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After dropping expansion plans, Stanford moves ahead with another faculty housing project

Despite abruptly withdrawing a 3.5-million-square-foot expansion proposal in Santa Clara County last week, Stanford University is moving ahead with a separate, smaller housing development for faculty members in its neighboring county to the north.

The proposed housing would be built about three miles from campus on Alpine Road just south of Westridge Drive in Portola Valley and would consist of 27 for-sale single-family homes for university faculty and 12 affordable rental units spread across three buildings for residents of the town.

The two-story homes would range from 1,800 to 2,100 square feet and feature three or four bedrooms. The rental units will be a mix of studios and one-and two-bedroom units, according to the project plans. The university said it was too early to provide cost estimates for the homes and rental units.

Due to steep hills on the majority of the property, the proposed homes and apartment buildings will be clustered on 6 acres of the property — or approximately 8 percent of the land. The remaining 69 acres will be preserved as open space, according to the project plans.

The Portola Valley Town Council voiced initial enthusiasm for the project last month and unanimously approved hiring a consultant to conduct an environmental impact report.

“To be able to provide housing for the faculty and some more housing for our own teachers at our school district or firefighters or whoever is exactly what we as a council have been trying to do for so long,” Mayor Ann Wengert said during the meeting. “I think it’ll be a gorgeous community that you (Stanford University) will establish in Portola Valley.”

A new Stanford faculty housing project has been proposed on Alpine Road in Portola Valley just south of Westridge Drive. 

Less than two weeks later, the university withdrew a separate, massive development plan with Santa Clara County that would have provided hundreds — if not thousands — of homes for faculty members. The proposal would have authorized Stanford to add 2.275 million square feet of academic space and 2,600 beds for new students through 2035.

But it had been on shaky ground for a couple of months after a demand made by county officials’ that the university build enough housing units for every new faculty member that would be added to the area as a result of the expansion. The university called the county’s demand — for Stanford to build 2,172 homes or nearly four times as many as Stanford had initially proposed — “unfeasible.”

Steve Elliott, managing director of real estate development at Stanford, said that although those plans have been put on hold, the university is still trying to slowly chip away at providing more housing for some of its faculty members.

“This project — although considerably smaller than what we were proposing in the GUP (general use permit proposal) — is still important,” Elliot said of the Portola Valley project. “We continue to have a need for faculty housing and this site, together with the town’s interest in having us help them create more affordable housing for local employees and teachers, worked really well.”

Portola Valley, an incorporated, rural town of about 5,000 residents in San Mateo County, consists primarily of single-family homes on large lots.

To accommodate some multi-family developments required by the state’s housing element mandates, the town developed a housing program in the 1990s that would allow three institutions that own land in the town — Stanford University; Woodside Priory School, a private school for students in grades 6-12; and The Sequoias, a senior living community — to build multifamily housing projects for their employees and staff.

Although Stanford has owned the 75-acre property for decades, it wasn’t until 2016 that the university began discussions with the town about building on the site.

Councilmember Maryann Derwin, who takes credit for approaching Stanford in 2016 to pursue its interest in building on the property, said she’s excited about working with the university and that the proposed project would help the town build a more “vibrant and diverse community.”

“The only way we’re going to even make a dent in the housing crisis is for everyone to pitch in — private industries, public institutions,” Councilmember Maryann Derwin said in an interview. “And every city in the Bay Area needs to pitch in. We should not be exempt because we historically have very large lots and a precedent for preserving open space.”

But not everyone is as enthusiastic about the idea.

At community meetings over the past several months, a handful of residents have voiced strong opposition to the project, citing concerns regarding traffic and congestion, proximity to neighboring lots and additional light and noise pollution. Stanford attempted to try to mitigate the concerns by eliminating two houses from their original plan and moving the development farther from neighboring property lines.

Greg Corrales, a resident who lives in a neighborhood down the road from the proposed development, said he remains skeptical of the project because of the council’s lack of transparency and the town’s lack of infrastructure — such as stoplights — to control the growth and traffic that will come with the development.

“How can Santa Clara be advocating for more controlled growth and Portola Valley and San Mateo County not be,” Corrales said. “It just seems shady that this has been going on for two years and virtually none of the people who actually live here knew about it.”


Source: East Bay After dropping expansion plans, Stanford moves ahead with another faculty housing project

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