Stanford University: Housing, History, and Architecture


Stanford University is one of the largest employers in Silicon Valley, with over 12,000 faculty and staff members. There are also 1,600 faculty physicians and more than 1,100 residents and fellows working for Stanford Medicine (including Stanford School of Medicine, Stanford Health Care, and the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital).

One of the most difficult challenges Stanford faces in the recruitment process is finding housing for new faculty. The same is true for Stanford Medicine recruits who do not qualify for on-campus housing.

In April 1991, before the runaway success of Silicon Valley and the consequential upsurge in housing prices, there were approximately 90 Stanford campus homes on the market, and the median price was around $700,000. Fast forward to 2016 when only 19 on-campus homes were sold, ranging in price from $840,000 for a condo to $3,300,000 for a single-family residence.

The skyrocketing housing prices in surrounding communities further exacerbate the Stanford recruiting process. Fortunately, the Stanford campus is over 8,000 acres, and the university owns other land, so the university can develop new housing— albeit in an environment that is growing increasingly resistant to more development and the consequential increases in traffic and other congestion.

Ironically, there was a time in Stanford’s history when the faculty resisted the idea of living on-campus, preferring instead to live in Palo Alto where they could purchase land rather than lease it. Eventually, as new homes were built south of the main quad along Alvarado Row, Mayfield Avenue, and Lasuen Street, faculty started moving onto the campus.

The San Juan Hill neighborhood, developed by the university towards the middle of the twentieth century, was named by former President David Starr Jordan after Mission San Juan Capistrano. This subdivision reflected an exciting mix of architectural designs ranging from English Tudor to Spanish Colonial to early Bay Area Modern.

Notable architects that designed homes here include Arthur Clark, Bakewell and Brown, John K. Branner (son of Stanford President Branner), and Charles Sumner. Frank Lloyd Wright’s acclaimed Hanna House is also near San Juan Hill, and was designed in 1936 for Stanford Professor Paul Hanna and his wife, Jean, who were specialists in childhood education.

Despite the challenging housing market, Stanford continues to attract some of the best scholars and medical innovators in the world who continue to shape Stanford’s future. The university is preparing to expand the campus by 2.28 million square feet over the next 17 years, in order to both accommodate the anticipated growth of its undergraduate population and to facilitate academic research in emerging and expanding disciplines.

Student housing will also be added, and Stanford’s real estate planning and development team is committed to meeting the challenge of developing the university without adding to commuter traffic. This will include utilizing, among other things, a transportation demand management program that has succeeded in reducing the rate of solo car-commuters to campus from 78 percent to 50 percent.

Later in 2017, Stanford will open the University Terrace Community, built on the edge of Stanford’s Research Park, to faculty who are members of the Academic Council and who meet other qualifications. The community consists of 68 single-family homes and 112 condominiums.

In February 2017, Stanford submitted updated plans to the city of Menlo Park for its 8.4-acre Middle Plaza mixed-use development at 500 El Camino Real. The development will run north on El Camino from the Stanford Park Hotel and will contain 215 rental housing units, 144,000 square feet of office space, and 10,000 square feet of retail space. The housing units in this development will be open to the public.

In the next articles of this series, we will review the innovative housing programs Stanford has developed to support its faculty and staff, including housing lotteries and purchase programs with acronyms like MAP, HAP, RIP, DIP, and ZIP, while also exploring the rich history of the Stanford campus.

Stanford Market Report