This Precious Plot

Leo Holub

Leland Stanford knew what he was doing. When imagining the "University of high degree" that he hoped to convey to generations of unborn college students 115 years ago, he recognized the importance of land. With land come options and opportunities, and throughout Stanford's history, its 8,180-acre plot has been a formidable asset.

But recently the Farm has become the subject of intense public interest and political maneuvering, motivated in part by Silicon Valley's growing unease about overdevelopment. In November, after almost two years of rancorous debate and hardball negotiation--punctuated by a battle over Stanford's Foothills--Santa Clara County approved the University's application for a 10-year land-use plan. The specific provisions of that plan will govern Stanford's growth over the next decade, and the process required to secure its approval signaled a new era in community relations that will inform Stanford's decision-making far beyond then.

The University confronts an enormous dilemma. A serious housing shortage caused by the region's exorbitant cost of living requires extraordinary measures for the University to remain competitive for top faculty and students. And as the pool of developable land in its core campus shrinks, Stanford must also deal with new, vigorous oversight by local governing bodies that will constrain its land-use options. Meanwhile, a skeptical public has placed Stanford in an uncomfortable and unfamiliar defensive posture.

In short, Stanford faces a future that will require difficult choices--about how large to grow, about where to place its curricular emphasis and about how to reconcile its ambitions with its limitations. And it must deal with the fact that those decisions will not always be made according to the wishes of the occupant in Building 10.

Stanford has bumped up against a new reality. The fight over Farm land may be just beginning.

On a drizzly, dreary Monday evening late in October, a chartered bus pulled up outside the Santa Clara County Government Center in San Jose, drawing curious glances from office workers leaving the building. A moment later the bus doors opened and out streamed a torrent of men and women representing a cross section of the Stanford community--faculty, staff members from two dozen different offices, spouses of employees, and Palo Alto residents sympathetic to the University. Two more buses arrived right behind the first, depositing a couple of hundred more Stanford people onto the broad plaza.

They had come to lobby the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors for approval of the General Use Permit (GUP) and Community Plan that would authorize and manage Stanford's campus development over the next 10 years. Most of them were there because of what had happened a week earlier.

On October 24, in a dramatic public hearing in Palo Alto, Supervisor Joe Simitian had stunned University officials with a sweeping proposal--that Stanford surrender development rights to 1,000 acres of its Foothills for 99 years in exchange for the county's authorization of the GUP. Simitian supporters, mostly mid-Peninsula residents hungry for open-space preservation, hailed the proposal. Stanford President John Hennessy called it an illegal public taking of private land and insisted that Stanford's trustees would never accept it.

At a subdued Faculty Senate meeting on the day after Simitian's announcement, Provost John Etchemendy, PhD '82, was direct in assessing the situation. "What is at stake," he told faculty members, "is nothing less than the future of the University."

The battle touched off by Simitian's 99-year preservation demand was merely the latest skirmish in a contentious and complex two-year saga that pitted Stanford against a vocal and aggressive opposition made up of elected officials, environmentalists and special interests. Along the way, it featured hyperbolic headlines, feverish rhetoric and a cast of characters that included homeless graduate students, disgruntled dog-walkers and a tiny, spotted amphibian struggling for survival. It became one of the most serious public relations and policy battles in Stanford's history, dividing residents in Palo Alto and adjoining communities and raising questions about the rights and responsibilities of private landowners.

During most of that two-year period, the University was on the defensive, warding off a steady drumbeat of criticism about its land-use policies. Opponents of its development plan had filled hearing rooms for months while Stanford's supporters remained relatively quiet and uninvolved. But Simitian's proposal on October 24 galvanized the University's advocates. Upset by what they viewed as a governmental land grab and encouraged by appeals from Hennessy and other officials for a show of support, more than 300 people piled into buses for the trip to San Jose. When the group arrived, a Stanford entourage distributed "I Support Stanford" stickers in the lobby. A few feet away, wearing "Save the Foothills" stickers, several dozen protesters, including some Stanford alumni, gathered for their own demonstration, chanting slogans and brandishing signs. They had come to urge supervisors to deny the permit and accept Simitian's 99-year easement.

