Important Step Forward To Protect the Stanford Foothills

The Stanford foothills. Photo Credit: TJ Nicholson, flickr

For decades, more than 2,300 acres of hillside open space in the Stanford foothills have been protected from development through the Stanford Community Plan. On December 13, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors took an important step forward towards approving a 99-year extension of protections for the foothills. Please use the form below to email the County Supervisors and thank them for their unanimous vote!

What’s Happening

The Stanford Community Plan, which guides the direction of future growth on Stanford University lands in Santa Clara County, includes an Academic Growth Boundary that prohibits any development in the open space of the foothills west of Junipero Serra Boulevard. Currently, the plan mandates that any changes to the boundary require a supermajority (4/5) vote of the County Board of Supervisors. However, that requirement will expire in 2 years.

County Planning staff have prepared recommendations for an update of the Stanford Community Plan. The staff-recommended update includes provisions for a 99-year extension of this supermajority vote requirement. Stanford has countered by suggesting that the extension should be no more than 20 years.

On December 13, the Supervisors voted unanimously to declare their support for the staff-recommended update to the Stanford Community Plan, including the 99-year extension. This clears the way for a final vote to approve the update after environmental review is complete in 2023.

Why It Matters

The Stanford foothills encompass some of the last grassland habitat for miles in this area. They comprise approximately 2,300 acres of grassy hillsides and oak savannah, providing irreplaceable habitat for wildlife.

The Academic Growth Boundary is the line of defense against future sprawl development proposals in the Stanford foothills. Stanford has plenty of space within its existing campus footprint for future growth. In fact, a 2018 study by the County found that Stanford could nearly triple its current density without going beyond the Academic Growth Boundary and without becoming denser than other similar universities. Locating Stanford’s future growth, including housing needed to accommodate future academic development, on its current campus footprint will not only protect the foothills, but will also reduce climate impacts from people having to travel miles from their homes to their jobs or classes on the Stanford campus.

Protecting the Stanford foothills was the original reason for the founding of Green Foothills in 1962. By and large these foothills are still open space, just as they were when we fought our first battle 60 years ago. It’s thanks to folks like you speaking up for smart land use and planning policies that the foothills are still preserved.

What’s Next

The vote on December 13 was just the first step towards final approval of the Stanford Community Plan update. Next, the County needs to prepare the Draft Environmental Impact Report, receive public comment on it, and then prepare the final report before the Supervisors can officially approve the final Stanford Community Plan. We will keep you updated on opportunities to weigh in on this process.

Please email the Supervisors to thank them for their unanimous vote to declare their support for the staff-recommended update to the Stanford Community Plan, including the 99-year extension.

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