Stanford University’s General Use Permit establishes the amount of net new academic facilities and housing units that Stanford can construct, and the conditions of approval that minimize adverse effects on the surrounding community. The General Use Permit implements the Stanford Community Plan, which serves as the County of Santa Clara’s General Plan for the campus. The Stanford Community Plan maps the goals, strategies and policies for Stanford lands in unincorporated Santa Clara County. Click here to read more about the Community Plan and the General Use Permit (Page 5 of the Application Summary and Overview)
Stanford is proud to be a citizen of the Peninsula and Silicon Valley. Whether it’s developing important medical advances; delivering preeminent patient care; reimagining the way our world works; or bringing education, the arts, and economic opportunity to people locally, the work being done at Stanford provides significant benefit to the surrounding community.
In order to further its academic mission and continue providing the aforementioned benefits at the highest possible standards, the university needs new research and teaching facilities that allow for deeper exploration of new and existing fields of study. Stanford is proposing to add on-campus housing concurrent with the building of academic facilities to better serve the campus community and relieve pressure on the challenging local housing market. All of this would be accomplished through an environmentally sustainable plan.
Stanford and Santa Clara County have begun discussions on a development agreement that would provide additional community benefits under the General Use Permit in exchange for regulatory certainty. Members of the public will have the opportunity to provide input during those discussions, and any development agreement would need to be reviewed by the Santa Clara County Planning Commission and approved by the Board of Supervisors.
While Stanford’s contiguous lands consist of 8,180 acres across six governmental jurisdictions, it is the 4,017 acres in unincorporated Santa Clara County that are covered by the 2018 General Use Permit. Stanford lands in unincorporated Santa Clara County contain the majority of the university’s academic buildings, student housing, and neighborhoods of faculty/staff housing.
On November 21, 2016, Stanford submitted its application for the 2018 General Use Permit to Santa Clara County. The review of the application and the decision whether to approve it is the responsibility of Santa Clara County. Throughout the entire process, community members are welcome to share their feedback and attend outreach events and public hearings.
The General Use Permit does not have an expiration date. Based on experience with the 2000 General Use Permit, the planning horizon being analyzed in the Environmental Impact Report is from 2018 through 2035, when it is anticipated that the requested square footage and housing units will be completed.
The knowledge frontier continually advances. New technologies enable existing fields of study to grow and entirely new fields to emerge. Meanwhile, the model of teaching and research itself is rapidly evolving. The General Use Permit provides a framework for the future, offering Stanford the flexibility it needs to adapt and modernize its facilities in response to ever-changing academic needs, while balancing accountability to the community and region.
Because Stanford is a prominent employer in Silicon Valley, there is often a misperception that the university is a significant contributor to area job growth and resulting traffic congestion and housing demand. In fact, between 2010 and 2017, Stanford added only 3,600 of the 346,000 jobs created in Silicon Valley. Over that same period, the university’s rate of single occupancy commuters declined to 43 percent, well below the regional average. Since 2000, Stanford has built about 2,300 housing units in unincorporated Santa Clara County, Palo Alto and Menlo Park, including student housing, faculty and staff housing, senior housing and below market rate housing, with another 1,500 currently under construction.
There is widespread agreement that the legislative policy framework established by the Stanford Community Plan and the conditions regulating campus construction and operations required by the 2000 General Use Permit have been enormously successful. Over the last 16 years, this framework has allowed the university to further its teaching and research mission while minimizing adverse effects on the surrounding community. Highlights include:
At an anticipated rate of growth of roughly 1.2% per year, construction under the 2018 General Use Permit would include up to:
- 2,275,000 net new square feet of academic and academic support space.
- 3,150 net new on-campus housing units/beds for students, faculty and staff.
- 40,000 additional net new square feet of child care centers and facilities to support automobile trip-reducing services on campus.
