By Yusra Arub
On Tuesday, Santa Clara County mandated an indefinite suspension on negotiations with Stanford over the development agreement governing the University’s proposed expansion. This decision came hours after Stanford announced its $138.4 million community benefits package deal with the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD).
According to county supervisor Joe Simitian, this decision was mandated by the Santa Clara County executive office, the county planning director’s office and the two supervisors designated on the development agreement task force — Simitian and his fellow supervisor Cindy Chavez.
However, Stanford was not “officially notified” by the County or Simitian of the decision, and was “surprised and perplexed,” University spokesperson EJ Miranda wrote in an email to The Daily.
“Supervisor Simitian and the County had actively encouraged us to engage with Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) as part of these negotiations,” Miranda wrote.
Simitian believes that the agreement neither benefits the school district itself nor adheres to the County’s goals for the local community.
“The announced contingent agreement is untenable with the County,” Simitian told The Daily. “It provides bargaining leverage to the University without providing any guaranteed benefits to the school district. I want to underscore — by virtue of the contingency, there is absolutely no guarantee whatsoever of any benefits to the school district.”
Stanford’s agreement with the PAUSD involves a Community Funding package and accounts for the potential spike in elementary school students that live in housing approved by the General Use Permit (GUP).
Stanford maintains that its agreement with the school district will enhance their delivery of an “excellent education for its students.”
According to Simitian, Stanford’s GUP application is still undergoing the approval process by the County and the board of supervisors. While the GUP is more focused on mitigation of potential impacts of expansion, the development agreement allows more room for proposal from both the University and the County.
“Our county staff and the consultants of county staff are drafting proposed conditions of approval as we speak,” Simitian said. “All that’s moving forward without interruption.”
However, Simitian noted that while the application continues to undergo review, the negotiations on the development agreement remain halted, describing the agreement as “not uncommon, but not the norm.”
“As far as I know, I don’t think our County has ever used a development agreement before in processing a land use application,” Simitian said. “This is something the University had asked for. We were having conversations about the possibility of a development agreement. Those conversations broke off once the University announced a tentative and contingent deal with the Palo Alto Unified School District.”
According to Simitian perspective, the ground rules established between the University and the County before their meetings to continue negotiations expired at midnight on April 15, the day on which the University announced its agreement and the Board of Education “posted the item as an agenda item.”
“This is a violation of the ground rules,” Simitian said.“Even if that were not the case, our County can’t walk into these negotiations when the so called agreement provides no certain benefits to the school district.”
The University has made efforts to resume negotiations with the County, according to Simitian. University officials and President Marc Tessier-Lavigne requested both Simitian and Chavez for a meeting to possibly resume the negotiations.
Simitian’s agreement to continue negotiations are dependent on the negotiation between the University and PAUSD.
“I could consider reopening the development agreement if the University and school district could sign a bilateral agreement without any contingencies,” Simitian said. “I can’t let the University hold these kids hostage during a development agreement conversation.”
Stanford pointed out the long-term advantages of continuing the development agreement.
“It provides certainty for everyone involved about the total package of community benefits that will be provided as development occurs on the Stanford campus,” Miranda said.
Miranda also discussed negative implications of not implementing the development agreement.
“Future county leaders could change the rules for Stanford’s development while it is in the midst of slowly building out the space authorized under a new General Use Permit.”
“Stanford remains committed to pursuing comprehensive development agreement discussions with Santa Clara County,” Miranda wrote. “We look forward to entering into substantive negotiations to reach a mutually agreed upon project and package of community benefits.”
Contact Yusra Arub at yusraarub19 ‘at’ mittymonarch.com.