? Or will Stanford retain the land on their usual long-term lease? And if so and since only faculty can bid on the house, will that depress the price compared to the house next door not on land owned by Stanford?

Posted by Stephen
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 5, 2018 at 9:22 pm

To Curious et al: Even though Stanford owns the land (of the on-campus residences) the county assessor makes an assessment of the land value as well as that of the structure - pick an address of an on-campus house and look up the assessment at the Santa Clara County Tax Assessor - you will see that both land and structure. For example, 873 Allardice Way (sold in Dec.) is listed as $3.1 million for land and $500,000 for improvements. Most of the houses sold on campus are sold though competitive bidding although the prices are lower than off campus because of limitations on who can buy - that is the nature of the market. Nonetheless, thanks to Prop. 13, I would wager that many of the younger Stanford faculty (the ones likely to have kids in Palo Alto schools) are paying substantially higher property taxes than many Palo Alto residents.

Posted by Pat Burt
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 7, 2018 at 1:03 pm

Pat Burt is a registered user.

Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I agree that Stanford on campus homeowners pay property taxes. I also agree that Stanford academic arenas provide highly valuable research, particularly its contributions in medicine and environmental sciences.
The focus of the article above and this thread has to do with the GUP impacts and now with the impacts of the two new DEIR scenarios that would add considerable new rental housing on campus. That new rental housing and the millions of square feet of new academic/research development would not contribute property taxes. However, the DEIR shows it would create significant traffic impacts off campus. Those are the impacts that I argue Stanford needs to accept responsibility for.
In addition, the hundreds of new students that would be added to our school district would be unfunded since PAUSD is a basic aid district which receives the bulk of its revenue from local property taxes. PAUSD would incur 10's of millions of dollars in one-time capital costs to increase capacity and millions a year in ongoing educational costs.
Other leading private universities have addressed these issues with less resources than Stanford's $24 Billion and rapidly growing endowment.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 7, 2018 at 3:36 pm

@Stephen and others interested in impact of PAUSD students from Stanford...

Escondido Village and rental units at Olmsted have about 150 PAUSD students. The property is exempt (check the assessor database), so property tax revenue is $0.

Stanford West has about 250 PAUSD students. Assessed value per the assessor database is $100 million, which means about $0.5 million a year to PAUSD.

Combined, that's $500K revenue for 400 students, which is $1.25K per student. Average cost for PAUSD is about $20K ($240 million budget for 12K students). So Stanford pays about 5% of the average cost for students from its rental housing. The shortfall is $7.5 million a year. Big number.

The GUP says it will generate between 300 and 1500 more students, presumably with no additional revenue to PAUSD. You can do the math.

In terms of the school sites, they are all owned by PAUSD. There's a long-standing urban myth that the district leases them - that is incorrect. You can see this in the GUP itself (Web Link - look at the maps on p 7 or 28 of the PDF, for instance. The on-campus school sites are not included in Stanford Land (unlike all the housing, etc.) - they are the same color as the rest of Palo Alto. Ditto for Paly and Gunn. This all happened 50-100 years ago, when the schools were built.

So not sure what other offsets there might be. But it seems to me that PAUSD is educating hundreds of students residing at Stanford for free - a problem. And now Stanford is planning to build hundreds, maybe thousands, of new rental units. Something's gotta give.

Posted by Stephen
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 7, 2018 at 3:39 pm


Thanks for your reply - it seems like one solution for the issue of students living in new on-campus rental housing would be to make that housing subject to property tax in the same way that Stanford West is subject to property tax. On the other hand, I would think a full accounting should include the value to PAUSD of the land that Paly, Gunn. Nixon, and Escondido rest on. Your thoughts?

One thing that would be interesting to know is how the enrollment in PAUSD students has changed over time. For example, II would guess that both Gunn and Nixon were built in response to the large addition of on-campus housing that took place in the '60s, a time when there would have been a good number of school age children. Many of the original owners, now retirees, still live in those houses, although their children have long ago moved on.

