Stanford kicks off land use planning process

Working with neighbors and local governments, Stanford is beginning the process to propose to Santa Clara County an update of Stanford’s campus land use permit. Initial meetings to solicit community input are scheduled for early June.

Stanford is beginning the application process to Santa Clara County for an updated General Use Permit to authorize the next phase of campus land use in the coming years.

The process involves both internal examination of the university’s academic and space needs as well as consultation with neighbors and community partners. Stanford is starting with three public open houses in early June to solicit input from residents of campus and neighboring communities.

Stanford has been operating under two key Santa Clara County entitlement documents: a Community Plan and a 2000 General Use Permit, or GUP. The Community Plan provides a set of rules and policies to guide the university’s land use planning over an extended period of time. The GUP implements those policies and includes specific conditions to minimize impacts of Stanford’s development.

The Community Plan and GUP were intended to provide Stanford flexibility in its land use within an agreed-upon framework, with accountability to the county and neighboring communities. Stanford will seek to obtain approval of an updated 2018 GUP that is expected to extend through 2035.

“The Community Plan and General Use Permit have been very effective tools for Santa Clara County and for Stanford,” said Catherine Palter, Stanford associate vice president for land use and environmental planning. “It is now time to think about the next phase of campus development. An updated GUP will enable Stanford to continue achieving new heights of academic and health care excellence while also being a good neighbor, directly incorporating the needs and concerns of our surrounding communities into our planning.”

Stanford officials envision that the Community Plan, which set long-term policy guidance for land use, housing, traffic, parking, sustainability and environmental conservation, will continue to provide an overarching framework for the next phase of campus land use under the 2018 GUP.

The Community Plan articulates a number of key campus planning policies, including compact physical development, conservation of natural resources, construction of housing concurrent with academic development, and alternative transportation strategies that limit automobile congestion. Importantly, the Community Plan also established an “academic growth boundary” that separates the urbanized campus area from the foothills above the campus.

In addition, a Sustainable Development Study developed by the university and approved by Santa Clara County in 2009 showed how long-term building on Stanford’s core campus could be accommodated within the existing academic growth boundary until at least 2035. Stanford officials intend for the 2018 GUP to continue to reflect the moderate, responsible model of campus growth outlined in that plan, while also preserving the goal of generating no net new commute trips.

“As we plan for Stanford’s academic needs, we also want to do our part to sustain and enhance the quality of life of the Peninsula and Silicon Valley,” said Jean McCown, associate vice president, government and community relations. “We are fully conscious of the fact that Stanford is connected to a larger community and has an important role to play in supporting the livability of that larger community.”

As of 2016, three-quarters of the academic space and all of the housing called for in the 2000 GUP has been built or approved, without an increase in commute trips to the campus. Under the 2000 GUP Stanford has contributed $25 million in fees to the county for publicly available affordable housing in the county.

Meanwhile, Stanford has developed a new campus energy system that by the end of 2016 will reduce campus greenhouse gas emissions by 68 percent – exceeding, several years early, the State of California’s goal for greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced to 1990 levels by 2020. New solar energy resources now being developed will help ensure that 65 percent of Stanford’s electricity will come from renewable sources by the end of 2016, growing further over time. The university has reduced potable water consumption by 47 percent from 2000 to date while developing a pioneering research center for wastewater recovery. Aggressive alternative transportation incentives also have reduced the drive-alone rate of Stanford employees from 72 percent to 49 percent.

Addressing Stanford, regional needs

Informed and guided by the Community Plan and Sustainable Development Study, the updated 2018 GUP will help Stanford address emerging needs projected out to 2035. Campus planners are working with academic leaders in the university to chart out some of those needs, but two general categories are already apparent.

One is housing. Stanford currently provides on-campus housing for almost all undergraduate students and a majority of graduate students, and about one-third of active faculty members live on the campus as well.

Further increasing the supply of on-campus housing in the coming years will reduce the number of people who have to commute to the university from off-campus locations each day, campus planners note. It will promote affordability for both Stanford and non-Stanford-affiliated people seeking housing in a superheated off-campus local housing market. Additional housing also will be necessary to accommodate modest growth in undergraduate enrollments, which Stanford has begun planning for after many years of flat enrollments amid dramatically increasing numbers of student applications.

Another critical area of need is supporting Stanford’s academic and health care missions.

Knowledge is continually evolving and expanding, and preserving Stanford’s leadership in education, research and health care requires the university to continually innovate programs in new fields – including in emerging interdisciplinary fields, which have been major areas of growth for Stanford over the last 15 years. This evolution of academic and health programs in turn requires the physical campus to evolve, Stanford officials say, so that sufficient well-equipped facilities are available to support the university’s faculty and students.

Community engagement

Stanford is beginning broad engagement with Santa Clara County, local cities and a range of community organizations as it undertakes the 2018 GUP application process. Consultations will continue through the spring and summer, with an application for an updated GUP likely to be submitted to Santa Clara County in late summer 2016. Environmental reviews and continued discussions are expected through 2017 and into 2018.

An initial set of community meetings is being scheduled in Palo Alto, in Menlo Park and on the Stanford campus to provide community members with an overview of the process and to solicit input on issues important to local residents. The meetings will be held:

  • Thursday, June 2, from 6 to 8 p.m. on the Stanford campus in Paul Brest Hall at the Munger Graduate Residence
  • Saturday, June 4, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Terman Middle School, 655 Arastradero Road, Palo Alto
  • Thursday, June 9, from 6 to 8 p.m. at La Entrada Middle School, 2200 Sharon Road, Menlo Park