In addition to mitigation measures that will be identified during the upcoming environmental review process, Stanford proposes the following conditions of approval to implement the Stanford Community Plan’s strategies, policies and goals:
- Continuation of the goal of creating No Net New Commute Trips to the campus
- Continuation of the housing linkage requirement that ensures campus housing is constructed on pace with academic and academic support space
- Continuation of payments to support additional affordable housing in the broader region
Printed copies of the General Use Permit Application are available for review at the Stanford Green Library (Circulation desk), at the College Terrace, Downtown, Mitchell Park, and Rinconada (previously Main) Palo Alto libraries (Reference desks), and the Menlo Park Main Library. They are also available at the Santa Clara County, Menlo Park, East Palo Alto, and San Mateo County planning counters.
Please email your questions and feedback to: Stanford2018GUP@stanford.edu
This website will continue to be updated with future community events where you can share your comments and thoughts in person. How can I stay up-to-date on the latest information? Members of the public are encouraged to refer to this General Use Permit website, which will be regularly updated with the latest information available. To receive the General Use Permit email newsletter, subscribe at the following link. To subscribe to the County of Santa Clara informational mailing list, subscribe at the following link.
Stanford has operated for nearly two decades – since 2000 – under its current long-term land use permit (called a General Use Permit) with Santa Clara County. As the life of that permit winds down, the university has applied to Santa Clara County for a successor General Use Permit that will last nearly two more decades, until approximately 2035.
This permit will authorize specified amounts of new facilities, within Stanford’s already-developed core campus, for academic purposes and housing. It also will specify a variety of conditions Stanford will have to meet on an ongoing basis, with annual reporting to county officials.
Yes. Stanford has been in discussions with PAUSD since last summer to understand the school district’s concerns about future enrollment of new students living on Stanford lands. PAUSD subsequently passed a resolution articulating the district’s requests as Santa Clara County and Stanford negotiate a possible package of community benefits, known as a development agreement. Stanford is continuing to meet with PAUSD officials as development agreement discussions take place with the county.
Stanford has also engaged Palo Alto’s school communities through discussions and information sharing with the Palo Alto Council of PTAs.
The development agreement process provides opportunities for community input, both online and at public meetings. There will be additional opportunities for public comment as the General Use Permit application moves forward.
To begin with, all of Stanford’s new and expanded facilities, regardless of tax-exempt status, are subject to state-mandated school fees. Stanford estimates that over the course of its new land use permit, the university could pay approximately $4.2 million in school impact fees based on today's rates. These fees are assessed by PAUSD at the time that each new building is constructed based upon the results of PAUSD's impact fee studies.
Stanford’s active management of its commercial lands also yields greater property tax revenues for PAUSD compared to other commercial properties. Property tax revenues from the Stanford Research Park increased 6 percent annually over the last 17 years.
Stanford intends to offer additional support for Palo Alto schools through an agreement with the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, which is responsible for overseeing land use on Stanford’s academic campus. The form this additional support will take will be one of many subjects negotiated between the county and Stanford as part of a development agreement. The negotiated development agreement will be included in the public approval process when county decision-makers consider the 2018 General Use Permit application. Stanford has also been in discussions with PAUSD since last summer to understand the school district’s concerns about future enrollment of new students living on Stanford lands.
Stanford lands (all Stanford-owned property on and outside the campus) generated 725 school-age children in 2016, representing 6 percent of PAUSD enrollment. Of these 725 students, 569 (78 percent) lived in homes that paid property tax. Meanwhile, Stanford’s lands generated more than $30 million in tax revenue to PAUSD in 2018 – approximately 17 percent of PAUSD total property tax revenue. As a result, last year university lands generated $41,380 per Stanford-generated student living in university housing.
What about the claim that Stanford may add 1,446 new students to the Palo Alto schools, producing a $34 million shortfall for the school district?
It simply is not true. Stanford has proposed adding 2,600 student beds and 550 employee housing units on its campus. Santa Clara County’s independent environmental analysis estimates this would produce no more than 275 additional school-age students living on the Stanford campus and enrolled in Palo Alto K-12 schools through 2035. This is a conservatively high estimate, as the student generation rate used in the analysis is a higher rate than has occurred in similar housing elsewhere on Stanford’s lands.
Separately, the county conducted a theoretical analysis of the effects of building much more employee housing than the university has proposed. That is the source of the 1,446 number. Stanford is not proposing this level of housing expansion.
