General Use Permit application moves ahead
Stanford’s proposal for a long-term land use permit moves from the Santa Clara County Planning Commission to the Board of Supervisors. Over the summer, the university hopes to engage the county on an agreement it says would benefit the campus and the broader region.
Stanford’s application for a new long-term land use permit is moving to the next phase of review after a series of hearings by the Santa Clara County Planning Commission.
The Planning Commission, the first county entity to formally review the proposal, voted 7-0 last week to move it forward to the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. The supervisors are expected to begin public study sessions and hearings on the proposal in the fall.
Differences remain between the university and county officials as the proposal moves forward, including around the details of housing and traffic mitigation plans. Stanford recently proposed a $4.7 billion community benefits offer that would address these and other issues comprehensively through an accompanying development agreement with the county. That offer was not part of the package considered by the Planning Commission, but a development agreement could still be discussed and acted upon later in the county’s process.
“We appreciate the time the Planning Commission and the staff took to review and provide recommendations on the proposed General Use Permit,” said Catherine Palter, associate vice president for land use and environmental planning. “As evidenced by our $4.7 billion community benefits offer, we are committed to addressing our region’s most challenging issues, and we want to work with the county in this effort.
“We look forward to the review of the General Use Permit by the Board of Supervisors, and we hope the county will engage with us over the summer in constructive discussions about the community benefits Stanford can provide through a development agreement.”
The proposed new General Use Permit would govern the university’s land use in unincorporated Santa Clara County, including on the academic campus, over the next 17 to 20 years. The proposal would allow Stanford to build new housing and student beds along with 2.275 million square feet of academic facilities over that period, continuing the university’s growth rate of roughly 1.2 percent per year in academic facilities in recent years.
Stanford is proposing no new development in the foothills, and the proposal includes provisions for mitigating traffic, promoting sustainability and ensuring public accountability.
The Planning Commission held three public hearings on the permit and said it received several hundred additional pieces of written public comment. Its action last Thursday night endorsed the proposed permit itself, along with the final environmental impact report for the proposal and conditions of approval recommended by county staff.
Those proposed conditions of approval are where some of the remaining differences lie. For instance, county staff and Planning Commission members did not accept the university’s proposal that Stanford’s completion of the Escondido Village Graduate Residences – which will free up housing for new residents in the surrounding community – and Middle Plaza in Menlo Park be factored into the housing supply required by the conditions of approval.
Also, Stanford officials argued that some of the proposed conditions capping reverse-commute trips and all-day trips on the campus were impossible to reconcile with the amount of additional on-campus housing being sought by the county. Planning Commission members also expressed concern about those provisions and asked county staff to analyze the issue further, to provide more options for the Board of Supervisors to consider.
Palter said in total, Stanford has committed to all mitigation measures in the final environmental impact report; is proposing new housing on an accelerated basis, with 75 percent of workforce housing and 100 percent of below-market-rate housing to be built before 25 percent of the academic facilities under the permit are completed; and has outlined expanded transportation programs along with enhanced financial support for local public schools as part of its offer for a development agreement.
The Board of Supervisors authorized discussions toward a development agreement last year, but the discussions never began in earnest.
“Our offer is the start of a conversation, and it is a conversation that needs to begin soon,” Palter said. “We believe we can find a path to delivering the best possible project – a project that is truly capable of delivering the extraordinary benefits that we can achieve together.”