Santa Clara County votes to mitigate housing impact of Stanford’s expansion plans

Sept. 26, 2018, 12:05 a.m.

Despite significant opposition from Stanford, Santa Clara County approved new policies on Tuesday that will require the University to pay higher fees on affordable housing and construct more low-income homes as part of Stanford’s plans to develop 2.3 million square feet of new campus facilities by 2035.

The decision came as a disappointment for Stanford, which claims the new policy fails to address the Bay Area’s acute housing crisis. Instead of a fee dependent on the rate of Stanford’s academic growth, the University has pushed for the construction of low-income residences on campus as a solution to the issue.

However, at a Tuesday morning meeting, the County’s Board of Supervisors decided to double the amount the University pays for each square foot of new nonresidential development it constructs, raising the rate from $36.22 to $68.50. This new fee will go into effect on July 1, 2020, helping to fund affordable housing in the area.

The Board also adopted an “inclusionary housing” zoning ordinance that will require 16 percent of all market-rate students and staff housing to be low-income.

Assistant Vice President for Government and Community Relations Jean McCown said she was “disappointed” with the Board of Supervisors’ decision.

“Enacting this fee will delay by up to a decade the delivery of more affordable housing, and therefore will not address the acute housing shortage the region faces now,” McCown wrote in a statement to The Daily. “A true calculation of the fee needed to support affordable units is $17 per square foot, not $68.50.”

McCown also expressed concerns about the legality of ordinances that specifically target Stanford but don’t apply to non-profit universities in the area.

While the Silicon Valley tech sector has helped skyrocket local rent prices, making the region largely unaffordable for low-income earners, Stanford also bears a historical responsibility.

Its General Use Permit (GUP) application — which seeks to construct more academic space as well as 3,150 new apartments and student beds — looks to exacerbate the local housing crisis by attracting more students and service workers to the Bay Area, burdening the community with housing shortages and traffic congestion.

Stanford acknowledges that its expansion plans will increase demand for affordable housing units and includes an affordable housing proposal in its GUP application.

On Monday, Robert Reidy — Stanford’s Vice President for Land, Buildings and Real Estate — wrote to the Board raising strong objections to the proposed ordinances. Reidy’s letter claimed that the housing fees were too high and that the ordinances wouldn’t guarantee housing for low income university workers, deliver affordable housing fast enough or support middle-income earners.

In July, Stanford told Santa Clara County that it would create 672 affordable housing units.

A county study conducted in May estimated that 964 low-income units would be needed to offset the burden of thousands of additional staff and students brought on by the school’s planned growth.

At the public hearing on Tuesday morning, several local residents sided with the county’s proposed affordable housing fee and inclusionary zoning ordinances.

“Stanford University has gotten away with murder regarding not building its fair share of housing for its service workers, grad students and adjunct faculty,” wrote Roberta Ahlquist, a representative of the low-income housing community, in a statement submitted to the Board of Supervisors. “It’s time for Stanford to do its fair share of building housing on the campus before they expand their academic or industrial base.”

Menlo Park resident Jen Wolosin also urged the Board to approve the two ordinances for a different reason: transportation. As Chair of the local group Parents for Safe Routes, Wolosin worried that Stanford’s new service workers would face long commutes to work if the University failed to build enough affordable housing units.

“I am very concerned about the impact that long commutes are having on our local streets,” Wolosin wrote to the Board. “Forcing service workers to drive hours to get to Stanford, instead of creating housing that enables them to live locally, creates a terrible amount of stress on our roads.”


Contact Yasmin Samrai at ysamrai ‘at’


Yasmin Samrai ’21 is a Desk Editor for Local. She hails from London, UK. She loves traveling, listening to 80s music and sipping Earl Grey tea. Feel free to ask her about her favourite James Bond or talk politics. Contact her at ysamrai ‘at’

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