Is there enough capacity in Palo Alto schools to accommodate new students from Stanford’s proposed housing?
PAUSD enrollment declined by 292 students in just the current school year, more than the number of K-12 school-age students (275) projected to come from new Stanford housing over the next 17 years under the proposed General Use Permit. Santa Clara County’s independent environmental analysis concluded that there is sufficient capacity in PAUSD’s existing schools to accommodate Stanford’s estimated new students that would be generated by the proposed General Use Permit. Even if an increase in enrollment occurs, PAUSD has many options, including reopening unused school sites, to address capacity.
Stanford is proud of its long association with families and schools in our local community. As an academic institution whose primary mission is to advance education and learning, Stanford supports a range of programs in the community that serve educators, students and families. Among them:
- Stanford is helping early career teachers, nearly half of whom leave the classroom within five years, stay at their schools, develop professionally and continue making a difference in their students’ lives. Through the Hollyhock Fellowship Program, 80 to 90 early career high school teachers, many from the Bay Area, come to campus each summer. They experience professional development opportunities, connect with experts and peers, and then stay connected through monthly online sessions with their Stanford instructional coaches and peers each month throughout the school year.
- Parents and other community members attend workshops and lectures on current topics in education.
- The Stanford Teacher Education Program places teachers in neighboring communities – most of them in public schools and more than half in schools that have large numbers of low-income students.
- The Center to Support Excellence in Teaching bridges research and practice, and empowers teachers to become transformational leaders in their schools and districts.
- Stanford’s community partnerships in education connect faculty and students together with local educators and students through summer programs, on-campus professional development, research projects, speaker series and lectures.
- The Stanford-Sequoia K-12 Research Collaborative with local school districts focuses on the experiences and progress of English language learners.
Stanford’s summer camps, athletic partnerships for youth, performing arts venues and free art museums and outdoor installations are also an important part of Stanford’s contribution to the school-aged community. A new General Use Permit will enable the university to add facilities and pursue additional programming that further supports local education and youth engagement.
Because Stanford is a nonprofit educational institution, lands that are devoted to academic uses are tax-exempt under the California Constitution. This means that land used for academic buildings, student housing, and some rental housing for Stanford employees is exempt from property tax. Housing on land leased to others by the university under long-term ground leases is not tax-exempt and generates property taxes. Of the 725 students enrolled in Palo Alto schools from Stanford families in 2016, 569 (78 percent) lived in homes that paid property tax. Land used for commercial development, such as the Stanford Shopping Center and much of the Stanford Research Park, is not tax-exempt and generates property taxes.
As a result, much of Stanford’s housing is generating property taxes that support the Palo Alto schools – including the 960 residences in our on-campus faculty neighborhood, the 628 rental units in the Stanford West complex along Sand Hill Road, and the new University Terrace neighborhood. Most of the tax-exempt housing on Stanford land is for undergraduate and graduate students and is treated the same as similar properties in the community, such as affordable housing.
In addition, Stanford has devoted significant portions of its land in the Stanford Research Park and at the Stanford Shopping Center to commercial uses that also generate tax revenues for Palo Alto schools. In fiscal year 2017-18, these commercial properties on Stanford lands generated about 10 percent of Palo Alto Unified School District’s income.
Stanford’s active management of the Stanford Research Park has led to a 6 percent annual increase in property tax revenues over the last 17 years:
The following are some recent and pending Stanford Research Park redevelopments with their increase in property tax revenue to PAUSD:
As part of its General Use Permit application, Stanford has proposed adding 2,600 student beds and 550 employee housing units on its campus. Santa Clara County’s independent environmental analysis estimates that over the next 17 years this would produce up to 275 additional school-age students living on the Stanford campus and enrolled in Palo Alto K-12 schools.
Housing and transportation
From its earliest days, Stanford has focused on supporting a residential academic environment. For students and faculty, living on campus enhances learning and research, which fosters collaboration and community. In more recent years, Stanford has added subsidized rental housing on university lands nearby campus to assist faculty and staff navigating the challenging local housing market. The proposed 2018 General Use Permit would authorize Stanford to construct up to 3,150 new on-campus housing units/beds, of which up to 550 units would be occupied by faculty and staff. Additional housing beyond the initial authorization would be subject to Planning Commission approval.
