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East Palo Alto Unhappy With Stanford Housing Plans

Photo: Stanford University

Affordable housing has quickly emerged as the dominant issue of concern for East Palo Alto due to the growth of Stanford University, as the school seeks approval for its 2018 General Use Permit (GUP) Environmental Impact Report (EIR) from Santa Clara County.

“I think Stanford in this case is low-balling it,” said City Council member Carlos Romero at the Thursday November 9 meeting. “Probably your endowment could afford a few more million into the affordable housing fund.”

Stanford Associate Vice President for Land Use and Environmental Planning Catherine Palter explained that since the 2000 GUP, Stanford has contributed $26 million to the Stanford Affordable Housing Fund (SAHF) to help develop off-campus housing. The university plans to contribute $56 million more to fund from 2018 until 2035.

“I think it’s vitally important that your janitors, members of [Service Employees International Union] SEIU, doing the gardening and maintenance work, many who live in this community, receive housing on campus,” said Romero.

“The project would add 5,262 jobs, but only 550 housing units for faculty and staff. This deliberate and planned jobs housing imbalance will significantly exacerbate the severe housing crisis and create negative local and regional housing, traffic, and air quality externalities as other jurisdictions will be expected to house Stanford employees,” wrote Assistant City Manager Sean Charpentier in the meeting’s staff report.

Charpentier also noted that “the primary issues are related to traffic, housing, and flood control,” indicating that the city make be seeking some compensation from Stanford to address the risk of flooding as well as funds for affordable housing.

“Stanford has a pretty robust Transportation Demand Management program,” said Santa Clara County Senior Planner David Rader. “That’s a key mitigation to get solo drivers out of their cars and into transit and bicycling.”

Stanford has offered a set of four off-campus bicycle routes to shift more commuters to bicycling, which the university hopes to count the resulting motorized trip reductions to help offset its own increase in motorized trips to the academic campus. One of those bicycle routes consists of sharrows and Bike Route signs on Clarke Avenue from the Newell/Clarke Ped/Bike Bridge, expected to be constructed by 2019.

Written comments on Stanford’s 2018 GUP EIR are due December 4. The East Palo Alto City Council will consider a draft comment letter at its November 21 meeting. Stanford University will host a community meeting on November 30 at 7 pm at the Palo Alto Art Center to solicit verbal comments.