And then there's Stanford, which is developing nearly 430,000 square feet of new office, retail and residential space on El Camino Real after winning City Council approval last fall.
Growth in Menlo Park appears to be unstoppable, and problems related to it are guaranteed to worsen in our community without a willingness on the part of city leaders to think creatively in designing strategies that will protect the quality of life many residents now enjoy.
An idea floated recently by City Councilman Ray Mueller to ease some of the pain expected to be caused by Stanford's El Camino Real housing development is an example of the kind of innovative thinking that city leaders must engage in as new development is proposed. Mr. Mueller's proposal addresses a thorny problem: Because the residential portion of Stanford's project will be used for "academic purposes" — i.e., housing faculty and staff — the university will pay no property taxes on that part of the development. That would mean the Menlo Park City School District, which would take in children from families housed in those 215 apartments, would receive no property tax revenue from that portion of the project — a situation the school district says will cost it about $663,000 annually.
Stanford has already offered to contribute $1.5 million to the nonprofit school foundation that supports the district to go toward an endowment. But the district says that figure is $1 million shy of the mark.
The result of Councilman Mueller's innovative proposal would be that $1 million of the city's unbudgeted returns from the state-governed Educational Revenue Augmentation Fund (ERAF) this fiscal year would set in motion a choreography of funding swaps that would ultimately mean an additional $1 million turned over for the school foundation's endowment, proceeds of which would cover the costs of educating the new students living in Stanford housing. ERAF money is intended to be used by schools in districts that need financial help.
The funding shuffle would require not only approval by the City Council but cooperation by Stanford.
The idea has already generated great enthusiasm and the support of the school community. It deserves a full discussion by the council and community to smooth out possible rough edges. But the concept, which offers a glimmer of hope that negative consequences of development in the community can be addressed with some creative thinking, is one we hope wins the support of the City Council and Stanford.
This story contains 512 words.
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