Covering the capital cost of adding facilities seems reasonable, although I would hope that it would be assessed at a similar rate for any new housing built in Palo Alto, e.g. the large new apartment complex on Park near Oregon. Perhaps they are? And then what to do about all the developers (e.g. Chop Keenan) who add office space but not housing? One win-win for PAUSD might be to have Stanford and PAUSD build housing for PAUSD teachers on Stanford land. Perhaps that has been discussed?

Re other universities: Could you please be specific? I would be most interested to see what models for financial arrangements between town and gown might exist elsewhere. That said, there are some important differences - Harvard, Columbia and Yale all are situated inside cities, so presumably the cities in which they are situated have a different claim than Palo Alto does on Stanford (aside form schools). Cal, about which I know a fair bit, pretty much is at loggerheads with Berkeley over a variety of issues. The city of Berkeley receives no property tax or sales tax from Cal.

Re traffic impacts: I am curious to know how you feel about what Palo Alto might owe surrounding communities, notably East Palo Alto, for the traffic that flows through them to get to the various offices and businesses located in Palo Alto and not on Stanford campus. I would assume that you would be in favor of Palo Alto paying impact fees to cover the costs that traffic destined for Palo Alto impose on our neighbors.

Finally, citing the endowment may be an easy way to win political points, but it is really off target - it would seem to me that whatever obligation Stanford owes surrounding communities shouldn't depend on the size of its endowment, but rather on what services it requires and what impacts it creates.

Posted by Stephen
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 7, 2018 at 3:58 pm

Please see - Web Link - Key quote: "A new district school on Stanford property would not be the first on university land. Palo Alto and Gunn high schools, as well as Nixon and Escondido elementary schools, are located on sites that the district leases from Stanford, paying a token rent." These sites are on Stanford lands which the founding document for the University stipulates cannot ever be sold. I have heard that leasing of the Paly site was something arranged by Jane Stanford. Gunn, Nixon and Escondido are all more recent - but yes, probably ca. 50 years...

A couple of questions:
(1) I will follow up on the issue of student numbers - where did those numbers come from? The GUP document? Thanks
(2) What Olmstead rentals? The Olmstead Terrace houses are all owner-occupied as far as I know.

Re Stanford West - this would seem to be a common issue for all rental properties in Palo Alto since it reflects Prop. 13. Current assessments are based on what the assessments were originally (then market rate) when Stanford West was built almost 20 years ago, This would be true for any apartments in Palo Alto for which the owners of the apartments have not changed. Perhaps Prop. 13 needs a re-think?

Posted by Resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 7, 2018 at 4:58 pm

@Stephen, yes I've seen that article. It shows you can't trust everything you read in the paper, even the Weekly!

Here's the story from the Paly web page about its 1919 land purchase: Web Link And here's a 1959 article from the Stanford Daily that mentions the purchase of the Escondido site: Web Link But those could be wrong. If you check the assessor database, you'll see those sites aren't assessed and exempted (like Stanford sites), but simply recorded with zero value (like school district sites). But I haven't seen the deed or sale document, so I can't be 100% sure that I'm right. If you check with PAUSD or Stanford, let us know what you hear.

The enrollment numbers come from various enrollment reports and discussions over the years. The Stanford West # was in a PAUSD board presentation from last Nov (I only have hard copy, sorry). The Escondido # was in an enrollment report from about 8 years ago (sorry again only hard copy - it's by the old demographers). The Olmsted portion is a guess - there are 25 rental units there, mostly single family houses, according to this article from 2010: Web Link

Agree, the Stanford West assessed value probably reflects assessment from 15 years ago, though even that seems low (perhaps nominal value for the land, which Stanford already owned?). But yes, high-density family-oriented housing that never changes hands is a big issue for basic aid school districts. PAUSD has had very little of that kind of housing - to the extent there is more, that will put pressure on its financial position.

