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Guest Opinion: Residents have their own perspective on Stanford trails

Original post made on Jun 29, 2012

The decade-long Stanford trails saga has been playing out in county boardrooms, city councils, and the courts. Hopefully, it will soon be completed.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Saturday, June 30, 2012, 9:51 AM

Comments (23)

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Posted by Adina
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 29, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Everyone agrees Santa Clara County must spend the funds in the manner specified by the contract between the county and Stanford.

The original purpose of the funds was to compensate "campus residents and facilities users" for the loss of public access to trails that extended from the popular "Dish Trail."

According to Santa Clara County's legal staff, "facilities users" means "members of the public who use recreational facilities on Stanford lands that are open to the public."

In other words, me, and many other members of the public who use the Stanford "Dish" trail for recreation.

On a beautiful day, I might choose to hike the Dish Trail, ride a bicycle on the Bay Trail, or go hiking or riding in the hills nearby. I am willing to go to out to the Bay, or up to Woodside, because the area is beautiful, and it's more enjoyable than jogging around the block. How about you? Do you use the Dish Trail along with other recreational trails in the area?

I understand that some people who live on the Stanford Campus wish that the 2000 General Use Permit required that the mitigation funds be spent on projects that are on campus, dedicated for campus residents. However, that is not what that 2000 agreement said.

The money is now in the hands of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. I hope that they make wise choices to spend the money on recreational facilities that offer the most benefit and enjoyment.


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Posted by agree
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 29, 2012 at 4:48 pm

I agree with Adina. The contract is not limited to only Stanford students and employees. If there is a great project that benefits a large number of Stanford neighbors, then that is surely preferable to minor projects that benefit only employees. The proposed Bay Trail project, or the bridge over Hwy 101, or even a tunnel under I-280 would all tremendously more beneficial to the community at large than some new sidewalks around Stanford. The best use for this money is to do what is best for the entire community.

How many people are actually using that new "trail" that Stanford built along Page Mill Expressway. I never ever see anyone using it. Please don't waste this money on another trail to nowhere when there are genuine needs that will be used by hundreds of people very day.


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Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Jun 29, 2012 at 4:52 pm

Well said, James Sweeney. Thank you for being a most eloquent spokesman for campus residents.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 29, 2012 at 5:05 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I always enjoy the way that Palo Alto residents try and try and try to get Stanford to pay for their pet projects. Sweeney has it right - these funds should be spent on improvement on or immediately contiguous to the Stanford campus - period.


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Posted by This works for us all.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 29, 2012 at 5:44 pm

Evidently Peter Carpenter and the Leaseholder Board believe Stanford is a completely isolated community that never uses Palo Alto transportation facilities. I suspect most Stanford residents are more enlightened. Anecdotally, I have several friends, Stanford residents, who regularly bike in the baylands. They use Palo Alto streets and the Lefkowitz Tunnel to get there. They would use the proposed bridge.

Did the Stanford Campus Residential Leaseholders take a vote of residents on this subject? How did they get the authority to speak for so many--to take this position on their behalf? Did you poll residents? Stanford residents, you have an opportunity to weigh in as individuals on this subject as do other residents of the area.

Better bicycle/pedestrian connections to the baylands would be a boon to all residents in our shared community, including those at Stanford. Let's work together to make it happen.

And Stanford, many of the research park employees use this bike route to get to work. Stanford would benefit handsomely from the project.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 30, 2012 at 8:17 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Evidently Peter Carpenter and the Leaseholder Board believe Stanford is a completely isolated community that never uses Palo Alto transportation facilities. "

That is not the point - when was the last time that Palo Alto paid for improvements on Stanford land - which is used extensively by Palo Alto residents? How much of the Dish Trail was paid for by Palo Alto? How much of the new performing arts center How much of the new swimming complex? Etc.,,,,,,


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Posted by Team Playa
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 30, 2012 at 8:39 am

I will leave the Agreement terms up to others to analyze.

Although what I can note, is that I have worked on many bicycle recreation issues in Palo Alto and I know many Stanford Professors and their families use the Lefkowitz undercrossing and a new bridge over 101 that connects to the Palo Alto Baylands will be very useful to those affiliated with Stanford University.

Stanford and Palo Alto have many cross interest projects that include schools, trails, shopping and hospitals.

Stanford associates who are resdients in Palo Alto will use the 101 Bridge project to the baylands as they are already doing.









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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 30, 2012 at 9:04 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"cross projects" only seem to go one way.
Palo Alto used to be part owner of the hospital but now pays nothing for access to this world class facility.
Palo Alto used to provide fire services to Stanford for SLAC but now that Menlo Fire provides those services Palo Alto still charges Stanford for the services that it does not provide.
Stanford leases park land to Palo Alto for well below market rates yet Palo Alto excludes Stanford residents from Foothill Park.

Which "cross projects" benefit Stanford for which it doesn't pay more than its share?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 30, 2012 at 10:23 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Posted by paloaltotreewatch, a resident of the Palo Alto Orchards neighborhood, 8 minutes ago

Just curious - who pays for the Stanford Sheriffs?

