How big should Stanford get? You can sound off at a meeting tonight

Daily Post Staff Writer

Palo Altans will have another opportunity at City Hall tonight (Jan. 23) to sound off on Stanford’s application to expand its academic facilities by nearly 2.3 million square feet.

Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President Joe Simitian will hold a hearing from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the council chambers at 250 Hamilton Ave. to gather community input before Feb. 2, the end of the county’s public comment period before finalizing the nearly 1,000-page environmental impact report.

The expansion, as proposed in the university’s 2018 General Use Permit application, is expected to bring about 9,600 new students and employees to campus.

The university has offered to mitigate the impacts on the area’s crunched housing market with 550 homes for faculty and employees, 1,700 beds for undergraduates and 900 beds for graduate students.

Palo Alto to weigh in

Last night, Palo Alto City Council signed off on its final 35-page comment letter on the draft, in which the city officially responds to the university’s request. That letter will be sent to the county, which has the authority to grant or deny Stanford’s application.

Council made a few notable changes to the letter last night, including a call to set a permanent limit on how much Stanford will ever be allowed to build, referred to as a maximum buildout.
The suggestion narrowly passed, with councilmen Greg Scharff, Greg Tanaka, Cory Wolbach and Adrian Fine opposing.

“Surprisingly, I actually support this,” Mayor Liz Kniss said.

When the county approved Stanford’s 2000 GUP, Stanford was asked to do a study to set a limit on how much it could build. The study was approved by the Board of Supervisors in 2009, even though it didn’t set that limit.

Protection of the foothills

Stanford already has an academic growth boundary, roughly Junipero Serra Boulevard, that limits construction into the foothills. But that could be lifted with a four-fifths vote of the Board of Supervisors.

“Frankly, that’s not difficult,” said Kniss, who formerly served on that board.

The council will also ask the county to require the university to build housing within 6 miles from campus. Currently, Stanford is offering to build near public transportation, which could wind up being as far away as Gilroy, Planning and Community Environment Director Hillary Gitelman pointed out.

The draft environmental impact report can be found on the county website. Comments can be sent to David Rader at [email protected] until Feb. 2.