Posted by Stephen
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 7, 2018 at 5:27 pm

Resident: Thanks -
(1) I will try to track down the issue of ownership of lands - there must be a definitive documents somewhere!
(2) The Olmstead rentals are housing for coaches - it would seem very reasonable to assess property tax on these (although the same problem as with Stanford West would arise)
(3) It seems like we agree that PAUSD and Stanford should make information about enrollments etc. available for all to see.
(4) I have been told by someone active in Palo Alto affordable housing that generally apartments and complexes like 800 High are good for the school district in that they generally have fewer children per unit than do single family homes.
(5) It can be hard to connect property tax revenue with cost to the school district for a variety of reasons: (a) many properties have no students but pay taxes - e.g. businesses in the Stanford Industrial Park or the Downtown. This is what makes the whole thing work and may explain why our city government seems to prefer office development over housing; (b) Because of Prop. 13, people can pay wildly different rates - we pay 1/2 what our next door neighbors pay and 2.5 x what the school board member up the street from us pays. (c) Given that PAUSD spends $18,000/student and assuming that 1/3 of property taxes go to schools, then one would need to pay $54,000/child of property tax to ensure that PAUSD's costs are covered. I doubt that there are very many properties generate property taxes at that level - see point 1.

Posted by Another Person
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 7, 2018 at 7:30 pm

@Stephen - thanks for all your interesting thoughts! Such a mellow conversation! I have some data in response (sorry for the long posting):

- Escondido was built in response to the creation of Escondido Village in 1959 (per the earlier article). Nixon was built in 1970 in response to development of Pine Hill and Frenchman's Hill developments. Gunn opened in 1963 I think in response to general growth, not specific to Stanford. I expect both Esc. and Nixon have fewer students from Stanford lands than 40 years ago or even 20.

- Re Capital costs (buildings), developer fees are a pittance. I don't know if Stanford pays, but it almost doesn't matter. There is a statewide cap at something like $3.50 per sqft, so a 500 house development @ 2,500 sqft/house = ~$4.5M. 500 houses is about a school's worth; since PAUSD remodels existing elementaries for over $25M, I figure a new one is a lot more.

- In terms of other universities, the right parallels are other elite private schools. Though even there, most don't have the school-owned graduate student and faculty housing levels that Stanford is proposing, nor the housing costs that we have around here. Nevertheless, they pay; the technical term is "payment in lieu of taxes"; google it and you'll find that all the Ivies pay their town except Penn and Columbia, as well as other large private universities. It isn't just for schools but some is.

- I tend to agree with Mr. Burt re the endowment's relevance. Most non-profits are broke, and so it is moot or mean to expect them to pay their full share. Not the case with Stanford. Agree they should pay only their share, however calculated - but no discount for poverty.

- I agree that property taxes are hard to foot directly to student costs. But Stanford is a unique case. It can and does tax-exempt at least some housing, and under the proposed GUP would be by far the largest owner of student-producing properties in the district. Prop 13 also figures in, since their property never changes hands, so is never marked to market.

My proposal would be they should just pay a "tuition fee" for the number of students they generate: that number times the average cost per student, less whatever their residential properties are already paying. There might be other methods, but that one seems easy to calculate and fair for a property owner that might generate over 1,000 students (10% of the district's enrollment?!).

Posted by Paly Grad
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jul 7, 2018 at 8:53 pm

$8.2 million in annual voluntary payments from Yale to New Haven
$4.5 million in property taxes to New Haven for Yale’s commercial properties

Date: March 31, 2016

Source: Web Link

Posted by Stephen
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 8, 2018 at 10:32 am

