Stanford told to include more housing in campus expansion plan

May 29, 2019
Santa Clara County, Calif., officials say Stanford needs to built more than 2,100 housing units for faculty and staff if it wants its development plan approved.

Officials in Santa Clara County, Calif., have told Stanford University that it needs to build nearly four times the number of housing units for staff and faculty than the school has proposed as part of a massive campus expansion.

The San Jose Mercury News reports that In addition to 2,600 beds for students, the county wants Stanford to build at least 2,172 housing units for faculty and staff in order for the expansion to be approved.

Stanford, however, has previously balked over such a move. Catherine Palter, the university’s associate vice president, told the county in a May 9 letter the process “appears to be headed in a direction that will lead to a permit that Stanford cannot accept.”

“The County’s final (environmental impact report) clearly demonstrates that the county administration’s alternative to build thousands more housing units than Stanford proposed would create more significant, adverse environmental impacts than the balanced plan that the university submitted for approval,” Palter wrote.

The county’s proposed requirements come amid a growing housing crisis that is forcing Bay Area residents — and university employees specifically — to move farther away from campus and endure longer commutes.

In November 2016, the university applied for a general use permit to develop 4,017 acres in unincorporated Santa Clara County. The university proposed building an additional 2.275 million square feet of academic facilities, 40,000 square feet of transportation and child care facilities, 2,600 beds for students and 550 housing units for faculty and staff. Construction of the planned facilities would take place over roughly two decades.

Ahead of coming public hearings, the county has released its proposed list of requirements that would have to be met for the project to gain approval.

Of the 2,172 new faculty and staff housing units proposed by the county, 1,239 would be offered at market rate and the remaining 933 units at below-market rate.

At least 70 percent of the housing units would have to be built on campus, and the remaining units would need to be constructed within six miles of it, according to the proposed conditions.

The county’s conditions also would require the university to build housing units and academic buildings simultaneously in four different phases, which the university has strongly opposed.

Stanford would be allowed to build only 25 percent of the total 2.3 million square feet of academic space that it wants to develop at one time. The university also would be required to win county approval before moving forward with the development in each of the following three phases.

“If the permit leaves future academic expansion in a state of ambiguity, Stanford will be unable to front-load valuable benefits such as providing hundreds of units of affordable housing now, ahead of job growth,” Palter wrote in her May 9 letter.

Last summer, county and city officials voiced concerns over an unsubstantial amount of housing included in the development proposal. In July, Palo Alto city officials criticized the university’s proposal for unfairly placing housing responsibilities on surrounding cities.

“The university has the land and resources to mitigate housing-related impacts,” wrote Palo Alto planning director Jonathan Lait.

Earlier this month, Stanford asked the county to delay its planning commission hearings, but the county denied the university’s request.

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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