No. For many reasons, virtually no employer houses the entirety of its workforce, especially universities which also have to provide housing for students. However, Stanford does house virtually all of its undergraduates, over half of its graduate students and about 2,000 faculty and staff. Add all that up and it comes to almost 16,000 housing units and student beds. No other entity in the region has that kind of track record on housing.
Can Stanford do more? Yes. That’s why Stanford is currently building over 2,000 more graduate student beds on campus and over 200 apartments in Menlo Park, and has proposed adding an additional 3,150 housing units and student beds under the 2018 General Use Permit through a balanced and paced approach that minimizes environmental impacts. Stanford also proposed to provide funding for still more affordable housing units in the community.
Santa Clara County decided to study two county-initiated alternatives to Stanford’s application for a new General Use Permit, in response to public comments on the draft environmental impact report (EIR). The study examines the impact of building enough housing for the entire increase in the campus population, a further 2,549 housing units and student beds on Stanford’s campus, and the impact of building half of that increased amount, or 1,275 additional units and beds.
Each of these alternatives would add thousands of multi-family apartments to the Stanford campus, likely along campus edges such as El Camino Real. As described in the re-circulated portions of the draft EIR, adding housing at the magnitude contemplated by the alternatives would increase every significant environmental effect described in the original draft EIR for the 2018 General Use Permit and add new ones. Stanford prefers a more balanced approach that enables the university to build housing while minimizing adverse effects on its neighbors.
From its earliest days, Stanford has focused on supporting a residential academic environment. For students and faculty, living on campus enhances learning and research, which fosters collaboration and community. In more recent years, Stanford has added subsidized rental housing on university lands nearby campus to assist faculty and staff navigating the challenging local housing market.
Stanford’s housing portfolio includes about 2,000 faculty and staff units, approximately 1,000 of which are subsidized rental units. Currently, over half of Stanford’s rental housing is occupied by staff, including 184 below market rate units on university lands which are 60 percent occupied by staff.
Stanford is committed to providing housing for its students and employees on or near campus. Since 2000, Stanford has built about 2,300 housing units in unincorporated Santa Clara County, Palo Alto and Menlo Park, including student housing, faculty and staff housing, senior housing and below market rate housing, with another 1,500 units currently under construction.
Stanford’s lands in unincorporated Santa Clara County are planned and used as a university campus, focusing on providing world-class academic facilities that foster research and learning. Therefore, the priority must be to carefully maintain these lands for academic purposes. However, the university recognizes there is a need to add appropriate amounts and types of housing for faculty, staff and students. That is why Stanford proposed 550 new subsidized high-density rental apartments at two sites on Quarry Road next to the Palo Alto Transit Center. This location is well-suited for employee housing because it is adjacent to already developed areas in Palo Alto and preserves the core campus for academic uses.
Stanford carefully designed the 2018 General Use Permit to support the university’s educational mission, including building more housing, while ensuring that Stanford’s academic campus growth is respectful of our neighboring communities. We took great care to design an application that is consistent with our responsibility to be good stewards of our land.
Stanford’s July 2018 proposal was designed to deliver more affordable housing faster. Rather than pay a fee that is spread out over 17 years, Stanford’s accelerated plan would have created housing now as the region experiences a severe shortage of housing.
Stanford shares the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors' view that the region is experiencing an urgent housing crisis. It requires innovative solutions that have the potential to be more impactful than traditional means. The University spent considerable time thinking creatively about new ways to approach not only addressing its own affordable housing demand resulting from the proposed 2018 General Use Permit application, but also to find ways to accelerate the provision of that housing in the near term. Stanford's framework in developing this proposal was founded on the university’s desire to develop solutions that provide expedient, cost-effective, and nimble resources to meet the challenges of this regional housing market.
Stanford will continue exploring creative ways to provide housing now as part of ongoing development agreement discussions with Santa Clara County.