The hearing chamber overflowed. When the 250-plus chairs were filled, a ring of spectators three deep formed a haphazard half-moon in the back of the room, and a few more opted for seats in an adjacent area to watch the proceedings via a live tv feed.

For almost six hours, speakers for and against Stanford's development plan trudged to the microphone to offer two-minute arguments. There was eloquence and conviction on both sides. A "grateful" former cancer patient at Stanford Medical Center said his strong connection to the University did not preclude his opposition to its continued growth. Graduate Student Council Chair Paul Hartke, MS '99, who had vowed months earlier not to shave until the GUP was passed--and who had the beard to prove it--decried Simitian's last-minute changes, saying they threatened to derail Stanford's plan.

The hearing finally ended at 12:45 a.m., when Isaac Stein, MBA '72, JD '72, chair of the Stanford Board of Trustees, strode to the speakers' table. "We are not a company that can threaten to move; Stanford isn't going anywhere," Stein said. "We aren't asking for special favors; we only ask for the right to have future leaders decide what's best."

October 30 had turned to October 31. It was Halloween, and for University officials who already faced a frightening scenario, the pursuit of the GUP had become a full-blown nightmare.

What is the General Use Permit, and why all the fuss? Essentially, it's a permission slip from Santa Clara County for Stanford to continue developing its property in unincorporated areas. (The county has jurisdiction over 4,017 acres of unincorporated University land, including the core campus and the Foothills. The remainder lies in San Mateo County, to the north.) Stanford sought a GUP thumbs-up for 10 years' worth of construction--a total of 2 million square feet in academic buildings as well as housing units for 2,000 single students, apartments for 350 medical residents and postgraduate fellows, and as many as 687 new homes for faculty and staff. The academic development included Phase II of the biomedical engineering (BioX) complex, expansions of other science buildings, a performing arts center, library support additions, football stadium renovations and a new basketball arena. The county estimated that, with the housing included, Stanford's development would total 4.8 million square feet. But the buildings themselves were not the source of the controversy. Instead, debate centered on the Foothills, which county officials and environmentalists wanted preserved beyond the life of the GUP as a trade-off for Stanford's construction.

When Stanford last went through the GUP process, in 1989, it requested two million square feet of new construction. Stanford was granted the permit with a minimum of public outcry. The terms of that permit required the University to submit a new GUP application when it reached 75 percent of its allotted growth. Stanford hit that ceiling in 1998 and subsequently began the process of resubmission. This time, however, the environment into which it introduced its growth plan was decidedly different, as was the inclination of the county's land stewards. In particular, Fifth District Supervisor Joe Simitian.

Because Stanford was in his district and because of his urban planning background--Simitian has a law degree and a master's in city planning from UC-Berkeley--he took the lead in the public and professional review of Stanford's plans. (He was elected in November to the California Assembly.)

From the outset, Simitian was determined to apply a firm regulatory hand to Stanford. "Historically, the county has pursued a policy of benign neglect with respect to the University's land use," he said during an interview in his Palo Alto office last summer. "I think it's fair to say that's changed."

Not just the process had been altered; the attitude had changed as well. "The University is an extraordinary community asset," Simitian said, "but at the end of the day, they're a land-use applicant coming before the county."

Supervisors, rather than okaying Stanford's request for a modified GUP, asked for a more detailed Community Plan that spelled out where and how Stanford would develop all of its 8,180 acres--something it had never been required to do. In addition, an Environmental Impact Report was conducted to determine how the new construction would affect traffic, congestion, noise and other quality-of-life issues important to the University's neighbors. Ultimately, Stanford's development--in particular, the two million square feet in new academic buildings--was judged by its effect on the surrounding community. "It's not two million square feet per se," said Simitian. "It's the impact of two million square feet."