Who pays for the Fire Station on Stanford land??

Stanford- probably not - probably the county.

So I assume Stanford gets a major public benefits without paying any tax.

Not sure why they should be complaining at all."

WRONG - Stanford pays completely for all of its police services and pays more than Palo Alto's costs for its fire service. Get your facts straight.


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Posted by Andrew Boone
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 30, 2012 at 10:57 am

Funding improvements to the Bay Trail would be far more useful to "campus residents and facilities users" than another trail on, around, or right next to the Stanford campus.

Why? Because the Bay Trail connects to many more places!

If the Bay Trail Gap in Menlo Park & East Palo Alto were completed, a network of over 100 miles of trails connecting the Peninsula with the East Bay and all the way to downtown San Jose would be connected.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 30, 2012 at 11:03 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"If the Bay Trail Gap in Menlo Park & East Palo Alto were completed, a network of over 100 miles of trails connecting the Peninsula with the East Bay and all the way to downtown San Jose would be connected."

And which existing trail connects Stanford lands to this trail? Is Palo Alto going to provide a connecting trail - not simply a bike lane on a busy street but a dedicated trail?


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Posted by Also
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 30, 2012 at 11:46 am

Peter Carpenter................Which "cross projects" benefit Stanford for which it doesn't pay more than its share?...........

Peter, you ommitted the obvious answer, "Palo Alto Schools".










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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 30, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Stanford residents who use the schools AND those that don't use the schools pay school property taxes in excess of the use of those schools by Stanford residents.

Next?


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Posted by Stanford resident
a resident of Nixon School
on Jun 30, 2012 at 2:54 pm

I'd like to thank James Sweeney for his thoughtful commentary. The agreement was negotiated many years ago and for a particular purpose. Since so much time has passed and there are so many community needs, of course, everyone wants to look at the funds in light of the situation today. There are many worthwhile projects that happen to benefit both Stanford and Palo Alto that we all can think of. I believe the trail proposed by Stanford will be a great benefit to both communities. I think it will make family activities, such as walking, biking, skating and skateboarding, etc. so much safer and easier along Stanford Avenue and El Camino. Maybe it will allow some Dish users to bike instead of parking along Stanford Ave. It will help make for a safer biking commute for children who attend both Nixon and Escondido elementary schools. It can then connect with other trails that lead to the Bay and to bridges. It can also connect to other Palo Alto bike paths. Personally, I would like to see Palo Alto make a safer path to the bike path off of Hanover Ave. where many kids from both communities bike to Terman and Gunn. If we accept the purposes that the money was designed to be used for, we can come up with constructive uses of the funds that will fit with the agreement and enhance our collective community.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 1, 2012 at 8:16 am

There were far more trails available to the Stanford community before Santa Clara County tried to limit development on Stanford land between 280 and Alameda de las Purgas. If this money could be used to reopen some of those trails closed due to that debacle, that would be a big improvement.


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Posted by Symbiotic
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 1, 2012 at 10:17 am

"Peter Carpenter................Which "cross projects" benefit Stanford for which it doesn't pay more than its share?...........

Peter, you ommitted the obvious answer, "Palo Alto Schools"."

Also, the land for both Palo Alto High School and Gunn High School is "leased" by PAUSD from Stanford. I put "leased" in quotes because the cost is negligible. In essence, Stanford has given PAUSD the land for both high schools.


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Posted by John Murphy
a resident of another community
on Jul 2, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Pretty certain that Stanford makes pretty good usage of University Ave, Page Mill Road, Embarcadero, etc...

And the more people that go into and out of Stanford, the more those resources are stressed.

This has to be a symbiotic community for it to work. I personally ride to work from points North with dozens of Stanford faculty and students who would benefit from the SCC proposed improvements. Those members of the Stanford community commute in from points North because of limited housing in and around Stanford, compared to the numbers of people working/studying/using Stanford. Not focusing on how to keep that sort of access in place as Stanford attracts more and more users, is short sighted.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 2, 2012 at 3:22 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Pretty certain that Stanford makes pretty good usage of University Ave, Page Mill Road, Embarcadero, etc...

And the more people that go into and out of Stanford, the more those resources are stressed."

That is why every time Stanford builds something new they have given Palo Alto millions of dollars in impact fees.


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Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jul 2, 2012 at 7:24 pm

Stanford gives much more to PA than it gets back-PA should focus on being a better neighbor.


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Posted by Also
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 2, 2012 at 8:43 pm

Who pays for Palo Alto police to serve stanford shopping center and do the stanford resident renters and home owning residents pay Palo Alto directly for their school use in Palo Alto and how much annually?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 2, 2012 at 9:04 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Who pays for Palo Alto police to serve stanford shopping center "

When Stanford developed the shopping center that land was incorporated into the City of Palo Alto. The shopping center and its occupants pay huge property and sales taxes to Palo Alto and the school districts and they receive much less in services. For example no one lives in the shopping center yet it still pays property taxes to the school districts.