To Another Person:
(1) Your comments re the histories of the 4 schools jibes with what I have heard (but have never seen written down!). The issue of who owns the land is very germane in that per last year's enrollment data, approximately 40% of all PAUSD students (4861) attend school on Stanford lands if Stanford still owns the 4 school sites and leases them to PAUSD. I doubt that there are anything close to 4861 PAUSD students living on the Stanford Campus, but it would be great to see the actual data. Thus the ownership of those school sites seems to be something important to clarify.
(2) It seems to me that the problem that you and @Resident (thanks!) have highlighted is more general re the creation of any new housing since it seems clear that there is no way for property taxes on residences of any kind to pay 1:1 for the students who might live there. One interesting twist (that I assume that PAUSD has thought of) is the issue of timing. I.e., while our 2 kids were in PA schools, their education was subsidized by the general property tax base, whereas for the last 6 years (since the elder one graduated from Paly), we have been part of the subsidizing population. Perhaps a full accounting of both revenues (e.g. including all property taxes paid for properties on Stanford lands) and costs (Number of PAUSD students living on Stanford campus x 1$8,000/year or so) would be worthwhile for figuring out what a fair payment would be. Again, I am not sure how one would account for the value of the 4 school sites assuming that they still are on Stanford lands.
(3) re property taxes and the endowment: Please see my comments above - I agree that in general it is a good thing that non-profits don't pay property taxes, but the important point is that unlike Yale etc. ( @Paly grad), most of the Stanford campus is not in the city of Palo Alto and so does not receive city services for which we residents also pay taxes. Commercial properties that Stanford owns (e.g. the Industrial Park) do pay property and sales taxes. Moreover, what is different about Stanford compared to the mostly broke non-profits you cite is that the latter don't generally place demands on the school district but do require city services since they are generally located within cities. Note again that other private universities, notably Yale, are actually located inside cities and so should necessarily have different arrangements than do Stanford and Palo Alto.
So, it seems like having the actual "data" (how many students, how much property tax revenue, who owns the school sites) would be helpful for continuing this discussion.
It also seems like the issue Resident quite rightly raised re property taxes and new housing in general is an important one in light of the continual pressure to increase housing in Palo Alto to match employment growth.

Posted by macbaldy
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 29, 2018 at 11:54 am

Lots of mention is made of traffic increase from more on-campus student and staff housing. Yet, given the same student population and the same workforce numbers, isn't more on-campus housing reducing the traffic that formerly off-campus residency has entailed? More of you regional observers should visit the campus during a normal weekday (use free Marguerite Shuttle). You might find that campus facilities provide more ways to obtain food than the typical municipal worker has available. Stanford has provided its free shuttle buses around campus, into neighboring cities, and to almost all nearby transit hubs. Also, in 2017, Stanford claims that 57% of its employees use alternative transportation. Stanford has no free parking during workdays. Employees who drive need to pay hefty parking permit fees. Students with cars pay for their parking permits. Since the Seventies, when Fwy 280 was completed, Stanford has been continually closing off internal streets to vehicular traffic, including motorcycles. About a decade ago, even University golf cart traffic has been banned from core academic areas. Stanford has led the region in addressing traffic congestion. Its current free shuttle services began in the early Seventies; it currently offers shuttle to the East Bay locations. Stanford has been subsidizing Cal Train alternatives and free van pools for many years. As a 11-year resident of Stanford West (until recent retirement), I can attest that campus residence reduced my car use by 90% or more. Previously, I'd lived around Palo Alto since the early Seventies; all of that time was travel to work, sometimes by bike, a short time by motorcycle, but mostly by car. The free Marguerite shuttle runs through Stanford West for times when a walk or bike ride isn't practical; I could walk to Menlo Park and to Stanford Shopping Center, and across to Stanford Hospital. Where does this notion about more traffic from more on-campus residents arise?

Posted by Old Person
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 29, 2018 at 12:33 pm

@macbaldy - I'm sure sometimes it helps and it sounds like it did for you. But it sounds like you didn't have 1) children in school or daycare (nearest school to Stanford West is 2 miles away, high school is 5 miles) plus activities all over town; 2) spouse working outside Palo Alto (oops, shuttle doesn't go there); 3) much going on outside your narrow campus-based orbit. That's fine, it was a good fit for you. But for many others, it will add up to a lot more car trips in a concentrated space. On the balance it might work, but there seem to be good reasons to doubt it.

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