The GUP itinerary eventually would include 40 public meetings and hearings. According to Stanford director of government and community relations Larry Horton, '62, MA '66, the scope and intensity of the process was "unprecedented in Santa Clara County."

Early on, there were clear indications that the public was clamoring for action on open-space issues. In March of 1999, six months before the University's initial proposal had been submitted, the San Jose Mercury News already was pushing for long-term protection of Stanford's Foothills. "The county should use its leverage to encourage the university to preserve open space, and to include planning for its land outside the county," the newspaper said in an editorial.

In some ways, what Stanford experienced during the GUP process was typical of town-gown faceoffs that occur nationwide. Harvard, for example, must negotiate a minefield of public opinion, regulatory oversight and neighborhood activism to expand its campus even modestly. And one could argue that Stanford is only now being asked to compromise its autonomy in the same way that many other universities have done for a long time. But this case is distinguished by Stanford's role in the making of the confrontation. The conflict sprang directly from the University's remarkable performance as a boomtown generator.

For decades, Stanford has been a cauldron of innovation, producing graduates whose technical wizardry and entrepreneurial mojo defined Silicon Valley. Since the mid-'80s, especially, the University has incubated a passel of Valley successes, remaking the sedate Peninsula into an economic juggernaut. But the prosperity has become a two-edged sword for area residents, and for Stanford.

What once was a verdant farming region covered with orchards has morphed into an urbanized, gridlocked monster. Stoked by dot-com riches and the Valley's millionaire-a-minute reputation, local developers have devoured the orchards and everything around them. Property values have soared, driving housing prices so high that only the very wealthy can afford even a modest place to live. The median price of a Palo Alto home last fall was a jaw-dropping $800,000.

Relocating to the Farm from other areas of the country is an ordeal for tenured scholars, let alone junior professors and graduate students whose incomes would not even buy a room in a sturdy garage. That's assuming there was a room in a sturdy garage. The rental vacancy rate last fall was 0.6 percent. (See related story, page 66.)

Were it not for off-the-chart local housing costs, says Hennessy, much of the building Stanford asked for wouldn't be necessary. "We have to deal with this housing situation head-on," he said in an interview. "We've already lost faculty recruits who recognized they would never be able to afford to live here."

The University's difficulty in attracting top faculty is "on the edge of being catastrophic," according to senior associate dean of engineering Jeffrey Koseff, MS '78, PhD '83. "We are barely containing the problem right now, and the only way we are able to do that is by putting huge investments of Stanford capital into housing packages," says Koseff, a professor of civil and environmental engineering.

Stanford in November announced a new program that bolstered what already was the most generous housing benefit in the country for faculty. Deferred, fixed-interest loans with low monthly payments will make it possible for a faculty member earning $63,000 to purchase a home worth $724,000. It will cost Stanford about $85 million over the next five years.

"The amount of money that we have to invest to make living here affordable for faculty is not sustainable," says Koseff. "The only way we can address this is if we increase the pool [of available homes]."

The housing situation for graduate students is even more dire. "There, we are truly in a crisis," says Hennessy. "Graduate students don't expect to live like kings, but they don't expect to be homeless, or to not be able to eat."

Because of these problems, say both faculty and administrators, the GUP constituted far more than just the University's building blueprint for the coming decade. It was a critical element in Stanford's bid to remain one of the country's premier institutions. "If we do not address this problem now, the slow deterioration of the academic renewal process is going to set in and we will be a weaker university. Once it starts, it's hard to stop," says Koseff. With the GUP authorization in hand, Stanford will proceed immediately to augment graduate student housing with new units in Escondido Village, administrators say.

If housing is at the core of Stanford's dilemma, rapacious development in the mid-Peninsula also is a contributor. As office parks and commercial buildings have proliferated, open space has disappeared in vast chunks. Untrammeled natural areas now are considered so precious that any attempt to build on them draws swift opposition.

