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Stanford proposes to spend $4.7 billion as part of planned campus expansion

Seeking county approval for the expansion, the university says it will spend $3.4 billion on additional housing and more than $1 billion on transportation improvements.

Stanford University has offered to provide up $4.7 billion worth of new housing and community benefits as part of a massive campus expansion proposal.

The San Jose Mercury News reports that the university has announced it will spend $3.4 billion to build 1,307 new housing units, $1.17 billion to finance transportation improvements, and $138 million to boost Palo Alto Unified School District’s coffers.

In exchange, Stanford wants Santa Clara County to award it development rights and repeal two ordinances that require the university to pay affordable housing fees and designate 16 percent of new housing units as affordable.

Stanford says it will still meet housing requirements, but wants the laws repealed because they unfairly put the burden of solving the regional housing crisis on Stanford.

In April, the county suspended negotiations with Stanford to jointly draft a development agreement after the university and Palo Alto Unified School District brokered their own $138.4 million pact. The county said the agreement broke rules that bar Stanford from making outside deals during negotiations.

In its 50-page proposal to the county, Stanford offered to:

  • Build three quarters of the new 2,172 housing units the county demanded, including 575 below-market rate, in the first few years of the expansion rather than in phases over 20 years. Stanford wants the county to give it credit for two housing projects already in the pipeline before it applied for the campus expansion.
  • Build at least 1,115 of the new housing units and 2,600 student beds on university land.
  • Provide $15.25 million in bike, pedestrian and transit improvements in San Mateo County and $15.05 million in Palo Alto, based on requests submitted by both agencies
  • Give $138.5 million to the Palo Alto Unified School District, with $15 million of that paid upfront
  • Invest $1.1 billion in expanded transportation demand management programs to reduce single-occupancy vehicle trips and traffic on local roads.

Catherine Palter, associate vice president of land use and environmental planning for Stanford, says the development agreement not only would benefit the university but also other community groups.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, whose district includes Stanford, was far from impressed, however.

“I don’t think there’s a lot new here,” Simitian says. “I don’t think it’s helpful in terms of moving the process forward.” 

Representatives of local business and housing groups say they like Stanford’s proposal.

“This is great. The more institutions step up to address housing, the better. That’s what we need,” says Jim Mather, chief investment officer of BRIDGE Housing, a nonprofit housing developer.

Over the next two decades, Stanford wants to add 2.27 million square feet of academic facilities as well as 2,600 student beds, entirely within the campus footprint.

In response to concerns that such a substantial expansion would strain an already strapped housing supply in nearby communities, Santa Clara County recently required Stanford to increase staff and faculty housing almost fourfold, from the proposed 550 to 2,172 units.

Stanford has said it’s willing to increase the amount of housing if it gets credit for half of 1,300 units of graduate student housing already in the pipeline and a 215-unit faculty and staff housing project in Menlo Park. Both projects were planned independent of the campus expansion.

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