Stanford's $8 million offer gets another shot

Residents will be asked whether they want a new trail on Alpine Road

By Barbara Wood

Special to the Almanac

Call it the $8 million offer that won't die: Stanford University's proposal to pay for trail improvements along Alpine Road between the Menlo Park and Portola Valley boundaries (with interest, now up to $10.5 million), which was unanimously rejected by the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors in 2008 and again in 2010. Well, it has sprung back to life.

On Tuesday (July 26) the supervisors voted unanimously to go back to residents of the areas near the trail, including Ladera and Stanford Weekend Acres, to see if time has changed their minds about the proposed trail improvements.

Citing changes in the financial and political climate, and the deterioration of the existing trail, the supervisors agreed to take one more look at the proposal before it expires at the end of December this year. They rejected the staff's recommendation to ask Stanford for a one-year extension of the deadline for making the improvements, saying that if an extension is needed they can ask for it in December after hearing from the public.

If San Mateo County rejects the offer and lets the deadline pass, the money will go to Santa Clara County for recreation.

The offer of money for the trail originated in conditions put on Stanford by Santa Clara County in 2000 when the university was given permission to add 5 million square feet of buildings on campus.

Stanford agreed to build two trails to offset the loss of recreational opportunities. One trail, located south of Page Mill Road and Foothill Expressway and running through the foothills, opened this spring. Portola Valley is now working on a section of trail running from Ladera to Ford Field along Alpine Road, which is scheduled to reopen by October.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Liz Kniss sent a representative to the meeting to ask that Santa Clara County also be included in talks about the trail improvements and how the money from Stanford could be used.

New supervisor and former San Mateo County Sheriff Don Horsley said he was influenced by the fatal bike accident on that stretch of Alpine Road in November 2010 to take another look at finding a way to make the area safer. "That trail is simply not safe as it stands," he said.

"I would like to hear what the residents say," Horsley said. "I think there are a lot of areas we could negotiate on."

Fifteen people showed up at the meeting to comment on the proposal, and, as in the past, their opinions were mixed.

Janet Davis, who lives on Alpine Road, accused Stanford of "trying to pressure local residents into something they don't want." She cited concerns of privacy and traffic hazards.

Barbara Ann Barnett, who said she has lived in Stanford Weekend Acres for more than 40 years, said that getting in and out of the neighborhood is already a nightmare and the trail would make that worse. "I personally am really, really nervous about the safety issues," she said. "I hope we do not go down this road again.

Noel Hirst, who has lived in Ladera for 14 years and works at Stanford, said the existing trail has its own safety problems. "I used to bike to work two times a week during the non-rainy months," she said. She has given it up because of the trail conditions. Now, she said, "I can't get there and I won't put my kids at risk to possibly not have a mom." If the county doesn't use the Stanford money to repair the trail; it will have to spend its own money to repair it, she said.

Ellyn Rubin, who has lived for more than 30 years in Ladera, agreed. The current trail is unsafe for cycling, she said. "More and more people are biking. It's just going to get more and more dangerous if nothing is done."

Barbara Wood is a freelance writer, photographer and gardener from Woodside.

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Like this comment
Posted by sidewalk
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 27, 2011 at 1:17 pm

They'll probably get some takers if they call it a sidewalk instead of a trail. Reduce the width and allow pedestrians only. There already are bike lanes on the street.

Like this comment
Posted by Jimmae
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 28, 2011 at 10:33 am

Sidewalk wrote:

Reduce the width and allow pedestrians only. There already are bike lanes on the street.

Uh, Dear Sidewalk,

Tell you what, you go out on that road(Alpine rd),use those "bike" lanes(actually the lanes you allude to are mostly fog stripes,not designated bike lanes) to recreate(walk) in...Then come back here+report what a grand ol time you had mixing it up w motor vehicles, and I'll consider riding my bicycle out there.

My main point, Many of us that ride bicycles are just as horrified as I reckon you to be with the concept of pedaling amongst motor vehicles.

Walkers already have pretty much everything when it comes to off road trails access within San Mateo County. No More Pedestrian Only trails,imho, it's past time to start sharing these traffic free options with pedalers when they arise.

Like this comment
Posted by Frugal
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 28, 2011 at 11:04 am

Try for $20,000,000. It work with the hospital. Stanford has deep pockets.

Like this comment
Posted by Beth
a resident of University South
on Jul 28, 2011 at 4:52 pm

Stanford should be allowed to keep the money and donate it to the reconstruction of the Stanford Hospital, from which the entire community will ultimately benefit.

Like this comment
Posted by Luke Vania
a resident of another community
on Jul 28, 2011 at 5:43 pm

David and Goliath and the Phoenix 'stories' updated on 28 July, 2011-5:15PM

Stanford, like the Phoenix rising from the ashes, has once again resurrected the once 'dead' Stanford Alpine Trail proposal(s). Twice poor David [Stanford Weekend Acres] repelled Goliath [Stanford] with the help of the San Mateo County Supervisors. NOTHING SUBSTANTIALLY has changed since Goliath's 'last' defeat.
SWA has made it abundantly clear that it does not want 'the trail.' How many times must we do battle with Goliath! We really don't want to slay him... just want him to STOP harassing us... and go solve the problem it created on its own territory. PLEASE LET MY NEIGHBORHOOD ALONE! There is NO WAY, short of prohibiting motor traffic on Alpine Road, that can make any new or existing trail Safe. The only real safety lies with the people who use Alpine Road to exercise caution, sound judgement, and common courtesy.

Like this comment
Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Jul 28, 2011 at 7:08 pm

Build it.

Allow cyclists to use it.

Remove the unsafe bicycle lanes on Alpine, and prohibit cyclists from using Alpine.

Like this comment
Posted by Jane
a resident of University South
on Jul 28, 2011 at 9:47 pm

Stanford was required to build 2 trails which would be reasonably recreational. Stanford stalled for years, proposed this "trail" which is a total sham - the whole thing is a good definition of "chutzpah" and an example of not living up to their commitment.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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