Andy Coe, community relations director, says the degradation of Bay Area quality of life was a powerful informant during the GUP process. "Our proposal was injected into the public arena at just the time people were becoming very concerned about development--any development. And even though our proposal makes positive contributions to housing and traffic and other issues, people still see it as development and are concerned," he says.

Open space is one of the most striking features of the Stanford campus. With its eucalyptus groves and oak meadows, the place can still be called the Farm without irony. For those seeking respite from traffic jams and noisy sprawl, the campus's open lands provide easily accessible relief.

But Stanford officials hasten to point out that the University does not exist to provide the urban-weary public a sanctuary in perpetuity. "While we're glad our neighbors can enjoy this," Horton says, "we're not running a public park."

Seated at a conference table in his Waverly Associates law offices on University Avenue, Stanford board chair Isaac Stein produces an aerial map of Palo Alto and environs. "Look at this," he says, pointing to a red line that outlines the irregular perimeter of Stanford's campus. "Our neighbors have built literally right up to our borders. The only open areas on this map are on our campus."

Surrounding the red line in all directions are thousands of tiny white patches seemingly sewn together with the finest thread. Those, of course, are buildings. Even in density-allergic Portola Valley, whose white patches aren't quite as quiltlike as those in Palo Alto and Menlo Park, the map starkly reveals a triangular wedge of green that juts into the city from the east. "That is Stanford land," Stein says.

His point is clear. Having marshaled its own land intelligently over the past several decades, Stein argues, Stanford now is being asked to provide open space to communities that squandered theirs. "We understand clustered development. It was intuitively the way the University organized land use for over 100 years," Stein says. "We probably haven't said that enough, that we value open space as open space."

That's not how local elected officials see it. "Stanford has never had any parameters," says former Palo Alto Mayor Liz Kniss, who was elected in November to succeed Simitian on the Board of Supervisors. "It is such a special place, and we are so lucky to have it here in our backyard, but there are limits to what it can do."

Simitian points out that Stanford doubled in size between 1960 and 1985, from four million to more than eight million square feet. If the 10 years covered by the GUP application were included, he says, the University would double in size again between 1985 and 2010. "This level of exponential growth, that is to say a doubling in size every 25 years, cannot continue in perpetuity--or even, I think most of us would agree, for the next 25 or 50 years," Simitian said in his October statement regarding Stanford's plan.

But those numbers ignore the fact that more than half of the construction slated over the next 10 years is housing for faculty, staff and graduate students, says Stein. He notes that when opponents talk about Stanford's "massive expansion," they regularly include the housing, despite widespread agreement that it is desperately needed. "Everybody wants us to build more housing, but that doesn't stop them from using it against us when they're making their arguments," he says.

Simitian says that Stanford's continued expansion isn't a given, but "it's difficult to know or plan for whatever the University has in mind, because the University has never been obliged to determine and describe its vision of ultimate buildout."

University administrators say such a plan would be useful if Stanford were a typical developer, but it isn't. "We aren't coming in to build a mall and then going away," Stein says. "We have to constantly adapt and change. We can try to make some guesses, but the further out we go the cloudier our crystal ball gets."

And the idea that the University could relinquish control of 1,000 acres of its land for the next century was, according to Hennessy, "simply untenable."

"The president and the Board of Trustees have an obligation not to create for their successors some burden which will make it impossible for them to do their jobs," he adds. "We can't know what the needs of the University will be 99 years from now. And a burden for me is the notion of breaking the trust that Leland and Jane Stanford gave when they provided their land for the good of the University's academic mission."

To Hennessy and Stein, the stewardship of the founding grant is inviolate. "Our lives would be much easier if we just released the Foothills and were done with it," Stein says. "The most frustrating part of this is that we have not asked to build in the Foothills."

Stein believes that lost in the debate over Foothills preservation was the fact that the University can never build there without county approval. "We have no intention of building in the Foothills. But we aren't going to give up the right to ask."

