Stanford Industrial Park Land Use Plans

Originally deemed a light industrial zone by the university, by the mid-1950s the district became a site of research and development focused around scientific and technology industries. By the 1970s, the area was referred to as the Stanford Research Park, in part reflecting an aspiration and a focus on research and development.

In 1951, Stanford University set aside 209 acres for light manufacturing. It's earliest tenants included Stanford graduates, Sigurd and Russell Varian of Varian Associates, William Hewlett and David Packard of Hewlett-Packard, as well as General Electric, Lockheed, and Eastman Kodak. In 1955 the Park boasted seven tenants and leased fifty-three acres; by 1962 that figure rose to forty-two leases on 360 acres, which continued to rise by the early 1970s to fifty tenants occupying 500 acres and employing 17,000 people. By the end of the 1970s, Stanford was earning $4.3 million per year for the university and $13.5 million in tax revenue and utility payments to the city of Palo Alto.[2]

The site adhered to strict design standards set by the university. The Industrial Park adhered to a suburban campus aesthetic. Building heights were limited to no more than two stories, smokestacks were forbidden, noise and emissions were prohibited, parking lots were located behind buildings, and sites were well-landscaped areas of patios, lawns, trees, and shrubs meant to reside neatly alongside the university's well-to-do neighbors.

The Stanford Industrial Park also benefitted from its close ties to the university, a policy implemented by Frederick Terman, a Stanford professor of radio engineering and, later, dean of engineering (1944-1959) and provost of the university (1955-1965). Terman had gotten his start by directing research projects at Cambridge, Massachusetts, during World War II, where he saw first-hand the close relationship between government and universities. Returning to Stanford in 1945, he was convinced from his wartime experience that the university could attract funds from government and corporate sources while simultaneously bolstering Stanford's reputation as a major research university. Using Harvard as the model, Terman implemented incentives for research and pursued funding models to attract top scientists and engineers from around the country.

[2] Findley, 140.


Aerial view of Stanford Industrial Park, 1960

Aerial view of Stanford Industrial Park, 1960

An aerial view looking eastward with Junipero Serra Boulevard and the University Club in the foreground. A portion of the Veterans Hospital can be seen on the right. The industrial park and Palo Alto can be seen and the San Francisco Bay and East Bay hills are visible in the distance. | Source: Guy Miller Archives, Palo Alto Historical Association | Creator: Tupper, Gene View File Details Page

Aerial view of Stanford Industrial Park

Aerial view of Stanford Industrial Park

A late 1950s or early 1960s view of the Stanford Industrial Park looking westward with El Camino Real at the bottom of the image. Kodak Eastman, Varian and Hewlett-Packard facilities are visible, but the Palo Alto Square location is an open field. Barron Park and the open foothills are visible. | Source: Palo Alto Historical Association View File Details Page

Construction of Stanford Industrial Park

Construction of Stanford Industrial Park

Meeting in 1950 in preparation for the construction of Stanford Industrial Park. | Source: Silicon Valley Historical Association View File Details Page

Access Information:

Location is approximate. The size and shape of the industrial park has often changed between 1950 and today.

Cite this Page:

Jason Heppler, “Stanford Industrial Park Land Use Plans,” Silicon Valley Historical, accessed November 14, 2018,


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