The Mayfield Agreement - FAQs

Published on April 21, 2021

  1. How many housing units must be constructed as part of the Mayfield Development Agreement?
    A total of 250 housing units would be constructed on two sites:
    Upper California Avenue site: 17 acres on the 1400-1600 blocks of Upper California Avenue (across the street from the College Terrace neighborhood in the City of Palo Alto and adjacent to the Peter Coutts housing on the Stanford campus lands in unincorporated Santa Clara County).

    El Camino Real site: 1.8 acres located at 2450, 2470 and 2500 El Camino Real (in the middle of the block between California Avenue October 17, 2005 includes an option to add the parcel at the corner of California Avenue and El Camino Real to this housing site, which would increase the acreage of the site to 2.5. This is referred to as the Extended El Camino Real site in the Development Agreement and related documents.
    Although the zoning standards proposed for these sites would allow for up to 15 units per acre on the Upper California site and up to 50 units per acre on the El Camino/ Extended El Camino site, Stanford University only receives vested rights to construct a total of 250 housing units under this agreement. Any proposal to build more than 250 units would require a full discretionary design review.
  2. Under the current zoning, how many housing units would be permitted on the Upper California site?
    The existing LM zoning designation allows residential development at a density of 30 units per acre. The maximum density allowed by the Development Agreement would be 15 units per acre, or half of what is allowed currently.
    In addition, Stanford University has agreed that of the 250 units that it is required to build under the Mayfield Development Agreement, no more than 209 units (or 12.3 per acre) will be located on the Upper California site. Anything over 209 units on the Upper California site would be subject to the City’s discretionary review and the normal public process.
  3. How will the City ensure that the new housing is compatible with the College Terrace and Peter Coutts neighborhoods and what is the design review process?
    If Stanford elects to develop the Upper California site using the alternative development standards (AS2) specified in the Development Agreement, the City of Palo Alto retains architectural review of most aspects of concern to neighbors: lighting; noise levels including equipment screening; landscaping including trash enclosures; and the exterior materials and finishes of all structures on the site.

    In addition, the Development Agreement requires the housing along the California edge to: approximate the horizontal rhythm of building-to-sideyard setback and façade areas, including the relationship of first and second stories of residential properties located across the street from or in the vicinity of the California site; and reflect the eclectic nature of the design of residences on the north side of the street and include similar opportunities for landscaping.

    Furthermore, if the City of Palo Alto determines that the California Avenue edge does not meet these requirements, then the City can review massing, roof forms and site plans to ensure that the requirements along the California Avenue edge are met.

    The City and Stanford, with community input, are developing standards to ensure that housing on the Upper California site is compatible with the two existing neighborhoods. Standards include graduated height limits into the site from California Avenue, which borders College Terrace and the western property line, which borders the Peter Coutts area. The graduated heights ensure that areas visible to adjacent neighborhoods will respect views and the scale and character of the existing neighborhoods. Standards also include requirements for detached homes, space for landscaping, and varied buildings along California Avenue reflecting the development across the street.

