The County of San Mateo and seven cities have sent a letter to the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors urging them to help hold Stanford University accountable for the anticipated impacts to housing, traffic, the environment and residents if it is allowed to expand its campus by more than 20 percent.
The Santa Clara Board of Supervisors is currently considering Stanford University’s 2018 General Use Permit (GUP) which would allow construction of an additional 2.275 million square feet of academic and other facilities on the main campus. San Mateo County leaders say Stanford’s growth plans will have a direct and irreversible impact on local neighborhoods that border Stanford — many of which offer some of the last relatively affordable housing in the region and whose residents will be at risk of displacement by increased numbers faculty and students looking for housing near the university.
Stanford also states that the contemplated increase in campus population will result in no new net vehicle trips but, in a letter sent to each Santa Clara County supervisor, the San Mateo County Stanford GUP Committee calls that claim “misleading” and based on an inappropriately small window of time during commute hours. The committee asserts that average daily trips is the appropriate measurement criteria because the vast number of events at Stanford take place throughout the day, impacting traffic in surrounding neighborhoods.
Besides traffic congestion, the letter to each Santa Clara County supervisor also outlines the adverse impacts to roadways and the environment, the strain on affordable housing and child care services, and the possibility of neighborhood gentrification and displacement if Stanford creates 5,500 new jobs and adds 9,610 new people on campus but adds only 500 new housing units.
“Stanford University is the dividing line between the two counties, and while we are appreciative to have such an outstanding university, it has impacts on San Mateo County that cannot be ignored,” said San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley. “From the studies we have seen, the impacts on San Mateo County are dramatic so we believe that a portion of any impact fees Stanford is required to pay should go towards mitigating the impacts on San Mateo County.”
The letter to each Santa Clara County supervisor is signed by Horsley and San Mateo County Manager Mike Callagy, Redwood City Vice Mayor Diane Howard and City Manager Melissa Stevenson Diaz, Woodside Mayor Daniel Yost and Town Manager Kevin Bryant, Atherton Councilmember Mike Lempres and City Manager George Rodericks, East Palo Alto Vice Mayor Regina Wallace-Jones and Interim City Manager Sean Charpentier, Menlo Park Mayor Pro Tem Cecilia Taylor and City Manager Starla L. Jerome-Robinson, Portola Valley Mayor Ann Wengert and Town Manager Jeremy Dennis. The city of Palo Alto also recently joined San Mateo County’s GUP Committee.
“The cities closest to Stanford are aligned in their common concerns about this large proposed expansion regardless of which county they fall in,” said Palo Alto Councilmember Tom Dubois. "Palo Alto stands with our neighboring cities in San Mateo County in insisting that the anticipated negative impacts on transportation, affordable housing, community services and the environment be fully mitigated."
Collectively, these representatives of jurisdictions neighboring the proposed development say that mitigating its effects cannot stop at the Santa Clara County border and that since 2001 San Mateo County has continued to be negatively impacted without any mitigation of those impacts by Stanford’s expansion authorized under the last GUP.
“The City Council values having Stanford University as part of the Redwood City community, and recognizes the university's importance in the region. At the same time, we recognize that as development continues on Stanford’s main campus, it will have an impact on adjacent communities, including Redwood City. We urge Stanford and Santa Clara County to work closely with all nearby communities to address impacts on housing, transportation, child care and other important services to the community,” said Redwood City Mayor Ian Bain.
Specifically, the GUP committee requests that Santa Clara County require 11 actions in its development agreement with Stanford to offset the impacts on housing, transportation, stormwater and publics services in San Mateo County:
1. Establish a $196 million evergreen fund for affordable housing units. The Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) estimates 27 percent of household growth related to implementation of the 2018 GUP will occur in San Mateo County, requiring 655 units. The funds would be spent within a six-mile radius of the Stanford campus.
2. Contribute a minimum of $4.62 million to roadway and intersection improvements. The cost of improvements needed on roadways providing access to and from Stanford’s main campus total an estimated $84 million. Stanford’s proportional share should be a minimum of 5.5 percent based on the FEIR’s projection that in 2035, the school’s daily population will be more than 5 percent of San Mateo County’s total population.
3. Contribute a minimum of $15 million for bicycle and pedestrian improvements. Trail and roadway improvements are needed to provide safe alternatives to driving through the county’s communities to reach Stanford. Projects include the University Avenue/Highway 101 overcrossing ($14 million), the Dumbarton Rail Spur Trail ($5.5 million) and new bicycle facilities on Middlefield Road ($8 million in Redwood City; $3 million in San Mateo County.
4. Contribute $5 million for stormwater management/flooding prevention. Stanford should commit to reducing flows into San Francisquito Creek by contributing to its Phase II improvement project and increasing upstream detention facilities on Stanford property.
5. Expand Stanford’s free shuttle/bus service. Service between its main campus and Redwood City campus can minimize passenger vehicle traffic. The service should be open to the general public and include stops and routes serving communities impacted by Stanford traffic.
6. Require contractors to avoid using trucks on specified local roads. Stanford should bear the cost of this provision as public safety resources are already overtaxed.
7. Pause new projects under the Stanford GUP until specific roadway improvements and supplemental traffic analyses are finished.
8. Pay $6.78 million in-lieu property taxes each year to impacted local public agencies.
9. Provide educational opportunities to communities impacted by Stanford’s growth. Stanford’s commitment will help solve regional problems and strengthen civil society by enhancing outcomes for students, school districts, local governments and nonprofits.
10. Ensure that Stanford GUP-related impacts within San Mateo County jurisdictions are either directly mitigated or that they have appropriate access to mitigation funds.
11. Provide or help fund child care for people living, work or studying on the Stanford campus. San Mateo County already has a child care service deficit and the proposed campus expansion will increase demand. One child care space costs $42,000, according to a 2017 study by Brion Economics.
Negotiations between Santa Clara County and Stanford regarding a development agreement related to the 2018 GUP have been indefinitely suspended. However, San Mateo County stakeholders say they remain firm in their resolve to ensure mitigation of expected adverse impacts if and when a GUP is approved.
"We need to make sure Stanford University really understands and follows through on commitments to address equity and transparency in its growth plans,” said Menlo Park Mayor Pro Tem Cecilia Taylor. “With full mitigations by the university, it can begin to address its impacts to traffic, housing and local employment that our communities live with and that the university’s expansion will intensify.”