The fiduciary obligation and managerial prudence of University leaders, placed in opposition to the public's profound hunger for open-space preservation, presented a fundamental tension that could not have been overcome easily or without some anxiety. Simitian recognized this, as did Hennessy. "I worry," Simitian said in his public statement on October 24, "that many of the legitimate competing interests who have raised their voices during the course of this conversation seem less and less inclined to acknowledge that, however eminent and worthy their interests may be, none is entitled to consider itself preeminent, at least not in the context of larger community concerns."

"What's tough is making hard choices," Hennessy says. "Elected officials are under a lot of pressure, as are we, knowing that some of our decisions will elicit strong negative reactions. There are no 'free' decisions."

Although it had never developed a plan with as much detail as the county was seeking, says Horton, Stanford did its best to comply and to accommodate the concerns of its neighbors. Beginning in July 1999, the University presented programs at four community forums that Simitian had requested, including presentations by then-provost Hennessy and former president Donald Kennedy, an environmental scientist, who spoke about open-space and habitat preservation.

Also appearing at those meetings was Peter Drekmeier, the son of two former Stanford professors, who would later mobilize the Stanford Open Space Alliance (SOSA) and become an influential force in the GUP process.

In September 1999, Stanford submitted a draft proposal for comment. It was not well received. Supervisors asked for more specificity that incorporated concerns from public hearings and county planners. The University went back to work and two months later submitted a final draft, a document that had mushroomed from 25 pages to more than 100. Included in the plan was the establishment of an Academic Growth Boundary designed to cluster long-term development in the "core campus" between El Camino Real and Junipero Serra Boulevard. (That boundary could be moved, but only if four out of five county supervisors agreed to the change.) The proposal also expressly protected the Foothills from development for the life of the 10-year plan and created seven land-use designations governing various areas of the Farm. But it didn't go far enough, said critics of the plan, who wanted stronger language describing Foothills protection.

By this time, SOSA and the Committee for Green Foothills had begun an intensive campaign for permanent protection of Stanford land southwest of Junipero Serra, SOSA's "Save the Foothills" campaign, which eventually attracted 15,000 signatories during its petition drive, argued that the Foothills are a community resource and should be preserved as such. "As urban sprawl covers the fertile soils of Santa Clara County, our remaining open spaces have become increasingly more valuable as wildlife habitat and places to escape the hustle and bustle of Silicon Valley," read the sosa petition. The University responded that the Foothills already were preserved and had been for more than 100 years. "Two-thirds of our land, after a century of dynamic operation, is essentially open," Horton told an interviewer last summer. "We've been excellent stewards."

Over the next several months, as the University continued to modify the plan to come closer to county planners' expectations, the rhetoric and activism of its opponents intensified. Included in the chorus was a letter to the Board of Trustees last April from 200 mostly local alumni. "We write as alumni with deep love for the University, but great concern regarding its current direction," the letter said. "Accordingly, it is time to think seriously about how big the University really needs to become." Among the pledges the alumni wanted the trustees to make: permanent protection of the Foothills.

Andy Coe of Stanford's community relations office said the calls for open space were difficult to counter because most people, including most people who work at Stanford, support the principle of preservation. "Open-space preservation, that's Mom and apple pie," says Coe. "We've done several public opinion surveys over the past several years, and when you ask an open-ended question, 'How long should Stanford's open space be preserved?' a lot of people, 50 percent at least, are going to say 'forever.' I mean, why not? If you give me the choice, sure, I would just as soon have them open forever. And the University would, too."

SOSA focused originally on Stanford's proposal to change the land-use designation of the so-called Lathrop District to allow future development there. A 154-acre plot on the Foothills side of Junipero Serra, Lathrop currently houses some artists' studios and think tanks as well as several holes of Stanford Golf Course. Drekmeier considered the University's Lathrop proposal an encroachment into the Foothills--"the camel's nose in the tent," as he put it. "Utter nonsense," responded Horton, noting that 85 percent of the Lathrop area already was developed. The county rejected the overall proposal but did allow for 20,000 square feet of future development in areas already disturbed, excluding the golf course.

