As a Stanford University proposal to build up to 2.27 million square feet of new academic facilities and 3,150 new on-campus housing units by 2035 goes up for review, San Mateo County officials are asking their counterparts in Santa Clara County to require the university pay the maximum rate of impact fees and set aside a portion of the fees collected to mitigate the project’s effect on the county’s affordable housing efforts.
Though the university lies within Santa Clara County, San Mateo County officials are concerned its proximity with neighboring Menlo Park, Redwood City and unincorporated North Fair Oaks could have rippling effects throughout the county as an influx of students, faculty and staff could put even more pressure on the county’s stock of affordable housing.
Up for discussion at the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors’ Tuesday meeting was a letter detailing those concerns and asking Santa Clara County supervisors consider requiring the university to pay the maximum rate in affordable housing impact fees possible — up to $143.10 per square foot — and directing a portion of those funds to their northern neighbor.
Noting the university’s positive effect on the region, Supervisor Don Horsley acknowledged several of the university’s more recent projects — including construction at the Stanford Hospital and the new Stanford campus in Redwood City — have affected San Mateo County residents.
“I’m glad they’re here,” he said. “But at the same time, they’ve had a lot of impact on our residents and I think it’s time we hold them accountable for those impacts.”
A Santa Clara County-funded nexus study aimed at assessing the impact of future development in its unincorporated area informed the San Mateo County officials’ request its southern neighbor adopt affordable housing impact fees at the maximum rate set forth in the study. It had concluded the maximum affordable housing impact fee that could be justified for academic space is $143.10 per square foot while the maximum fee that could be imposed for faculty and staff housing is $69.10 per square foot, explained Board President Dave Pine.
But Pine had concerns about asking the university to pay the maximum rates outlined in the nexus study, noting he would rather see the language request the university pay the highest rate feasible and direct the county’s efforts toward ensuring Santa Clara County officials agree to contribute a portion of the funds toward San Mateo County affordable housing efforts.
Jean McCown, associate vice president of the university’s Office of Government and Community Relations, said the university has been committed to paying affordable housing impact fees on its projects for the last 20 years and is committed to doing so in the future. But she encouraged San Mateo County officials to consider recommending to their counterparts a more reasonable fee structure, noting the study was aimed at calculating the maximum fee that can be justified and that the recommended fees have yet to be determined.
“There are no entities anywhere in the two counties that are being requested to pay that kind of fee,” she said. “We believe the fee for Stanford should be placed in context with what others do pay.”
McCown said the university has proposed paying a fee of $20 per square foot for the university’s future academic development, which is higher than what peer institutions like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University pay as a fee to their surrounding jurisdictions.
Though the supervisors discussed the possibility of removing the maximum fees from the letter and instead asking for the highest feasible rate, they ultimately voted 4-1 to keep the maximum rates in the letter, with Pine dissenting.
Supervisor Warren Slocum worried the change could give the university leeway to pay lower fees that may not account for the project’s effect on the county’s affordable housing stock. Noting the county only received some $1 million in fees for the university’s Redwood City campus’ effect on the North Fair Oaks neighborhood while Redwood City received some $20 million in impact fees, Slocum said the county has been behind in collecting fees from the university for its impact on the county’s affordable housing crisis.
“San Mateo County has never gotten any of the affordable housing money from Santa Clara County,” he said. “I don’t want to give Stanford any wiggle room.”
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