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Protect your voice in negotiations with Stanford

Stanford asks for development agreement that would preempt new affordable housing requirements.

County to consider offer and negotiations process on October 16.

Over the past year, we’ve all studied up on Stanford’s expansion plans and the potential impacts of the 2.3 million square foot academic expansion proposed in Stanford’s 2018 General Use Permit application (2018 GUP) and weighed in on the adequacy of draft mitigations. In addition, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors has looked closely at the affordable housing demand that Stanford’s expansion will create and passed new ordinances to raise housing impact fees and require more affordable housing.

Now Stanford is hoping to preempt a Final Environmental Impact Report (and associated, transparent conditions of approval for their 2018 GUP application) and go behind closed doors to negotiate an alternative that will supersede imposition of the County’s new affordable housing ordinances, prevent imposition of additional mitigation requirements, and freeze the County’s authority to regulate land use in the Stanford Community Plan Area until completion of the full expansion or for 30 years, whichever comes sooner.

Stanford seeks to negotiate a development agreement in exchange for “community benefits” in the form of proposed affordable housing commitments and investments, but county staff says Stanford’s affordable housing proposal doesn’t go as far as current law.

This Tuesday, October 16, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing to discuss whether Stanford’s proposed development agreement warrants further discussion and negotiation and if so, what the negotiation process should entail. Public comment is welcome in person and via email (referencing “agenda item #9”) to boardoperations@cob.sccgov.org.

Read on for more info about Stanford’s housing offer and county staff’s analysis and recommendation.

What is a development agreement?

A development agreement is a voluntary contract with a local jurisdiction (Santa Clara County) in which a property owner (Stanford) is granted new entitlements or exceptions to existing rules in exchange for providing community benefits that otherwise would be difficult for the jurisdiction to obtain. In contrast to the transparent 2018 GUP analysis and review process, negotiators typically bargain over the trade-offs in private. In Santa Clara County only a single public hearing is required. The public and affiliated government entities, like the City of Palo Alto and the PAUSD, do not have a seat at the table and might only be informed of the details after the parameters of a deal have been struck. 

Stanford’s offer of affordable housing investments as a “community benefit” falls well short of housing funds due under current law.

The primary community benefit cited in Stanford’s development agreement application is affordable housing commitments and investments. However, according to the county staff report,

“As currently offered, Stanford University’s housing proposal does not constitute community benefits in that the proposal does not offer affordable housing beyond a level that can be obtained through existing regulations [and county authority].”

Indeed, the staff analysis indicates that Stanford’s proposed development agreement would produce an affordable housing subsidy value of $89 million less than Stanford would be required to contribute under the county’s new impact fee and inclusionary housing ordinances. Stanford emphasizes the timely value of up-front housing funds in its development agreement application, but even adjusting for net present value, their proposal falls short of current law by $75 million.

By county staff’s estimate, applying current requirements to Stanford’s GUP would produce a total of 663 new and converted affordable units, while the total under Stanford’s proposed development agreement would range from 314 to 455 affordable units.

County staff recommends pre-conditions to negotiation, integration with the ongoing GUP review process, and additional public engagement.

Given the lack of community benefits in Stanford’s development agreement proposal, county staff recommends that the Board of Supervisors only enter development agreement negotiations if Stanford first agrees in writing to:

Stanford seeks to condition its community benefits offer on limiting environmental mitigations to those already proposed in the Draft EIR. However, if the Board of Supervisors chooses to move forward with development agreement negotiations, staff recommends finalization of the Environmental Impact Report and staff preparation of conditions of approval for the 2018 GUP (targeted for late 2018) before the parties begin negotiations. Staff asserts that this will “provide a stable regulatory baseline for negotiations and ensure integration and consistency” with the 2018 GUP application review process. The Development Agreement would then be included in the Final EIR along with conditions of approval and monitoring and reporting requirements for Board of Supervisors’ consideration in 2019.  

County staff also proposes additional public outreach, (to both the general public and staff and elected officials representing public agencies and cities near Stanford) to inform the negotiations and obtain input on terms and desired community benefits at three stages in the process:

Process matters. Let the Board of Supervisors know what you think.

Are you surprised that Stanford’s development agreement application promises less affordable housing than the county’s newly passed impact fee and inclusionary ordinances would produce? Do you support negotiation of a development agreement with Stanford or prefer to rely only on the in-progress 2018 GUP process? Is it premature to begin negotiating a development agreement before the Final EIR is available to the public and/or reviewed by the county Planning Commission? Do you support staff’s recommendation to make entering negotiations contingent on certain expectations? Did they identify the right contingencies? What do you think about the proposed outreach process?

You can offer comments in person on Tuesday October 16 at 10:00 am or send an email with “agenda item #9” in the subject line to boardoperations@cob.sccgov.org.

The public hearing will be held on the first floor of the County Government Center located at 70 W. Hedding Street in San Jose and will begin no earlier than 10:00 am. (There is some free, marked 2-hour public parking on the side of the building parallel to San Pedro Street; there are parking meters in the general area; and there is a lot where parking can be purchased at 171 W. Hedding that is also open to the public.

 

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