Community weighs in on Stanford's housing options | July 4, 2018 | Almanac | Almanac Online |

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News - July 4, 2018

Community weighs in on Stanford's housing options

by Kate Bradshaw

In an unusual second round of public scrutiny, Stanford's expansion plans are getting another look.

The plans and the draft environmental review of two alternative housing options were discussed Wednesday night in the Menlo Park City Council Chambers

The university's plans are being evaluated for what the environmental impacts might be if it were to build all of the housing needed to accommodate the new workers, students and faculty its expansion would generate.

Santa Clara County recently released what's called a "recirculated draft Environmental Impact Report," which shows the potential environmental impacts of two alternatives to a big-picture development plan Stanford University is working to win approval for from Santa Clara County. That plan lays out how the university should grow between now and 2035.

This second round of environmental analysis evaluates, in theory, what would happen under two development scenarios. "Alternative A" lays out what would happen if the university were to build all the units needed to house the additional workforce created by its development, calculated to be 2,549 new units on top of the 3,150 units it already planned, for a total of 5,699 units. "Alternative B" halves those new additional units to 1,275 added to the 3,150 already planned, for a total of 4,425 units.

These would be in addition to the 2.275 million square feet of academic and academic support space the university has asked permission to build over the coming years, alongside parking and child care space.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian told attendees that the first round of environmental impact analysis made clear that the amount of housing Stanford initially proposed to build would be inadequate to meet the housing demand that its planned expansion would bring. It indicated that the university's proposal would draw in about 7,500 new students, postdoctoral students, faculty staff, and about 1,074 new temporary and contract workers — far more than could be housed in the 3,150 new residential units initially proposed.

David Rader, senior planner for Santa Clara County, said that it is unusual to demand that employers house all of the workers their businesses generate, but that with the state of the regional shortage of housing that people can afford, people are asking new questions. And some big companies, like Google and Facebook, are planning housing too, along with office space expansion.

"The old way of doing things doesn't seem to be working anymore," he said.

While some attendees favored more housing, particularly affordable housing, to reduce the burden on, among other parties, the university's lower-income "supercommuters" who travel from the Central Valley to get to work, others raised concerns about the study's finding that traffic would worsen if even more people were housed on campus.

Menlo Park Housing Commissioner Karen Grove said she favored Alternative A. Stanford, she said, has played a role in the region's skewed jobs-housing balance. Those impacts, she said, will go somewhere if they are not addressed on-campus.

Other commenters, one a graduate student and one an alumna of Stanford, said that if adding new residents to the university's campus will create demand for outbound car trips, perhaps alternatives can be developed to give people improved public transit options, or resources such as schools in walking distance.

Another local resident said he believes the university is the best judge of what density should be permitted on its property, pointing to its history of land management.

A Los Altos Hills resident urged the county to take Stanford's cumulative traffic impacts more fully into account, and weigh the impacts of the university's hospital expansion on traffic. "We need more roads to deal with traffic," he said, and requested that the roads go through Stanford land.

Jennifer Wolosin, founder of Parents for Safe Routes in Menlo Park, said: "I know Stanford would probably prefer to live in a bubble. I think it's incumbent on Stanford to do their part to be responsible community members."

There will be another public meeting held from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 10, at the Palo Alto Arts Center Auditorium, 1313 Newell Road in Palo Alto.

People can also submit written comments in writing to: David Rader, Santa Clara County Planning Office, County Government Center, 70 W. Hedding Street, 7th Floor, East Wing, San Jose, CA 95110, or by email to: david.rader@pln.sccgov.org.

The deadline for submitting comments is 5 p.m. on July 26.

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