Stanford Report Online

Stanford Report, October 25, 2000
Hennessy releases statement on Simitian's proposed revisions  

President John Hennessy released a statement Wednesday opposing unprecedented land use conditions on Stanford lands that were proposed at a hearing Tuesday night:

I am disappointed that, with less than a week left in a two-year process, unprecedented new conditions have been interjected into the proposed Community Plan and General Use Permit for Stanford that was adopted by the Santa Clara County Planning Commission last Thursday.

Last night, Mr. Simitian said:

"During the course of these past 18 months I have often heard or read the suggestion that if Stanford University wants all this development they should be obliged to give us the open space in the foothills in exchange for that development. Let me just say, that's not the way it works. At least, that's not the way it's supposed to work."

Unfortunately, the Supervisor's new condition of "Compact Urban Development Commitment Credits" violates this very principle. This would require Stanford to grant 99-year easements to the County for 1,000 acres of foothills in exchange for academic development for the next ten years. We have been advised that this dedication requirement is unlawful, and we believe it is unwarranted.

After exhaustive study, the County staff has concluded that the proposed Stanford development results in no significant open space impacts. Stanford has not proposed any development in the 2,100 acres in the foothills. As both the independent environmental experts who prepared the EIR and the County's own staff have stated, no further mitigation is required. In fact, concepts similar to the "Compact Urban Development Credits" were considered and rejected by the County staff.

We hope that Supervisor Simitian's preliminary thinking on this issue will change before the Board of Supervisors' vote next week and he will embrace the carefully crafted compromises contained in the report adopted by the Planning Commission.

The Stanford University trustees, under the terms of their duties, cannot surrender the rights to 1,000 acres of Stanford property for the next century.


Background information on Stanford's proposal and the county review process


  • Stanford has participated in an extensive, two-year study of its proposal for a Community Plan and General Use Permit for critically needed housing and academic development for the next 10 years. This process has taken 5,000 hours of County staff time and cost millions of dollars. It has involved environmental and traffic consultants, 40 public meetings and hearings and input from 16 public agencies. This process resulted in four volumes of environmental studies and a complex plan proposed by the Santa Clara County planning staff and adopted by the County Planning Commission that contains more than 200 conditions on Stanford's General Use Permit. Stanford has accepted this as a workable compromise.
  • The 25-year academic growth boundary provides ample protection for the foothills. Mr. Simitian's preliminary proposal to require 99-year easements ties the hands, not just of Stanford, but of future Boards of Supervisors, which will have current information on which to balance the needs and interests of the public and Stanford.
  • Ninety-nine years ago Stanford was a dramatically different type of place than it is today. Santa Clara County was a rural area: the cities of Palo Alto and Menlo Park had not yet been incorporated. San Jose was primarily orchards. The Marguerite shuttle was a horse-drawn carriage to the train station. Residents and public officials could not have predicted 99 years ago what Stanford and the community would need today. Today no one can predict what will be best for Stanford, the community and the County as the 22nd century approaches.
  • The basic principles of compact growth, environmental protection, and preservation of open space are already embodied in Stanford's proposal and in the overall package adopted by the Santa Clara County Planning Commission.
  • Over half of all the construction in Stanford's proposal will be much-needed housing. Seventy-eight percent of the new housing will be low-income housing for students, medical residents, and postgraduate fellows. The rest of it will be part of our faculty/staff housing program, which includes several forms of housing assistance.
  • The County has proposed a program of "no net new commute trips," based on actual counts, and Stanford will accept the challenge to make that goal a reality. This stringent standard has never been imposed on another landowner, nor has any public agency ever applied this standard to its own activities.
  • In response to community suggestions, Stanford has gone far beyond any legal requirements and has volunteered extra mitigation measures to benefit the community. Stanford has offered a possible middle school site or $10 million to the Palo Alto Unified School District and offered to lease the six-acre Mayfield site to the City for a nonprofit community center for 51 years at a rate of $1 per year.