Stanford guarantees on-campus housing for all of its nearly 7,000 undergraduate students and for all first-year graduate students. With the addition of the Escondido Village Graduate Residences project, which will add 2,020 net new student beds, roughly 75% of graduate students will be housed on campus. This commitment serves to relieve some of the pressure on the already challenging housing market in the region.
Managing automobile traffic has been a longstanding Stanford priority and will continue to be under the 2018 General Use Permit. We are proud to have achieved our No Net New Commute Trips goal through aggressive and innovative transportation demand management (TDM) efforts. This award-winning program is one of the most comprehensive in the country and has reduced the percentage of single occupancy vehicle commuters from 69 percent in 2003 to 43 percent today. Stanford recognizes that to continue to achieve a No Net New Commute Trips standard under the proposed 2018 General Use Permit, it will need to expand and develop the next generation of the TDM program.
A menu of additional transportation demand management strategies is being explored including:
- Expanding commuter bus service
- Increasing Marguerite shuttle service routes
- Supporting bicycle commuters
- Revisiting parking fee policy
- Implementing additional student vehicle prohibitions
The parking fee discourages single occupancy vehicle commute trips and provides funding for the transportation demand management (TDM) program, including first-last mile shuttle service, the Commute Club, and extensive ride- and car-share programs available to all Stanford affiliates or parties sponsored by a Stanford department. Providing free parking would make it much more difficult for the university to continue meeting its goal of reducing single-occupancy vehicle commute trips.
Parking permits are enforced between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m., which is in line with public transit operations – those who work outside these hours are able to park in campus parking without a permit and without charge.
Stanford is currently partnering with Caltrain on their business plan to ensure they have the necessary resources to prepare the plan. That effort will identify future service patterns and address operational and infrastructure requirements post-electrification and beyond to 2040, including an approach on corridor-wide grade-crossing needs. Grade separations would be the responsibility of the local jurisdiction owning the roadways and costs for grade separations would be funded by local bonds or taxes.
Under a conservative analysis, the final environmental impact report found that Caltrain has sufficient capacity to meet any new ridership created by the 2018 General Use Permit.
Stanford’s transportation planners are analyzing various transit options to better connect East Palo Alto and the campus, including ongoing conversations with SamTrans, which already provides service within this corridor. In the meantime, the university’s Transportation Demand Management program has been expanded to provide free vanpool options for staff living in East Palo Alto.
A Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) analysis focuses on getting people out of their cars and reducing total vehicle miles traveled – and the associated greenhouse gas emissions – rather than focusing on congestion and delays at particular intersections or access points. The VMT metric is the standard in the State of California for public agencies to use when they evaluate the transportation impacts of projects under the California Environmental Quality Act.
The Final Environmental Impact Report indicates that Stanford’s proposed project would have an average per capita VMT of 4.53 for workers, 72 percent below the regional average. According to the state’s Office of Planning and Research, when a single entity achieves a better than 15 percent reduction below the regional averages, it is roughly consistent with the greenhouse gas reduction targets set by the California Air Resources Board – Stanford far exceeds this.
Established by the Stanford Community Plan, the Academic Growth Boundary (AGB) supports compact urban development and resource conservation. Academic development and housing must occur within the AGB, with lands outside the AGB remaining for open space, agricultural uses, field research and associated facilities, and conservation activities.
The ongoing success of Palo Alto's public schools is very important to the Stanford community, and Stanford has a long history of partnering with Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) in support of local public education.
Much of Stanford’s faculty and staff housing is subject to property tax, and PAUSD’s income from tax revenue generated by Stanford’s commercial lands more than covers the cost of educating students living in tax-exempt housing, and will continue to do so under the proposed 2018 General Use Permit. Data from the 2017-18 school year shows that students living in tax-exempt Stanford residences represented 2 percent of PAUSD students — yet, tax revenue from Stanford's commercial and residential lands contributed 17 percent of PAUSD's revenue that year. Stanford also supports PAUSD in other ways, including having provided 112 acres of land for four campuses – Palo Alto High School, Gunn High School, Escondido Elementary School, and Nixon Elementary School.