    Note: If Stanford elects to develop the Upper California site under the other options permitted in the Development Agreement, the City retains its standard architectural review authority.
  4. How does the allowable floor area ratio (FAR) under the Development Agreement compare to the currently allowed FAR on the Upper California site?
    Floor area ratios are used to limit the mass and bulk of buildings on a site; they set a ratio between the floor area of buildings and the area of the site. The FAR on Upper California now is 0.4 to 1 for offices, and .75 to 1 for residential development. Under the Development Agreement AS-2 standards, the .75 to 1 FAR for residential uses would be kept. However, the AS-2 standards use a more inclusive definition of "floor area" than the zoning, so there is actually some reduction. Current zoning ordinances do not include detached parking structures in floor area calculations. The AS-2 standards count all parking structures as floor area, unless they are completely below ground.
    (If Stanford chose to develop under the RM-15 district instead, then the FAR would be .6 to 1. However, if Stanford chooses this option, its project will be subject to the full range of discretionary design review).
    As a result, the appearance of the mass and bulk of all buildings on the Upper California site developed under the Development Agreement would be the same or possibly less than what is allowed under current zoning.
  5. Will adjacent residential neighborhoods be affected if daylight planes are not included in the development standards for the Upper California site?
    No. Neither of the adjacent residential areas will be affected if daylight planes are not included in the development standards for the Upper California site. Daylight planes are a special form of setback regulations. The Upper California site already has setbacks to protect College Terrace and modifications are proposed to protect the Peter Coutts neighborhood. The only potential impacts would be among the new housing units themselves and these potential impacts can be addressed when the housing is designed. 
  6. How can the El Camino Site be developed so that the 50’ height is compatible with adjacent Neighborhood Commercial and Community Commercial Zoning Districts that are limited heights of 35’?
    City policies in the El Camino Real Design Guidelines encourage taller buildings and an urban character along this major thoroughfare. Allowing 50 feet in height for the El Camino Real site is consistent with those policies and is appropriate for this multi-lane arterial roadway. A variety of building heights, however, is also desirable to add architectural diversity to the streetscape.
    Regarding the extended El Camino Real site, the City and Stanford acknowledge that the California Avenue frontage is transitional in character. As such, the Development Standards for the extended El Camino Real site will include a height limit of 35 feet for the width and depth of the corner parcel at El Camino Real and California Avenue and then allow the remainder of the building to extend to 50 feet in height. There will be 12-foot wide sidewalks in this location and an eight-foot setback if residential uses are on the ground floor and views to the foothills will be retained.
  7. What impact will the proposed residential development have on the traffic volume on Upper California Avenue?
    The proposed residential development would generate significantly less traffic than the existing commercial/office buildings that it would replace. It should be noted that at the time of the traffic analysis for the EIR, the office buildings were about one-half occupied, generating 1,612 daily trips. Without the land use change proposed by the Mayfield Development Agreement, the office buildings could become fully occupied again, which would generate 3,358 daily trips. Residential development on the same site would generate a "worst case" number of 1,455 daily trips, or less than the office buildings at one-half occupancy. The change to residential results in less traffic volume on Upper California Avenue.
    Note: The traffic analysis used 217 housing units on the site; actual volumes would be even lower for 209 units (the maximum allowed with limited discretionary review for this site under the Agreement), or for the predicted 180 or 200 units that would result from the El Camino site being developed at 70 or 50 units respectively.
  8. Suppose that the housing units on upper California Avenue were all to be occupied by Stanford employees. Would that generate a significant increase in the volume of cut-through traffic in the College Terrace neighborhood? No. Although the "worst case" scenario would create about 180 additional cut-through trips compared to existing office development, this does not result in a significant change to the TIRE index used to measure traffic impact on local streets.
    Two cut-through traffic scenarios were analyzed using standard methodology for the Upper California site in the Environmental Impact Report: 1) housing restricted to Stanford faculty and employees; and 2) housing with no Stanford affiliation required. Both assumed that there would be 217 units (see note under Question 7).
    The traffic analysis prepared for the Final EIR determined that the baseline for cut-through traffic generated by the existing office development on the Upper California site was 143 daily trips, based on data collected for the neighborhood traffic study in 2002. These trips would disappear with the conversion of existing office footage to housing.
    Under the first scenario in which the housing Upper California site were available only to households with Stanford faculty or staff, there would be 326 daily trips through to and from Stanford University through the College Terrace neighborhood, or an increase of 183 (i.e. 326-143).
    Under the second scenario, based on local journey to work data from the U.S. Census, there would be an estimated 22 daily trips to and from Stanford University through the College Terrace neighborhood.
    Even using the worst case scenario, the change in the TIRE (Traffic Intrusion on the Residential Environment) index for the affected streets through the College Terrace would be less than 0.1, which is an impact that is considered less than significant. The TIRE index is a method to predict how traffic volumes change quality of life on low volume residential streets. A change in traffic volume that results in less than a 0.1 index represents no discernable change in quality of life.
  9. If there will be reduced traffic impact on upper California Avenue as a result of the housing redevelopment, is a direct vehicular connection needed to Page Mill Road or Hanover Street?
    No. The full traffic analysis completed for the Mayfield Development Agreement concludes that the existing street network surrounding the Upper California site can accommodate the traffic generated by the housing. The Development Agreement does not require direct access from the site to Page Mill Road or Hanover Street and neither the City of Palo Alto nor Stanford is proposing such a connection.
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