Stanford Offers $4.7 Billion for California Housing, Transit

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Stanford University, hoping to appease officials opposed to its planned expansion, is offering to spend $4.7 billion to relieve pressures on housing and transit that are plaguing residents of California’s Bay Area.

The offer would be part of an agreement with Santa Clara County to support the school’s application for a long-term land use permit, according to a statement Monday from Stanford. It would invest $3.4 billion in housing development and more than $1.1 billion in transportation upgrades and “other community benefits,” according to the statement.

“This offer clearly exceeds what can be achieved through the county’s current approach and includes billions of dollars in housing and traffic relief that Stanford wants to provide and our neighbors are asking for,” Stanford representative E.J. Miranda said in an emailed statement.

Stanford has been embroiled in a dispute with local authorities over whether it’s offering sufficient affordable housing. The plan calls for 2,172 workforce housing units, including 575 “front-loaded below-market-rate housing units.” The school, which has a $26.5 billion endowment, submitted the proposal earlier Monday to Santa Clara County. It may not be enough to overcome resistance.

“Unfortunately, it continues to miss the mark in terms of providing full mitigation for the adverse impacts of 3.5 million square feet of development,” Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian said in a phone interview. “If something seems too good to be true, then it probably is.”

The success of Silicon Valley technology companies — many of them started by Stanford grads — has contributed to massive housing cost increases in the San Francisco Bay Area. The firms employ tens of thousands of high-earners who have bought or rented homes, leaving fewer options for poor and middle-income residents. Meanwhile, the supply of new houses and apartments has not kept up with demand.

That’s driven median existing-home prices to $1.2 million in Silicon Valley, the highest of any market in the country, according to the National Association of Realtors. The San Francisco and Oakland metro area is second with a $930,000 median price.

Increasingly, tech companies and their executives have been taking steps to directly address a crisis they’re often blamed for creating. Last week, Google pledged $1 billion to support the construction of 20,000 new homes in the area. The philanthropy started by Facebook Inc.’s Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan is also backing an effort to address the housing shortage in the region.

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