Tell Santa Clara County to Protect the Stanford Foothills

The Stanford foothills. Photo credit: TJ Nicholson, flickr

Update: On 9/28/23, the Santa Clara County Planning Commission recommended approval of the 99-year extension for protection of the foothills. This is good news. The next step will be for the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors to vote on this. We will send out an alert when that vote is coming up, so that you can reach out to encourage them to vote yes. To receive Green Foothills alerts, sign up at

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 Thursday, September 28, the Santa Clara County Planning Commission will be considering whether to recommend approval of a 99-year extension of the protections for the foothills by the Board of Supervisors. Please email the Planning Commission using the form below, and tell them to protect the Stanford foothills!

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 2025.

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 requesting that the supermajority vote requirement be extended by only 25 years.

On Thursday September 28, the Planning Commission will vote on a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors regarding the update to the Stanford Community Plan, including the 99-year extension. Then on October 17, the County Board of Supervisors will cast the final and decisive vote.

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. Therefore, there is no reason for Stanford to sprawl into the open space of the foothills.

Furthermore, the supermajority vote requirement is not a total ban on future development in the foothills. It merely creates a slightly stronger standard for Stanford to meet. The supermajority vote requirement is reasonable, justified, and prudent.

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 like those in the Stanford Community Plan that the foothills are still preserved.

What You Can Do

Please email the Planning Commission using the form below, and tell them to recommend approval of the staff recommendation, including the 99-year extension of the supermajority vote requirement. The next step will be for the Board of Supervisors to vote on October 17; we will notify our supporters when that date approaches so that you can also email the Board of Supervisors.

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