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Thursday, July 26, 2007

North Campus

So a couple of years ago, Stanford bought the old Excite@Home buildings in Redwood City right off 101. The idea was that they would have some satellite office space outside of campus, outside of the bounds of the Santa Clara county GUP (General Use Permit) that severely restricts Stanford from increasing density on campus, allowing more cars to travel through Palo Alto, and allowing a maximum number of parking spots on campus. And ever since it was purchased, staff on campus has been nervous about being the ones to get booted out to Redwood City.

But between the GUP and other considerations on campus, someone does have to move, and the first to get ousted will be administrative staff with less connection to the academic mission of the university. So, folks like Payroll, Human Resources, the Controller's Office and IT Services will get moved away.

For some folks, this makes a bit of sense. They don't interact with the university much. They do accounting or help desk support or compensation analysis. They work at a desk, fairly independent of all but their own team. But a lot of folks do interact daily, like the Payroll walk-up counter where final checks are distributed and paperwork is submitted, or like the CRC staff who fix computers in buildings campus-wide, or to a lesser degree, me, who spends some of my days training and others doing user observations, and others meeting with various constituents on campus. For me, I walk in both worlds, needing to interact with other IT staff regularly, attend project meetings and such, and yet also frequently interacting with other offices in H&S, the Med School, or the Registrar's Office.

So I decided to take a moment to go assess the situation for myself. At this point, IT Services is being targeted to move off-site by 2009. So how bad would it really be?

It'd be pretty bad. The site currently really is just awful barren industrial and office park. They have big plans to change that, but I suspect that won't come to fruition once the Controller's Office sees the budget plan. Still, that part is do-able. I'd miss the beauty and atmosphere of the campus, but life goes on. The bigger issue is the commute time to and from campus - a minimum of 25 minutes. Having to plan to lose an hour to go to and from campus to have any meeting there is a huge hit to productivity. Also, the commute to Redwood City in the morning would transform my daily commute from 30-40 minutes to always more than an hour, frequently much much more.

So this brought me to another point in my exploration. There's a neighborhood adjacent to the site. I wanted to see what the comparative cost of housing was there. It's an older neighborhood, mostly built in the fifties and mostly pretty run down. Fixer-uppers that are much smaller than my current place go for what I could likely sell my place for. Something comparable to my place goes for at least $75k more than I could get for my current place and, well, just aren't really attractive. They're ugly little fifties tract homes in a funky neighborhood with no character butting up against the noise and filth of Highway 101.

So my thought there was that either I could cut my commute on the at work end by living closer to work, or cut my commute on the at play end by living in Alameda. Living in Alameda still rises above the other option. Significantly above. I don't want to live in Redwood City, and certainly not that part of Redwood City.

And now I'm faced with what to do next. I had hoped that a visit would alleviate some of my concerns, but instead, I'm going to have to stand my ground. I would have to move somewhere else or leave Stanford were I to have to work at the North Campus. I just don't know how this will change things, but change is coming and the results don't look too good for me. The only hope is that the wheel will turn slowly and that it won't be a serious issue for two to five years.

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