"do the stanford resident renters and home owning residents pay Palo Alto directly for their school use in Palo Alto"

No, they pay property taxes to the school district(s) in which their residence is located.


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Posted by James Sweeney
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 3, 2012 at 11:11 am

My guest opinion piece has led to many postings which, not surprisingly, go well beyond the issue I raised. The issue I raised is the appropriate criteria to spend the $10.3 million of funds transferred from Stanford University to Santa Clara County, under a contract that specifies that the funds can be used "only to mitigate 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".

My commentary was from the perspective of Stanford homeowners. In addition to students who live on campus, there are almost 900 homes on campus, with a population of probably about 2000 people. The Stanford Campus Residential Leaseholder (SCRL) Board is elected annually by and represents those homeowners (or more precisely, Leaseholders.)

However, much of these postings have questioned what Stanford University pays for or gets from Palo Alto and surrounding communities. But the residential community and Stanford University are different entities. We are homeowners who are impacted by Stanford University development. In fact, because we are contiguous to the academic campus, we are arguably more impacted than are residents of surrounding communities. Although we are not Stanford University, we do have two strong linkages to the University. The University owns the land under our homes and thus is our landlord. And each household has one or more adults who is or has been a University employee. Thus our interests sometimes coincide with Stanford University's and sometimes diverge. But importantly, we homeowners who live on Stanford land; we are not Stanford University.

The General Use Permit (GUP) gave Stanford University rights to develop additional academic and residential facilities. But the same GUP imposed over 100 conditions on Stanford, designed to mitigate impacts of that development. One and only one of those 100 conditions was designed to mitigate impacts on the campus residents and the "facility users." A fundamental point of my commentary is that it is only fair that the one condition that mitigates impacts on the Stanford residential community in fact be used in that way. Not only is it fair; the contract language includes that requirement.

But, I do not assert that the selected project should benefit only the residential community. It can and should benefit our neighbors as well. But it must substantially benefit the intended population.

In addition, many of these postings have questioned what Stanford homeowners pay in taxes and what services they get.

All Stanford homeowners pay property taxes under the rules established by Proposition 13. They pay at the same rate as do homeowners in Palo Alto, Los Altos, Mountain View, Menlo Park, or any city. Those taxes are collected by Santa Clara County, as are the taxes in Palo Alto, Los Altos, and Mountain View. However, there is one difference. Some taxes paid by residents of incorporated cities – e.g. Palo Alto, Los Altos, Mountain View, Menlo Park – are returned to those cities for public expenditures. However, the Stanford residential subdivision is not incorporated into any city, so none of the taxes we pay is returned to us to cover local expenditures.

In addition, cities include stores, hotels, or other businesses. These businesses pay taxes, much of which goes to back to the city to cover local expenditures. The Stanford homeowner community has no such tax revenue sources.

Cities pay for their local public services – fire and police, road maintenance – through taxes they collect. The Stanford homeowners need the same services but have no tax revenues to pay for them. Thus we directly pay for those services through monthly fees paid to the University. The University pays Santa Clara County to provide police services – more precisely sheriff services – and it pays Palo Alto to provide fire services. The fees paid by homeowners include their proportion of these costs. Similarly, the fees include costs of road maintenance, tree planting, outdoor environment maintenance in the common spaces. These fees are not taxes, so unlike property taxes, they are not deductions for the purpose of state and federal income taxes.

Stanford homeowners pay for schools exactly the way other homeowners pay for schools: though the general property taxes and the specific school taxes. We, like Palo Alto residents and many Los Altos Hills residents, are part of the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD). We pay for our portion of the school bonds passed, just as do Palo Alto and Los Altos Hills residents in the PAUSD.

In short, Stanford residential homeowners pay their share of taxes. The only differences is that, unlike incorporated cities, no tax revenues are returned to support our community and thus we must pay ourselves for the local public services we enjoy.


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Posted by Roslyn Bienenstock
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 5, 2012 at 5:26 pm

As a forty plus years resident and leaseholder on Stanford land I would like to give support to the above statements of Jim Sweeny and Peter Carpenter. We residents pay property taxes and in addition pay for many of the services which are not provided, with no tax deduction. My home is often impacted by the noise of after school and weekend activities at Nixon school, by the lack of maintenance of the Palo Alto owned hill behind our house, by the parking on Stanford Ave. and by the dangerous scofflaw driving on thay street. We are also heavily impacted by construction and building on the campus. The above referenced funds were allocated to mitigate the impact on our community and should be used for that purpose.

We enjoy and benefit from our proximity to Palo Alto, but not nearly to the extent that the city and it's residents benefit culturally and financially from Stanford. I have been hearing unfair allegations made by ill informed residents of PA and other communities for many years. I think the Palo Alto City Council ( and others) could go a long way in improving town and gown relations by educating residents to the real benefits they are receiving.


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