Traffic Reducing Housing Case Studies

Last updated 1/5/08

Stanford West

Santa Barbara

Redwood City

Palo Alto: PTOD & SRP

Novato Hamilton Field

Stanford Faculty/Staff



Green Ridge, NY

17 Bay Area Resident Selection Programs



Stanford West Apartments -

Stanford West is a 628 unit project with apartments and townhomes. 

Estimated annual VMT savings (and pounds of CO2 saved): 2.6 million miles & 2.6 million pounds of CO2.  See the "Stanford West" spreadsheet tab in this spreadsheet for the calculations: wrkfrc_PA_VMT.xls

Green Commute Housing Preference: three priority tiers

First Priority: Employed by Stanford
1A) Stanford faculty
1B) Stanford public safety officers
1C) Stanford staff

Second Priority: employed on Stanford owned lands
2A) Stanford Hospital employees
2B) Stanford Visiting Fellows
2C) Stanford Shopping Center & Stanford Research Park employees. Stanford Research Park is a large Palo Alto office park with more than 28,000 workers.

Third Priority

3A) Households in which at least one adult member is employed in Palo Alto or Menlo Park (adjacent cities), and households in which at least one member is age 62 or older, and lives in either of those cities.

Last priority is those who don't qualify.  Below market rate units are also covered by a similar priority plan.

Current market rate occupancy figures: 396 Stanford employees, 96 hospital workers, 14 Palo Alto & Menlo Park workers, and 9 "long commuters."  The rest of the housing units are below market rate.  The demand for this housing in tiers 1A through 2B is so strong that the City of Palo Alto is adjusting future TRH agreements with Stanford to serve more Palo Alto / Stanford Research Park workers and less Stanford workers.  


Stanford's new development falls under the GUP (General Use Permit).  The GUP allows 5MM square feet of new development, provided "no new net peak hour car trips are generated."  In response, Stanford has done an excellent job of reducing car trips:


To ensure that Stanford West has green commutes over years and years, there is a ten percent rent discount for most green commutes.  Two bedroom units starting at $2,600 per month, go for $2,340 to green commuters.  

The discount applies to green commutes that do not generate a "new net peak hour car trip" (Tiers 1A-2B).  Thus, a short commute from Stanford West to Stanford Research Park breaks the GUP Stanford trip measurement boundary, hence does not benefit Stanford in meeting the GUP requirements as does a trip that is completely captured within the University and avoids the City of Palo Alto entirely.   

Santa Barbara Casa de Las Fuentes

For 42 low-income downtown units with excellent access to jobs, shops, recreation, and transit, Santa Barbara adopted commute-reducing housing preferences:

The Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara (HACSB) has led the development.  HACSB and Santa Barbara City Council adopted a policy that walking to work and reducing auto mileage in downtown was an important public policy objective.  The 42 unit development has only SIXTEEN CARS! 

Eviction policy: a tenant who becomes unemployed has 90 days to find a new job within the downtown district, or to move out of the building.  Likewise, if one employed resident takes a job outside of downtown, the household must vacate.  


Two-page project summary article from Housing Development Review CasaDeLasFuentes.htm
Web site for prospective tenants, including application form.  A letter from the employer or a pay stub is required for proof of downtown employment.
HACSB request to legal counsel on downtown worker preference.  5/11/98 LetterToLegalCounsel.pdf
Legal counsel memo. Finds downtown worker preference easily falls under "government purpose." Policy is nondiscriminatory. Meets CA Fair Housing Law. (There is no disparate impact analysis in the brief.) 6/11/98 LegalOpinionOnDowntownWorkerReqt.pdf
HACSB memo to Santa Barbara .  One vehicle per unit restriction.  Downtown worker restriction.  Vehicle Ownership Limitation Agreement (for tenants).  10/8/01 .  LtrToCity10_8_01.pdf
HACSB memo to SB.  Page 4 discussion that eviction for violating the “one car per unit” restriction is enforceable.  1/27/99 . 01_27_99_CommissionPacket.pdf
SB Conditions for Approval memo.  8/17/00 ConditionsOfApproval081700.pdf
PowerPoint presenation with many pictures of the development. 13 MB.   casadelasfuentes13MB.ppt
Housing award proposal.  Lists previous awards.  Provides detailed project description.  Covers benefits, turnover and marketing challenges, etc.  AwardProposalAshInstitute2006.doc

Quotes from the "housing award proposal" above:

Of Casa de Las Fuentes' 11 awards, the top four are: 

Redwood City Peninsula Park - 800 condos

This project represents the U.S.'s first proposal to apply TRH to market rate condos.  The developer has promised to implement TRH.  Redwood City did not "lock" the developer into this policy in the complex Development Agreement that was successfully negotiated.   This project was approved by City Council in December 2007, but still has some additional wetlands approvals required before groundbreaking can start.  In addition, the organization known as Friends of Redwood City still might still bring a lawsuit against this project - FORC brought a lawsuit against the previous project proposal for this site for 2000 housing units. 

