The decade-long Stanford trails saga has been playing out in county boardrooms, city councils, and the courts. Hopefully, it will soon be completed.
After Stanford made $10.3 million available, many parties have expressed strong views on spending that money. But these funds were provided by Stanford University for one explicit contractual purpose related to the General Use Permit (GUP) the university received from the county in 2000. Quoting from the contract, the purpose is: only to mitigate impact OS-3 of the Environmental Impact Report for the GUP (in other words: the adverse effect on recreational opportunities for existing or new campus residents and facility users that will be caused by the housing and academic development approved by the GUP).
These funds were never meant as a general mitigation of GUP impacts, over 100 specific GUP conditions mitigate other specific impacts. As president of the elected board of Stanford Residential Leaseholders (SCRL), I would like our neighbors to understand the issue from the perspective of campus residents.
We believe the $10.3 million must be spent only for those opportunities that campus residents and facility users will reasonably and frequently use for their recreation.
To appreciate our position, it is important to understand the genesis of the funds. In 2000, Santa Clara County granted Stanford University a General Use Permit that controls how Stanford land in unincorporated Santa Clara County can be used. The GUP allowed Stanford to apply for expansion of academic buildings and on-campus housing. In turn, the GUP placed over 100 conditions on Stanford for mitigation of impacts. One condition of the 100 required Stanford to construct portions of two trails relatively well-specified in the Santa Clara County Trails Master plan -- the S1 trail and the C1 trail. These trails are contiguous to the campus and would be regularly used by campus residents, students, faculty, and by others who visit the campus for recreation.
Almost immediately, a dispute arose over whether those two trails were to be located on the periphery or in the interior of Stanford lands. Protagonists did not represent Stanford residents. Finally, in 2005, the Santa Clara County Board Supervisors specified locations of the S1 and C1 trails and signed a contract with Stanford that clarified their implementation.
The contract specified that Stanford was to build the S1 trail across the foothills from Foothill Expressway to near Route 280. The Matadero Creek Trail is now open. The contract also proposed a new trail -- the C2 trail -- to connect the Matadero Creek Trail to the Arastradero Preserve, through Los Altos Hills. The C2 trail has recently been approved by Los Altos Hills, and we hope its construction will begin soon.
The unresolved issue was the C1 trail, along Alpine Road in unincorporated San Mateo County and Portola Valley. The contract required Stanford to offer money to Portola Valley and to San Mateo County to reconstruct segments of the C1 trail. These offers were to remain open until Dec. 31, 2011.
Portola Valley accepted Stanford's offer. Recently, Portola Valley rededicated a Stanford-funded trail along Alpine Road. However, the San Mateo County Supervisors rejected improvements along Alpine Road between the Menlo Park border and the Portola Valley border. Therefore, under terms of the 2000 GUP contract, Stanford paid Santa-Clara County the accumulated amount of the offer to San Mateo County, $10.3 million.
The SCRL board believes that Santa Clara County must spend the funds in the manner specified by the contract between the county and Stanford. The contract was very clear: the money was required to mitigate the impact on campus residents and facility users of GUP-allowed expansion. It was not for funding general recreational availability in unrelated areas of Santa Clara County.
Therefore, the $10.3 million must be used for recreational opportunities that will directly serve campus residents and facility users. The originally proposed trails all would have satisfied that purpose. They were contiguous to the campus and would be used by a wide spectrum of the campus residents, including many different age groups.
SCRL is finishing a proposal for a new peripheral trail surrounding the academic campus that could be used by adults and children for walking, jogging, and biking. The proposal would allow a continuous trail from El Camino Real to the S1 trail, and then on to Arastradero Preserve. Contiguous to the campus and to Palo Alto, such a trail would be regularly used by campus residents, by residents of our neighboring cities, and by others who visit Stanford to use its recreational facility. We believe that such a trail would be consistent with the spirit and letter of the Stanford-Santa Clara County contract.
Others have proposed spending almost all of the money on a bicycle bridge over Route 101 near Shoreline Park and the Dumbarton link of the Bay Trail. These projects are distant enough from campus that they would not be used frequently for recreation by campus residents, even though they could add to the general recreational availability in Santa Clara County. Thus they do not satisfy either the spirit or letter of the contract.
With alternative opportunities, we believe the funds should be spent on the facility or facilities that provide maximum benefit to the people most affected by the impact of the GUP, and that it should not be spent on projects that at most would provide limited or infrequent benefits to those people.
I hope our neighbors in Santa Clara County will understand that we campus residents feel strongly that the money should be spent only for its intended purpose.