The golf course itself became the subject of controversy. In late summer, declaring that there were no suitable locations left for a new neighborhood of faculty homes, Stanford planners considered siting it on a parcel that included the first fairway of the course. That idea added irate golfers to the list of GUP opponents, but University officials scrapped the plan when the city of Palo Alto agreed to allow housing on an alternate site near Searsville Road. (See "Off-Course Housing Site Solves Hole Problem," November/December.)

By the time Hennessy was inaugurated as president on October 20, several hurdles toward the GUP authorization had been cleared. Stanford had expanded its timeframe for Foothills protection to 25 years and had mitigated all of the environmental concerns identified by county planners. That should have been enough, says Horton. "We compromised in a lot of areas that, frankly, are going to cause us great difficulty," he says. For example, he says, Stanford agreed to a provision requiring "no new net commute trips." What that means, essentially, is that every new employee or student at the University who drives to work must be offset by another employee or student who does not. "We are the only landowner in Santa Clara County and perhaps the only landowner in the state of California who has agreed to such a strict standard," Horton says.

Additional community benefits offered by Stanford were a $10 million contribution to the Palo Alto Unified School District and an agreement, contingent on passage of the GUP, to lease to the city six acres of land at the corner of Page Mill Road and El Camino for $1 a year, for a new Jewish Community Center.

The Mercury News and San Francisco Chronicle both supported the compromise plan and urged supervisors to accept it. As October wound down, administrators crossed their fingers that the GUP authorization was imminent. Then, at a town hall meeting on October 24--seven days before supervisors planned to vote on the GUP application--Simitian dropped his bombshell. He would okay the GUP permit provided the University would commit 1,000 acres of its Foothills as open space for 99 years.

All hell broke loose. Outraged Stanford officials said the University would pull the plug on GUP rather than agree to Simitian's 99-year easement. Hennessy declared that the proposal was "unwarranted" and "unlawful." In any case, he said, "the Stanford University trustees, under the terms of their duties, cannot surrender the rights to 1,000 acres of Stanford property for the next century."

Then came the highly charged public hearing on October 30. Inside the supervisors' chamber, the contrasts were striking. Seated in the second row, a few steps from the dais, sat Hennessy and Stein. Directly in front of them was Drekmeier, flanked by an ally displaying a sign that read, "Don't Pave My Pond," a reference to the habitat of the California tiger salamander. (See related story, page 68.)

Simitian opened the hearing with an impassioned defense of his proposal and his motives, encouraging both sides to keep their discussion "on the merits." When he finished, supporters of his 99-year plan applauded loudly.

A few moments later, Hennessy approached the microphone to present the University's position. A brief give-and-take between him and Simitian followed. Most of it was cordial, but there was one brisk exchange. Simitian, noting that Stanford had extended 99-year leases to tenants in its industrial park on Page Mill Road, wondered why revenue-generating agreements "didn't inhibit flexibility" but open-space agreements did. At that, Hennessy stiffened. "We are a nonprofit institution. We aren't putting money in people's pockets," he said. "Every dime we get goes directly to help students receive a Stanford education." Again the chamber erupted with loud applause, this time from hundreds of Stanford supporters.

Supervisors had expected to vote on the matter October 31 but delayed their decision until November 27 to allow for more negotiation and to absorb the huge volume of public comment coming from both sides. Stanford and its opponents both used the four-week extension to woo public support. SOSA seized upon a 1987 study titled "Foothills Region Plan" that it said suggested Stanford was preparing to build "long cul-de-sacs and structures" in the Dish area. "Stanford asks us to trust them not to develop the Foothills, yet their internal documents prove their intentions are just the opposite," Drekmeier said in sosa's press release. It was another example, said Horton, of sosa's campaign of "distortions and misinformation." The study was never intended to be a prelude to building in the Foothills, Horton said, and was discarded long ago. One week later, on November 16, the Committee for Green Foothills published an ad in the Palo Alto Daily News depicting a Stanford-of-the-future with skyscrapers towering above Memorial Church from the Foothills beyond. Stanford prepared a counter ad but decided not to run it, because, according to Horton, "Why get into this tit-for-tat with them?"

