BY ALLISON LEVITSKY
Daily Post Staff Writer
Palo Alto school board Vice President Todd Collins on Thursday (Dec. 13) chided Stanford officials for what he called a “very misleading” public statement that the university’s proposed 3.5-million-square-foot expansion would pose “no impact” on the school district.
University officials said in a statement that the new faculty and grad students expected to move to campus as a result of the expansion won’t have enough school-aged children to justify a new school on campus.
“Stanford’s a great institution,” Collins said. “I continue to be surprised by why they are defensive and misleading about an issue that everybody else in the community seems to understand clearly.”
As Santa Clara County weighs Stanford’s application to expand over the next 17 years, the school district has been pushing for Stanford to help build a new elementary school on campus and to chip in for teacher salaries through a formula based on the number of students Stanford sends to the district.
Stanford has pointed out that the district already owns school campuses that it’s not using, though they’re not near the new housing.
Under the California Environmental Quality Act, the university isn’t required to pay the school district, dedicate land or comply with any other requirements associated with the cost of educating the school-aged children of new students and employees brought to the district area by the new development.
“That doesn’t mean that there aren’t impacts (there are) and that mitigations will not be needed (they will be) — just that they may not be required under CEQA,” Collins told Stanford officials in an email Thursday.
On Wednesday, Santa Clara County released the Final Environmental Impact Report, or FEIR, on Stanford’s 3.5 million-square-foot proposed expansion, which is up to county leaders to approve or deny.
The county paid the consulting firm Environmental Science Associates about $650,000 to complete the report, county Planning Manager Rob Eastwood told the Post.
Part of the argument is over the number of school-aged children expected to live in each faculty and staff housing unit. Stanford generally doesn’t have to pay property taxes on academic development, which includes employee housing.
The report sided against the school district’s estimate that for every employee housing unit at Stanford, 0.98 school-aged children will live there.
“The county concludes that the student generation rate of 0.5 students per new faculty/staff housing unit used in the (FEIR) ‘is more than 30% higher than (the) actual student generation rate of 0.38 for existing Stanford faculty/staff housing, and is therefore conservative,’” Stanford land use spokesman Joel Berman said in a statement yesterday.
Schools seeking a per-student fee
But Collins said yesterday that it doesn’t matter what the estimated student generation rate is.
That’s why the district is asking for an annual payment from Stanford per student, since it’s hard to say how many students the expansion would bring into the district when so many unknowns remain about the new housing.
County Supervisors Joe Simitian and Cindy Chavez are currently negotiating a closed-door development agreement with Stanford for additional public benefits outside what the law requires Stanford to provide, which could include per-student fees or a new campus elementary school.