Stanford is committed to its partnership with PAUSD and to addressing the District's concerns about how to best serve new students as Stanford's future housing plans take shape.
No, the 2018 General Use Permit application does not request any development in the foothills and does not request to move the Academic Growth Boundary.
Sustainability is a core principle of the university. In 2001, Stanford convened an Environmental Stewardship Committee tasked with developing a set of Stanford-specific sustainable guidelines and integrating them into facilities planning, design and operations processes. These guidelines are encompassed in the Guidelines for Sustainable Buildings that demonstrates the university’s commitment to plan and develop high-value, long-term, cost-effective facilities and landscapes that enhance the academic mission of the university, embrace our partnership with the community and reinforce our stewardship of Stanford lands.
Stanford replaced its outdated cogeneration plant with the new state-of-the-art Stanford Energy System Innovations central energy facility that reduces the energy needed to heat and cool campus buildings by 70 percent. This facility will meet more than 90 percent of campus heating demands by capturing almost two-thirds of the waste heat generated by the campus cooling system. This project exemplifies the benefits of a flexible land use process that allows for innovation.
Stanford obtains more than 50 percent of its electricity from a new Stanford Solar Generating Station in Kern County and campus rooftop solar panels. Together, the new SESI heating and cooling system and Stanford’s solar power procurement program have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 68 percent from their peak levels. Stanford recently announced the construction of a second solar station that will allow the university to use 100 percent renewable electricity and further reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below peak levels by 2021.
The university initiated a comprehensive on-campus water conservation program that has resulted in a 30% decrease in potable water use since 2001 despite an increase of square footage. In the future, the estimated total potable water demands of the Stanford University campus at buildout of the 2018 General Use Permit are calculated at 2.44 million gallons per day (mgd), which is substantially below Stanford’s allocation of 3.03 mgd of potable water from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC).
Stanford University takes pride in its generational perspective and commitment to stewardship of its lands, including the foothills above the core campus. The 2018 General Use Permit Application proposes to use infill development within the AGB and proposes no development within the Foothills Development District. Stanford will continue to maintain its lands beyond the core campus for research, outdoor learning and resource conservation.
Stanford has athletic and recreation facilities on campus to serve its students, faculty and staff, and the 2018 General Use Permit would not create a need for construction of new onsite park facilities.
Additionally, a technical report included in the 2018 General Use Permit application concludes that the anticipated growth will not cause a significant impact on surrounding parks and recreation facilities. Occasionally, some campus residents (approximately 5–10%) visit public park and recreation facilities in neighboring communities; however this level of use would not result in substantial deterioration of those facilities. While the potential impacts are expected to be minor, Stanford’s application includes a good neighbor offer to provide to the City of Palo Alto a one-time contribution to meet capital budget needs previously identified by the City of Palo Alto (approximately $300,000) for planned park upgrades in College Terrace parks.
It is tempting to look at the size of Stanford’s endowment or its annual operating budget and conclude that the university has the resources to address many of the wants and needs of the university community and beyond. However, as is the case with most endowments, Stanford each year spends income from the endowment equal to about 5 percent of the principal so that the endowment can support the university in perpetuity. And by rule, only approximately 23 percent of the annual endowment payout can be used as discretionary funds that aren’t required to be directed to a specific purpose.
Stanford is often asked why it cannot fund a particular new priority simply by drawing on its endowment. There are several limiting factors. First, setting the annual payout amount above a sustainable level could result in the value of the endowment decreasing over time. Second, more than 75 percent of the endowment is restricted, meaning that donors have designated the funds for specific purposes that cannot be changed. Finally, because Stanford has a limited number of revenue sources and some of them are restricted in nature, the university essentially has three options if it wants to undertake a new initiative – acquire additional donor gifts; increase tuition for students and parents; or reduce existing programs.
Stanford maintains an active program to protect its heritage sites and consults with the local Muwekma Ohlone Tribe, and other interested members of the broader Ohlone community from the region, regularly regarding stewardship of these areas. Stanford requests a list of interested regional stakeholders from California’s Native American Heritage Commission for its land use projects and communicates directly with each of the individuals and tribal organizations.