Judge tosses Stanford lawsuit against the county over housing

U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman

Daily Post Staff Writer

A federal judge yesterday (Oct. 10) dismissed Stanford’s lawsuit that attempted to knock down a Santa Clara County ordinance that requires the university, as it expands, to set aside 16% of its new housing as “affordable.”

The ruling by Judge Beth Labson Freeman comes as the county is close to deciding whether to grant Stanford a permit to add 3.5-million-square-feet of new construction over the next 15 years.

Stanford contends that since the affordable housing ordinance only applies to them, they are being unfairly singled out to solve the region’s housing crisis. Stanford contends the ordinance violates their rights of equal protection.

The county asked the judge to throw out the lawsuit, arguing that the university hadn’t made an adequate case that those rights were violated.

Judge Freeman agreed with the county. In her ruling yesterday, she said that Stanford did not offer any examples of any similar entities in the region that were being treated differently.

“… (T)he court concludes that Stanford must plead facts showing the existence of one or more comparators in order to defeat a motion to dismiss,” Freeman wrote.

Stanford gets one last chance

Freeman gave Stanford an opportunity to return to court with more evidence before Oct. 31.

Stanford spokesman E.J. Miranda said yesterday that Stanford intends to amend its complaint with more information.

“Stanford maintains that the county’s inclusionary housing ordinance unfairly targets the university by applying only to Stanford within all of unincorporated Santa Clara County, thus violating the university’s right to equal protection,” he said. “The issue in the litigation is not about Stanford’s commitment to more affordable housing, but rather that it is unlawful for Stanford to be singled out for unequal treatment in a county ordinance.”

The county released a statement yesterday saying that Stanford has not built enough affordable housing for its low-income workers.

The county also disputed Stanford’s claim that it is being forced to solve the region’s housing woes. The county said the ordinance only requires Stanford to solve the problems created by its own development.

“Frankly, I was disappointed this ended up in court,” said Supervisor Joe Simitian in a statement. “People are spending time and money on litigation that would be better spent creating affordable housing.”

Simitian is one of the five supervisors who will ultimately vote on Stanford’s permit application.

Previous Post stories on the lawsuit

Dec. 20, 2018 — Stanford sues over county housing requirement

May 3, 2019 — County wants lawsuit thrown out of court

July 16, 2019 — Stanford defends its lawsuit against the county over housing requirements


  1. Thanks for reporting this. I didn’t see this story in any other newspaper/website. I realize some of the papers here are very pro-Stanford, but to be intellectually honest, they should report both the good things that happen to Stanford and the problems. I appreciate the Post remaining fair and honest.

  2. I’ve yet to see any paper in this area be “pro-Stanford.” Seriously. When I read about the County ordinance I felt that Stanford had an ethical obligation to object to it. Stanford is the only entity impacted by the County’s ordinance. They have the resources to dedicate to getting a judicial opinion on this issue, so I believe they should. Who will the County target next? That should be the real concern regarding any ordinance that is written that impacts one, and only one, entity. Stanford has invested, literally, billions of dollars into building housing in the last ten years. Who else can say that?

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