Thursday, April 30, 2009

Stanford Sustainable Development Study: document dump

I normally try to post most of my written communications here on the blog. In the case of the Stanford Study, much of that didn't happen due to everything going on. Below the fold are a few of the things I wrote during that time:

(A short PowerPoint presentation on the failure to define "sustainability")

(More on what should have been included)
Principles for a new chapter in the Stanford Sustainable Development Study regarding the Academic Growth Boundary and Stanford's future after 2035

Academic growth needs:
While acknowledging that significant increases in Stanford's population and square footage beyond that discussed in the Study's Scenario C could have environmental impacts on issues such as transportation and greenhouse gas emissions, an equivalent or greater amount of development than Scenario C could be added after 2035 without fundamentally and negatively altering the character of Stanford's core campus. There is therefore no foreseeable academic need for expanding development beyond the AGB.

Additional issues regarding sustainability and the AGB:
As Stanford increases in population and square footage, the need for nearby, accessible open space also increases.

As Stanford increases in population, the people brought to the area by Stanford will make increasing use of open space lands not owned by Stanford. Any reduction of Stanford's open space by expanding beyond the AGB would exacerbate the environmental impact on non-Stanford land.

Environmental benefits such as public transit and walkability increase through concentrating Stanford development within the AGB as opposed to expanding the existing the AGB.

Long-term conservation biology projects are in place in the Stanford Foothills and could be harmed or destroyed by expanding the AGB.

Stanford's proposed 50-year Habitat Conservation Plan also relies on protection of much of the Stanford Foothills.

The Stanford Research Park and Stanford Shopping Center areas are Stanford-owned land that are not being used for its core academic mission and could be converted back to academic work rather than encroach upon the Stanford Foothills.

Online distance learning provides a significant avenue for potential growth for Stanford while avoid many environmental impacts, including impacts on open space.

There is no foreseeable academic need to expand beyond the AGB after 2035, and environmental principles for making Stanford University a sustainable community make maintaining the existing AGB even more important as development continues at Stanford. This Study concludes for the foreseeable future after 2035, the Academic Growth Boundary should not be changed.

(Still more on what should have been included)
Should describe what sustainable development would look like

Should describe constraints on development:
Energy transmission
Greenhouse gas emissions
Other pollutants
Waste generation
Hazardous waste - full life cycle
Development density relative to surrounding communities

Should describe to what extent, if at all, Stanford's development would need to go beyond the Academic Growth Boundary for the foreseeable future.
Should describe the relationship between open space and increased development
Should describe alternatives to extending into the foothills, including converting Stanford Research Park and Shopping Center back to core mission
Should describe the role of online study

Should describe what is the likely cap on overall development
Should describe role of satellite campuses, off-site offices, and effect on overall sustainability
Should describe the relationship between increased development and increased traffic, and the traffic's effect on sustainability

Should describe other indicators of sustainability
Should indicate whether the intent is enough housing for all people studying and working on campus, including affordable housing
Should describe conservation biology goals for areas beyond the AGB for the foreseeable future, including but not limited to the habitats and time frame of the Stanford HCP
Should describe the relationship between new development and compliance with AB 32 and SB 375 and their likely successors for the foreseeable future (could be done by describing role in County's compliance or by analyzing as if the laws applied to Stanford as a separate entity).
(My notes when I prepared to speak at the April 7, 2009 hearing)
2035 is only ten years past the expiration of the existing 2025 Academic Growth Boundary at Stanford. Should we care about what happens after 2035?

Is it possible to plan past 2035? Stanford thinks so.

How can anyone plan beyond 25 years? Different levels of specificity
(and remember non-binding)

Would it do any good to make extend this study past 2035? It would influence the next General Use Permit and the next Sustainable Development Study if it did extend longer. So long as Stanford keeps thinking in the back of their heads that "the phase after this next one is when we make the Foothills look like the core campus," then they won't commit to planning the foothills for permanent low-impact outdoor recreation, low-impact studies, and conservation biology projects. Extending the Study period outward, together with the next Study, would help shake off that mindset.

Finally, the Committee strongly urges the Supervisors NOT to take the approach of letting Stanford off with something inadequate now under the idea that they'll be held to a higher standard next time. Frankly, we've heard that before regarding Stanford's environmental commitments and it will happen again in the future if it's not stopped. The next Sustainable Development Study, for example, can be improved by developing it simultaneously with the next General Use Permit, but that shouldn't let Stanford out of its current commitment. The current Study should be rejected until extends closer to what Stanford promised, or at least significantly past 2035.
(County staff responded here to numerous examples showing the legislative history of the Study meant it to have an indefinite or 99-year timeframe. Below is CGF's reply.)

I had overlooked that staff's Attachment G enumeration of the legislative history citation also contained something of a response.
Going through them briefly:
#1. Palo Alto's letter: Staff ignores the key term in the Palo Alto letter, that the vision should describe the "ultimate buildout" of the campus. That became the "maximum planned buildout potential". It's how the concept originated, and they're ignoring it because the term "ultimate" is inconvenient for their interpretation.
#2. Menlo Park: less important, but still an indication that the non-binding Study was to substitute for a lack of permanent protection, and a ten-year extension doesn't fit that role.
#3. Simitian written comments: he puts the terms together. Contra staff's earlier statement in its attachment, the Sustainable Development Study combines Beall's suggestion of such a study with Simitian's suggestion of a Buildout Study. Simitian wrote this one month before he made the motion that made the Study part of the GUP.
#4. Transcript of hearing: staff incorrectly says the concept of clustering credits was abandoned. Instead the only two Supervisors who spoke on the subject of the contents of the Study said that credits "can be looked at in the Sustainable Development Study". It would be nonsensical to look at credits for a study that extends the Academic Growth Boundary for only ten years, so I can't see how to avoid concluding that the staff's interpretation is that the Supervisors were being nonsensical. We disagree.

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