Stanford drops lawsuit against Santa Clara County over affordable housing
Stanford University campus | Courtesy of

    Stanford University dropped a lawsuit against Santa Clara County, two years after arguing the county targeted the university too narrowly in requiring affordable housing.

    Stanford filed the suit in December 2018 after the county began a multi-year planning process to increase development of affordable housing.

    The first phase of the county’s affordable housing plan identified Stanford as a high-need area for more affordable housing as the university kept expanding. Stanford said this was an unfair assessment and ignored the university’s contributions to housing in the past two decades.

    “The county has an obligation to use the tools it has to alleviate the housing and affordability crisis,” Santa Clara County Counsel James Williams said. “One such tool is ensuring that Stanford University does its part to alleviate the housing burden within its community.”

    Between 1999 and 2014, Stanford built more than 1,300 affordable housing units, making up about 75% of unincorporated Santa Clara County’s affordable housing units built during the same period, according to court documents.

    Between 2015 through 2022, Stanford is on track to build another 1,400 affordable units, according to court documents. That doesn’t include the additional undergraduate housing Stanford has built during the same period.

    In a complaint to the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, Stanford argued the county had singled out the university “to bear the burden of the county’s efforts to remedy its affordable housing problems.”

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    The court dismissed part of Stanford’s complaint in October 2019. The university withdrew the suit Dec. 18.

    Williams said Stanford’s decision “recognizes the county’s authority to legislate to ensure that the impacts of Stanford’s development don’t negatively impact the community,” and asserted this was a win for everyone involved.

    Now, under county rules, Stanford must make 16% of residential units developed affordable. The Board of Supervisors set that standard in October for all residential projects in unincorporated areas of the county.

    Most of Santa Clara County’s 15 cities already have their own affordable housing ordinances in place.

    “Stanford supports inclusionary housing,” said E.J. Miranda, a spokesperson for the university. “The objection to the county ordinance in the lawsuit was that, as adopted previously, it applied to Stanford alone, and not to others in unincorporated county lands.”

    Because the ordinance no longer singles out Stanford, Miranda said, Stanford and the county agreed the point in the university’s lawsuit was moot.

    Next, the county will consider an affordable housing impact fee for non-residential development in incorporated areas. A timeline for this has not yet been established.

    Contact Madelyn Reese at [email protected] and follow her @MadelynGReese

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