As it turned out, Palo Alto residents responded on behalf of Stanford. A group called Approve the GUP bought their own full-page ad featuring a list of more than 750 supporters, imploring Simitian to okay the compromise plan.

When the supervisors' decision finally came, it was almost anticlimactic. Stanford got its GUP, albeit with some provisions thrown in by Simitian to harden the county's position that the Foothills not be touched. The Foothills were rezoned as "hillside," a designation that effectively puts 90 percent of that land off limits for 25 years, and the University must produce a sustainable development plan spelling out how future growth will be sited to prevent sprawl.

Surrounded by a phalanx of reporters outside the supervisors' chamber after the vote, Drekmeier called the final plan "a step in the right direction. It used to be that Stanford got everything they wanted, and now they only get most of what they want," he said.

Hennessy expressed relief about the outcome but stopped short of calling it a victory. "It's not what we would have come up with, but it's a compromise we can live with," he said. "It means we can remain a strong university."

Simitian, whose vote on the GUP was one of his final acts as a supervisor before leaving for his new duties in Sacramento, said he was satisfied that the months of wrangling produced a good result. "We've gotten to a very good place," he said. "The University can build its housing, and in the longer term, we don't have to worry about willy-nilly sprawl across the Foothills."

Throughout the long GUP debate, a great deal of ambivalence was evident among Stanford faculty, alumni and staff. For some, generally positive feelings about Stanford were overshadowed by their strong disapproval of the University's position on land use. Others, despite professed support for the goals of preservation, bristled at depictions of Stanford as a gluttonous, villainous landowner. As the tenor of the debate reached a high pitch, people took sides.

"Like a lot of people who work here, I'm torn," says Steve Monismith, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and a member of a community resource group involved in the GUP process. "On the surface, open-space preservation is a good thing; I don't see how anybody can argue that it isn't. If you drove down Palm Drive and looked over MemChu and didn't see those Foothills, I think the way you feel about Stanford at that moment would be fundamentally different. But [Hennessy's] point that we can't know what our needs will be in 50 or 100 years is the overriding one for me."

Many alumni expressed the view that the Foothills are sacrosanct and should be preserved regardless of what issues might compel the University to build there. Steve Pappas, '81, is a lawyer who has lived in Palo Alto for 30 years. "Stanford is called the Farm, but I feel like they're destroying that legacy. I love Stanford and all it stands for--I just want to make sure that the administration doesn't change the essential character," he says.

Similarly, Richard Harris, '68, is concerned that the University has "lost its bearings" with respect to land use. A San Francisco attorney and a former captain of the Stanford golf team, Harris wears a ring on his right hand embossed with a large "S." "I love the University, and I don't believe I should be considered disloyal for speaking up when I think it's taking a direction I disagree with," he says. While Harris concedes he would be included among those who have a special interest at stake--the future of the golf course--he's unsettled by recent decisions regarding land use. "When they go after a shrine, which I believe the golf course is, I'm worried about what might be next."

Megan McCaslin, '78, last January signed on to help the University's government and community relations office help spread the word about Stanford's land-use plan. "I went to work there with some trepidation," she admits. "I'm an open-space person; I like to walk the Dish with my dog. I was concerned about whether I could support something that might lead to the development of open space in the future."

But after hearing Stanford's position in detail, she says, she was convinced that its plans for construction over the next 10 years were based on legitimate needs. Six months of relentless criticism from fellow residents in Palo Alto left McCaslin weary, frustrated and firmly in Stanford's corner. Everywhere she went, she says, people familiar with her connection to Stanford accosted her about what they viewed as the University's subversive attempt to sully the Foothills. "I'd be in a perfectly benign situation and someone would just go off on me about how horrible Stanford is," she says. "It was like they were attacking General Motors or some deep-pocketed company--whatever Stanford does, they automatically oppose it."