Developer Paul Powers vowed to create "traffic-reducing housing" by selling the housing units first to those who work within four miles of Peninsula Park, those who commit to commute by walking, biking, or taking transit to work at least four days a week, and those who have no commute.  "I know of nowhere else in the country where developers have committed to these measures," Powers said. - October 18, 2006, Redwood City Daily News.  

My public comment at an October 17, 2006 Redwood City Planning Commission meeting: "I'm Steve Raney, lead researcher for the Environmental Protection Agency sustainability study that developer Paul Powers mentioned.  I've been researching traffic reducing housing since 2001.  I've pitched it many places in the Bay Area, without much success.  It's safe to say that no other developer in the U.S. is willing to be the first to bring about this innovation.  This is big.  This is a huge break for us in the global warming battle.  It is reasonable to assume that traffic reducing housing will spread to cover one million new condos and apartments in the U.S. over the next 20 years.  That's 5 billion less pounds of CO2 per year.  And we can start it right here in Redwood City." 

Redwood City is located on the Peninsula of the South Bay Area.  Redwood City's 1999-2006 RHNA (regional housing needs assessment) called for 2,500 new homes.  Only 500 were built.  Redwood City has a vibrant mixed-use downtown with a Caltrain commuter rail station. There are 85,000 jobs within 3 miles of the project site. 

The Peninsula Park project site is roughly 33 acres, including a marina for boats.  The project will feature a 0.8 mile bike path to downtown and a 1.4 mile shuttle bus route to downtown.  Existing housing in this area will benefit from these downtown connections.  The project will also include 10,000 square feet of retail and a hotel.  The project is located adjacent to Highway 101.  

The developer's banker has already approved TRH - that's an important occurrence that should be noted.  Innovations such as these are not readily supported by the real-estate lending community.   

The project will be built in eight phases of 100 condos.  For each phase, condos will only be sold to green commuters for the first N days of selling.  N might possibly end up being 120 days, but has not yet been determined.  

Green commute preferences have not yet been determined, but could possibly include these four priority tiers:

For more project information, please see: 

Novato Hamilton Field Rental and For Sale Affordable Housing

As well as market rate housing, the city entitled 297 affordable rental units and 351 affordable ownership units for this military base redevelopment project. The affordable units are deed restricted (to remain affordable). Of these affordable units, 1/3 are covered by the Resident Selection Plan. The ownership and rental units are deed restricted to remain affordable. The Resident Selection criteria is applied at the point of residential entry. There is no provision for eviction of households that lose their eligibility over time.

Originally, a 9-tiered selection plan was proposed. This was reduced to 6 tiers, then, to 3 tiers. 

The developer was indemnified by the city from fair housing liability for the Resident Selection Plan. "… the City … shall defend, hold harmless, and indemnify the Developer … from any costs or liabilities arising out of a legal challenge to the adoption, provisions, or implementation of this Plan."

The City eventually takes over administration of the Resident Selection program for ownership units from the developer.

Documents of note:

Important Language in Public Documents:

A) May 2001 City Council Resolution approving The Hamilton Affordable Workforce Housing Resident Selection Plan

B) April 2001 Hamilton Affordable Workforce Housing Resident Selection Plan

C) The Revised March 2003 Resident Selection Criteria

(1) first priority, to employees of the City of Novato;
(2) second priority, to employees of the Novato Fire Protection District, the Novato Sanitary District, North Marin Water District, Novato Community Hospital, and Novato Unified School District; and
(3) third priority, to employees of other public entities with jurisdictions in the County of Marin working in or providing services to the residents of the City of Novato.

D) The Novato General Plan was modified to encourage housing preferences: Novato General Plan, Chapter 3, Housing: "Housing Preferences. Consider preparing an ordinance that establishes preferences for Novato residents, public employees, single-parent heads of households, and for those employed in Novato in renting or purchasing affordable housing units." Novato General Plan: Housing Element: .


Palo Alto: Research Park Housing and TOD Zone

1) The December, 2004 "Mayfield Soccer Field Agreement" covers 250 new housing units to be in-filled in Stanford Research Park.  In this agreement that was negotiated between Palo Alto and Stanford, "mixed preference" for Palo Alto workers and residents is envisioned for 70 affordable housing units. The project is still a few years away from being built.  

Priority for Palo Alto Workers and Residents; Stanford Workers Outside of City: To the extent permitted by law, priority for all BMR units shall be given to those eligible households with at least one household member who either lives or works within the city limits of the City of Palo Alto. , page 54.  See also pages 62-63 for reporting requirements and waiting list policies.  

