Stanford Biggest Landowner in Silicon Valley

A hundred and thirty-four years ago, Leland and Jane Stanford founded a school in memory of their son and gifted it with 8,000 acres of the land surrounding it. The school has acquired more since then.

Stanford’s $19.7 billion taxable property portfolio dwarfs the more celebrated acquisitions of the area’s tech titans and has an outsized but little-understood impact on how valley residents work, shop and live.

A year-long reporting project to identify Silicon Valley’s largest property owners revealed Stanford as the top owner not merely of academic buildings and sprawling campus land, but nearly every other type of property as well. While the university’s role in churning out billion-dollar companies such as Google and Hewlett-Packard — minting both the engineers who power them and the investors who fund them — has long been acknowledged, this analysis reveals a hidden picture of influence springing from the university’s immense real estate footprint.

Stanford’s holdings include $14.7 billion in academic, medical, commercial and other nonresidential land, $1.1 billion in single-family homes — that’s more than 700 houses — $881 million in multi-family residential buildings and $3.1 billion in equipment, machinery and other taxable property, according to the first-of-its-kind analysis by a collaboration of local and national media, including this news organization, of every parcel in property records for the 2018 fiscal year in Santa Clara County.

Who Owns Silicon Valley? Part III: The Stanford Empire, The Mercury News

As a nonprofit, Stanford does not have to pay property taxes.

Mind-boggling though the assessed value of the university’s holdings may be, the nearly $20 billion figure vastly understates their actual worth — Stanford has owned most of its land for many, many decades, meaning California’s Proposition 13 has held its tax base far below market value.

And because it is a university, much of Stanford’s $19.7 billion in property — including classroom buildings, student housing, faculty rental housing and medical centers — is exempt from property taxes. Stanford was not required to pay taxes on $13.3 billion of its holdings during the 2018 fiscal year, according to data from the Santa Clara County Assessor’s Office, which determines what Stanford’s exempt properties would be worth if they were taxed. It’s the largest exemption in any county in California.

You have to wonder, though, would the region be as wealthy if the school was not located there? Would Silicon Valley even exist?

Read more about the biggest landowners in Silicon Valley.

Who Owns Silicon Valley? Part I: Main, The Mercury News

Who Owns Silicon Valley? Part II: Google v. Apple, The Mercury News

Evening walk at the Dish at Stanford.
Photo by Pranay Pareek on Unsplash

Post by Marcelino Pantoja