Particularly galling, says Monismith, were complaints from people whose primary objections to Stanford's land-use plan were new rules that restricted access in the Dish area. (See related story, page 64.) "I consider myself a strong open-space defender, but I differentiate between true environmentalists and the 'walk-their-dog people,' " he says, referring to residents angered by the banning of dogs from the Dish. "When we moved to a house in Palo Alto, my wife and I were wondering when we'd get our entitlement card [saying we could hike in the Foothills]."

And he is troubled by the public's willingness to ascribe sinister motives to Stanford's development. "I mean, what do they think we're doing up here? The engine that drives that growth is the innovation of the faculty. It's not as if John Hennessy sits down in his office and imagines two million square feet of space that the University will need. Those needs bubble up from the bottom, based on expansions of curricular areas and research projects. We try to hire innovators, and innovators tend to push the envelope."

Former mayor Liz Kniss says people are suspicious because "they see two Stanfords. There is Stanford the academic institution and Stanford the developer. It's the developer side they have a problem with."

Stein says that sentiment underscores why Stanford must improve its outreach. "I think one of our fundamental issues is that we have done a poor job through the years of communicating with our local community about how we impact them. Universities generally are very inward-looking, so we tend to view all of these issues as to how they affect us. And sometimes the way in which we do that creates its own set of issues," Stein says.

Repairing its image among its neighbors is only one challenge facing the University. Stanford also must learn how to live with new constraints.

To a casual observer, Stanford's declarations of alarm over shrinking space seem questionable. How can the University possibly need more land? It's 8,000-plus acres stretch from El Camino Real to the coastal side of Interstate-280, passing through two counties and four municipalities along the way. Princeton, by comparison, has 2,000 acres. UT-Austin, which has the largest student population in the country, has a total square footage of about 15 million, compared with Stanford's roughly 12 million. University officials say the comparisons with those schools, or any other school for that matter, don't work. Stanford may have more land, they say, but most of it is unavailable for development. Much of it has been reserved for "low-intensity" use such as field study conducted in the Foothills.

Even if the University were inclined to use some of that land--roughly 5,000 acres remain open--such an attempt would be met with vigorous opposition. On campus as well as off. "As much as I believe that we must remain flexible and continue to change to meet our needs," says Jeff Koseff, "I would strongly oppose any plan to build in the Foothills. I would have to be convinced in a number of ways before I would see that as being a good option."

Again, says Stein, the issue comes back to housing. Stanford houses a higher percentage of its faculty and staff (approximately 30 percent) than any comparable school. "The bulk of our growth is in housing. That is the core of this dilemma," says Stein. "If the housing market continues to worsen, we may have to house 100 percent of our employees."

And even on the core campus there are open-space needs, says Horton. "We do not want to build in the Arboretum," he says. "The outcry we would get if we tried to build there would make the golf course controversy look minor."

On top of its inherent constraints, Stanford must accommodate greater public scrutiny and regulation. The days when governing bodies would cede to Stanford the presumption that what was good for the University was also good for the community are probably gone forever.

These issues place in sharp relief the key question for Stanford going forward. How will it use the land it has left in the core campus to avoid a scenario in which building in the Foothills might be a temptation?

Any number of ways, says Stein. Among the possibilities: replacing old buildings with new ones, increasing the density in its student housing areas, and perhaps moving some University functions or storage facilities off campus. There are undesirable trade-offs in all cases, says Stein, but he acknowledges that eventually Stanford's total footprint must stop growing. The University must bring the same spirit of innovation and imagination to solving its land-use problems that it brings to the academic sphere, he says. "We are discussing these issues internally right now, and we will need to discuss them publicly, too, to help people understand our challenges and work with us to solve them.

"We absolutely have to be more thoughtful about long-term growth," he says. "If the goal of our opponents was to send us that message--and it is a legitimate message--it has been received."


Reporting by Chaney Rankin, '00, and Jennie Berry, '01, contributed to this article.