We are saddened and frustrated to learn that Stanford has decided to withdraw its General Use Permit application.
To be clear, the goal of our activism was never to stop this project. Our demand is that any development Stanford undertakes support the most impacted communities on and around our campus — namely, workers and neighboring communities like East Palo Alto. We want Stanford to be able to grow and do so in a way that benefits everyone. We want everyone to be included in this expansion.
It is shameful that Stanford would throw away its entire plan rather than engage in substantive discussion on what providing housing for workers on campus could look like.
In his email to the University, President Tessier-Lavigne claimed that the University finally agreed just this week to provide the full amount of housing requested by the county. Our question is: why did it take this long for Stanford to arrive at this basic agreement? And after finally getting serious about what equitable development could look like, why did they abruptly withdraw their plan for expansion?
The reasons Tessier-Lavigne outlined for withdrawing the permit in his email are excuses disguising Stanford’s true motive.
Their arguments regarding “predictability” with a Development Agreement were obfuscations of what “constant and predictable” regulation actually means— in reality, the Conditions of Approval provide just as much certainty as a Development Agreement would. Furthermore, Stanford accepted the certainty provided by the COA framework without complaint 20 years ago during the last GUP approval process.
Stanford’s claim that it would be unable to meet traffic requirements while building new housing is false. The County loosened requirements to make these requirements easier to meet, and gave Stanford flexibility in meeting these standards. Furthermore, Stanford made the same claim during the last round of GUP hearings that the traffic standards then were impossible to meet; 20 years later, they boast about their transportation demand management (TDM) programs. In the same breath today, they complain that these new standards are impossible, despite County studies that back the feasibility of their implementation.
Our guess is that Stanford is still not serious about creating equitable outcomes. This is a stalling tactic.
Stanford refuses to accept anything other than getting exactly what it wants.
In the meantime, Stanford is waiting for student activists to graduate, for County Supervisors to term out and for the community to forget. Once that happens, Stanford will submit the same application again with nothing changed, and expect to get away with providing the bare minimum for its community.
Stanford looks at constructive criticism as a PR challenge to be managed instead of an opportunity for growth. This shows a lack of self-reflection and an inability to value and integrate feedback on the University’s failures. Those advocating for Stanford to do better are not strangers. They are students sitting beside you at the dining table, graduate students working as TAs in your classes, groundskeepers maintaining the lawn next to your dorm, dining staff preparing and serving your meals.
In his email, President Tessier Lavigne wrote, “We have learned much from this process, and we intend to lean into the task of listening, learning and engaging.”
We doubt it.
We have been asking Stanford to listen for three years now. Members of the community have been showing up, speaking at hearings, planning protests, and challenging Stanford to do better.
The Board of Supervisors listened and incorporated this feedback into their proposals.
In response, Stanford walked away from the table — a final failure to support the needs of their students, postdocs, staff, workers, and community members in this process.
Even though the GUP process appears to be paused right now, our goals are unchanged. If Stanford comes back to negotiate, we will continue to demand equity for workers. If Stanford refuses to negotiate, we will push for an inclusive community regardless. Stanford’s failure to execute an equitable plan for future development does not absolve it of its responsibility to do right by its workers who have been and continue to be impacted, ignored, and marginalized by Stanford today.