New graduate housing proposed for Escondido Village

Stanford is in the very early stages of proposing construction of a new residential complex that would provide housing for more than 2,400 graduate students. If eventually approved, the complex would be located off Serra Street between El Camino Real and Campus Drive.

Thousands of graduate students struggling with the Bay Area's challenging rental market may benefit from a new housing complex proposed for the Serra Street area between Campus Drive and El Camino Real.

In early October, the Board of Trustees first considered the concept for the graduate residences, which – if eventually approved – would house about 2,400 graduate students. The housing would be built in the area of the McFarland, Hoskins, Thoburn and Hulme courts. The new construction would likely be multi-story, although not exceeding current building heights in Escondido Village. The complex would replace a number of two-story buildings that now house about 400 students, for a net addition of about 2,000. Students displaced by the construction would be accommodated elsewhere by the university.

Stanford houses about 55 percent of its more than 9,000 graduate students in on-campus housing. The new residences, if built, could increase that number to at least 75 percent. Even though Stanford houses a higher percentage of graduate students than most of its peer institutions, increasing the percentage of graduate students able to live on campus has long been a university priority.

Critical need

"Increasing our capacity to house more graduate students on campus is a critical need for the university," said Patricia Gumport, vice provost for graduate education. "It has become even more urgent as rapidly rising rents in local communities have contributed to financial stress for many graduate students who are struggling to make ends meet."

Currently, Stanford subsidizes graduate students who are guaranteed on-campus housing, but who have to live off campus because there are not enough on-campus spaces. Those students face a very difficult rental market.

On-campus housing is a primary consideration in attracting graduate students to Stanford and ensuring their success.

"We want to continue to recruit the very best talent to Stanford, and many prospective grad students tell us it is a high priority to live on campus or nearby," Gumport said. "Living on campus enhances the quality of their educational experiences by providing close proximity to an abundance of resources for their advanced study and research, especially for the many students who work late into the night and on weekends. Living on campus also fosters community that is essential to their well-being."

The new residences could also help ease the demand for rental units in Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Mountain View, Sunnyvale and Menlo Park, where many students who cannot be accommodated on campus live.

"A significant addition of housing on the Stanford campus will mean the availability of more rental inventory in the community," said Catherine Palter, associate vice president for land use and environmental planning. "In this extremely tight housing market, with such high demand, it would provide some assistance to our neighboring communities."

Gumport said that the new housing could open up space in the surrounding communities that may be suitable for postdoctoral scholars, who also face considerable financial pressures at a critical time in their lives. To help address their financial needs, Gumport said the university recently raised the minimum salary for postdoctoral scholars and established a fund for those who face financial challenges.

"This project is a genuinely transformative investment for Stanford," she said. "Among its many benefits, it will also reduce the cost and time spent commuting, as more members of our community can be housed on campus and live closer to the campus."

Early concepts

Initial design concepts would encompass 1.6 million to 1.8 million gross square feet spread among a number of buildings. The very early concept for the new housing includes premium studio apartments, two-bedroom apartments and junior studios similar to those now offered in the new Kennedy Graduate Housing complex, also located in Escondido Village.

"This is a marvelous opportunity to work with the graduate student community on an attractive housing complex that fosters cross-disciplinary engagement and promotes community, social interaction, fitness, recreation and overall well-being," said Shirley Everett, senior associate vice provost for Residential & Dining Enterprises. "We envision a vibrant community for graduate residents living in Escondido Village. We want to hear what options graduate students value and look forward to exploring the possibilities with them."

Amenities under consideration could include a pub/café/market, exercise spaces, a cinema, dance studio, group music practice spaces, study rooms and offices for graduate life professionals. Everett said she looks forward to working collaboratively with graduate students in meeting their housing needs.

Also proposed is the construction of underground parking. Alternate transportation options would also be enhanced for the area, building on a trend among graduate students to own fewer cars. Car sharing, bike spaces and additional Marguerite shuttles are some of the options being explored to serve the new residences.

Meetings to gather feedback on the proposal will be scheduled with graduate students and members of nearby communities, including the College Terrace and Evergreen Park neighborhoods. The university is also preparing an alternative housing plan for the students who would be temporarily displaced should the construction be approved.

The university hopes to finalize proposed plans for the housing in the coming months, but recognizes that the approval process will involve multiple campus constituencies and government entities.