Op-ed: Pursuing housing solutions for Stanford and the surrounding region

May 31, 2018, 9:08 p.m.

Housing is a critical issue facing Stanford and the surrounding region and was the subject of a recent series of articles by the Daily. We’d like to describe how Stanford is approaching the housing challenge as it relates to the University’s application for a new land use permit.

Since our founding, Stanford has sought to provide a residentially oriented educational experience for our students and faculty. In more recent times, the focus expanded to include staff struggling to navigate the challenging regional housing market.

Today, all undergraduate students are guaranteed four years of on-campus housing. With the completion of 2,020 additional graduate student beds in the new Escondido Village Graduate Residences (EVGR) in 2020, approximately 75 percent of graduate students will live in University housing, and Stanford’s total housing stock will increase to 17,700 units and student beds.

Almost 1,000 rental units are available to faculty and staff in Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Los Altos. While many of these residential communities are open to the public, preference is given to Stanford affiliates, whose rent is subsidized by the University. This rental portfolio includes 180 units of below-market-rate housing for residents who meet affordable housing criteria. Another 215 rental units near campus will come online with the completion of the Middle Plaza project in Menlo Park in 2020.

While Stanford has made a major commitment to housing, we also understand that housing affordability is an issue that deeply affects the Stanford community and the broader region. That is why Stanford is seeking permission to build 3,150 new housing units and beds as part of the University’s application for a new General Use Permit, a land use entitlement that, along with the Stanford Community Plan, would govern campus land in unincorporated Santa Clara County (including the main academic campus) through 2035.

Stanford’s application pursues a balanced and paced approach that takes into account the environmental, transportation and land use impacts of new residential and academic space. As part of our unique agreement with Santa Clara County, new housing must be added concurrently with new academic space.

Why 3,150 beds and units? While the General Use Permit application does not distinguish between undergraduate and graduate student beds, the preliminary assumption is that 1,700 beds will accommodate a gradual increase in undergraduate enrollment, and approximately 900 beds will be for graduate students.

The remaining proposed 550 units of high-density faculty and staff housing would be located in the Quarry Development District – an area bordered by the Arboretum, El Camino Real and Quarry Road. Building housing there makes sense because it is close to public transit (bus routes along El Camino Real and the Palo Alto Transit Center on University Avenue) and doesn’t disrupt the integrity of the core academic campus.

In addition to expanding housing options for students, faculty and staff, Stanford recognizes the need for more affordable housing in the broader area. Under the current General Use Permit, from 2000 to 2015 the University contributed $26 million to Santa Clara County’s Affordable Housing Fund. Those funds supported the construction of 286 units of affordable housing as well as Santa Clara County’s portion of the purchase and preservation of the 117-unit Buena Vista Mobile Home Park. We anticipate contributing another $11 million under the current permit, and in addition, we have proposed an approximately $56 million contribution in our application for a new General Use Permit. This contribution is consistent with the amount for-profit developers pay in neighboring cities.

Santa Clara County supervisors are considering mandating that Stanford pay a much higher affordable housing fee that would add over $150 million in expenses to our non-profit academic mission. Such a fee would be many times higher than what for-profit entities in surrounding municipalities are required to pay. We believe our proposed contribution is reasonable, especially given that Stanford is also proposing to build additional housing on campus, on top of the 2,020 newest graduate student beds at EVGR. We are continuing to work with the County to reach an agreement on a balanced, fair and reasonable approach.

Stanford also has been working in other ways to help employees who are confronting the affordability challenges of the region, including transportation assistance and the piloting of new satellite workspaces. A new Affordability Task Force, recently announced as part of the Long-Range Planning process, will look at further options for enhancing affordability.

As Stanford continues to develop its long-term land use vision, we are committed to engagement with both the Stanford community and the broader community. We invite and encourage all stakeholders to work with us to plan for Stanford’s future of education, discovery and community. Please visit gup.stanford.edu or email us at [email protected].


Jean McCown
Associate Vice President, Government and Community Relations

Catherine Palter
Associate Vice President, Land Use and Environmental Planning

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