2) For Palo Alto's Pedestrian and Transit Oriented Development (PTOD) zoning that was adopted in 2006, Palo Alto approved language favoring TRH for new residential development located near Caltrain stations.  Is TOD without TRH actually transit-oriented?  No.  Suburban residential TOD serving auto-supportive jobs results in "auto-centered TOD."  Per Travel Characteristics of TOD in California (Caltrans funded research authored by Lund, Cervero, and Willson), residential TOD by East Bay BART heavy rail stations serving “auto-hostile” job locations in San Francisco produces 40% transit commute mode share (and 50% auto share).  Residential TOD by South Bay Caltrain commuter rail stations serving auto-supportive job locations with free parking produces only 17% transit mode share (and 80% auto share).  Thus, South Bay TOD, while outperforming adjacent non-TOD (4% or less transit mode share), is still very auto-centered. TRH can transform South Bay TOD mode share to 80% "green commutes."  

Stanford Faculty/Staff Ground Lease Housing -,

Eligibility rules:

Stanford has 842 faculty/staff ground lease homes on campus, with more than 300 planned over the next 10 years. Founder Leland Stanford specified that University land could not be sold, therefore the houses and condominiums are sold, but the ground beneath is leased.

Stanford provides the housing to senior faculty and staff. Faculty is either tenured or has a 3 year or greater appointment. Staff is restricted to those at the top of the salary curve. Top Stanford Hospital doctors also qualify. Thus, this Resident Selection program is an elite program. It is covered by the Fair Housing Act (FHA), but, as long as Stanford does not discriminate in the hiring of top staff and doctors, the preference is allowed.

Additional lease restrictions ensure that this housing is the lessee's principle residence. Only the faculty/staff member signs the lease, even though a spouse may have a larger financial interest.

PRICING & SELLING: Faculty/Staff sellers set their initial asking price, and list their houses in Stanford's "Homes for Sale and Rent" newsletter. This newsletter goes out to interested, qualifying faculty/staff. All eligible persons may put an offer on the home. Sellers and potential buyers negotiate from there. See: "How to Sell a Campus Residence,"

EVICTION POLICY: (Eviction policies are important for creating programs that generate short commutes in ensuing decades.) Once the lessee ceases primary residence or fails eligibility criteria, they must vacate within 2 years. Upon death of a professor, surviving spouse DOES have survivorship rights. But, if there is no surviving spouse or domestic partner, then the professor's estate must vacate within 2 years.

Pleasanton housing preference

Thanks to Sharon Hightower and for this case.

Pleasanton has a "mixed preference" preference, both encouraging shorter commutes and favoring existing residents. The preference applies to affordable housing.


Pasadena housing preference guidelines

Thanks to Sharon Hightower and for this case.

Pasadena has a "mixed preference" preference, both encouraging shorter commutes and favoring existing residents. They require resident selection for affordable and workforce housing (moderate income) units that are supported or sponsored by The City.


Green Ridge near White Plains NY

Two large developments near White Plains, New York, offer preferences for affordable residences, offsetting the Westchester County $520,000 median home price:
"Green Ridge offers a 125-unit home ownership plan with a preference for those who work in New Castle, Mount Kisco and the Town of Bedford. Green Ridge, as Stone Creek has done before, addresses a critical shortage of workforce housing that threatens the quality of life in New Castle and the surrounding community, while at the same time maximizing land for open space." See article: "Green Ridge, Not Just a Development … a New Direction," .

Other Bay Area Resident Selection Programs

To underscore how prevalent housing preference is, there are 17 Bay Area cities with housing preferences and another three with programs under consideration. Some are taking small steps with programs encompassing only a few units. Others like San Jose, Sunnyvale, and Milpitas have large programs. Some preference programs are simple; others have up to 9 priority tiers:

City Preference Notes
Corte Madera Public employees rather than preferences, they went with targeted marketing.
Cupertino School district, city employees BMR program
Larkspur Public employees BMR program
Los Altos Teachers Under consideration for 12 units
Menlo Park Public employees Under Consideration
Mill Valley 4 tier system for public employees 12 condos
Milpitas Work/live in town for 1/3 of units BMR program
Mtn View Teachers, public safety workers Funded by housing impact fee
Mtn View Work/live in town BMR program
Oakland Teachers  
San Anselmo Public employees BMR
San Carlos Work/live in town 16 unit affordable complex
San Jose Teacher  
San Jose - Hitachi site Worker Preferences These were considered, but did not move forward
SF Teachers 43 apts
SF - Treasure Island SF residents, teachers, police, firefighters  
SF - I-Hotel Phillipino preference - hsng in a Phillipino neighborhood Racially based preferences were NOT allowed
San Rafael Public employees BMR
Sunnyvale Public employees, teachers, child care workers  
Sunnyvale Work/live in town $120K condos  
Tiburon City workers a few rental condos
Walnut Creek Work/live in town Part of housing element under consideration