In an effort to mitigate potential impacts of Stanford’s General Use Permit (GUP) application, the University has agreed to provide the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) with a $138.4 million community benefits package over 40 years, Stanford announced Monday.
The package includes $15 million for construction of an “innovation space” intended to increase collaboration between Stanford and PAUSD, ongoing financial assistance for students of the district living in tax-exempt university housing and funding for improvements to school sites and Safe Routes to Schools, a nationwide program that encourages active transportation to and from school.
The agreement, which is a product of two days of discussion between Stanford and PAUSD, is subject to approval by the PAUSD Board of Education at its April 23 meeting. It will go into effect if Stanford and Santa Clara County reach a comprehensive development agreement and if that agreement is approved along with the GUP by the County Board of Supervisors in June.
“Suppose Palo Alto didn’t exist — what would Stanford do … if they were to proceed with this expansion?” said Palo Alto Mayor Eric Filseth at a Feb. 7 Palo Alto City Council meeting. “They would make an investment in their own school district. So, why would it not be appropriate to make an investment in the PAUSD?”
Community package funding includes $500,000 toward capital improvements to Safe Routes to Schools and a $5,800 payment, adjusted for inflation each year, to PAUSD for each new student enrolled in the district who lives in Stanford tax-exempt housing.
The agreement also accounts for an anticipated increase in students of Nixon and Escondido Elementary Schools living in housing generated by the GUP’s approval, indicating that Stanford will contribute up to $1 million toward facility expansion that results from this.
Stanford and PAUSD will also consider the possibility of a school site along Sand Hill Road, including space currently occupied by Oak Creek Apartments.
Behind this conditional agreement effort, the University and Santa Clara County have also been participating in ongoing negotiations over the General Use Permit (GUP), a 17-year expansion plan that would allow Stanford to construct 3,150 new housing units for students, faculty and staff as well as an additional 2.275 million square feet of academic facilities.
The negotiation proceedings have not been smooth — the University has been locked in disputes with several other stakeholders worried that the GUP will increase housing costs, create more traffic congestion issues and negatively impact the environment.
The University filed a lawsuit against a Santa Clara County’s Inclusionary Housing Ordinance — which required 16 percent of housing units constructed by the University under the GUP to be made available at an affordable housing cost — for unfairly targeting Stanford.
Palo Alto City Council has also requested contributions from Stanford to compensate for the proposed expansion, including up to $82.4 million over the next 17 years to the city’s affordable housing fund as well as funding for flood risk reduction, parks maintenance and expansion of a shuttle system to reach more distanced parts of the city. Menlo Park and Mountain View have also called for the University funding to mitigate transportation issues that might increase as a result its proposed expansion.
However, if the University can overcome these obstacles, it will be one step closer to seeing its GUP approved.
“The conditional agreement should serve as a model of what is possible when groups take the time to understand each other and commit to finding mutually-agreeable resolutions,” PAUSD Superintendent Don Austin told Stanford News. “Beyond the finances of the proposed agreement, PAUSD is excited about the possibility of partnering with Stanford in ways that will benefit all students.”