In the five-year poker game between Stanford University and the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors over the fate of a decrepit and unsafe trail on the south side of Alpine Road between Portola Valley and Menlo Park, the supervisors saw Stanford's $10 million pile of chips Tuesday morning and, in effect, raised the bet.
In addition to paying to upgrade the trail, Stanford's current offer of $10.4 million would also fund the study of any of three trail redesign plans:
Move parts of Alpine Road to the north to make room for an adequate trail on the south side of the road.
Leave Alpine Road as it is and redo the trail without that extra space available.
Find that the trail cannot be made safe with the funds available.
That was not enough for the supervisors, who by a 4-1 majority on Tuesday (Nov. 1) gave Stanford until the board's Dec. 13 meeting to revise its offer to include funding for three more alternatives:
A trail that hugs the north side of Alpine Road after crossing at Piers Lane, where there is an informal entrance and parking lot to enter the undeveloped lands around Stanford's Dish radio telescope.
A trail that crosses Alpine Road and heads north on undeveloped land in the direction of Sand Hill Road.
Build the proposed trail between Ladera and Piers Lane, which would avoid the complexities of trying to improve the trail that passes through Stanford Weekend Acres.
Supervisor Dave Pine introduced the alternatives, adding that the trail cannot be left as it is. He instructed County Counsel John Beiers to work with Stanford to revise the agreement language that seems to preclude actions the board may want to take and that could "trip up" the county on deadlines.
Supervisor Adrienne Tissier recommended changes that would extend the county's window of time to complete the environmental studies beyond Stanford's deadline of December 2013.
The public spoke ardently for and against Stanford's offer, and Supervisor Rose Jacobs Gibson, who represents much of Menlo Park, commented that the recent community outreach by the county managers office did not achieve its objective of consensus.
Supervisor Don Horsley, who represents parts of Menlo Park and Portola Valley, Woodside and Atherton, said he was "appalled" at the traffic conditions on Alpine Road on a visit there with project opponent Lennie Roberts, but that the county should accept money for an environmental study on a trail that is inarguably unsafe.
Board President Carole Groom voted against the idea of accepting Stanford's money at all, in part because it won't be enough to cover the costs. She noted the unanimous votes by the board in 2006 and 2010 against Stanford's offer. Opponents to Stanford's offer have lived with this controversy for five years and do not deserve another two years of it, she added. "I am simply not in favor of this," she said. When some in the audience applauded, she told them to stop.
In the end, Groom and supervisors Tissier and Jacobs Gibson made it fairly clear that they would oppose accepting Stanford's offer if Stanford does not agree to fund the study of Pine's three additional alternatives.
Asked for a reaction, Stanford spokesman Larry Horton, caught in mid-stride, smiled and said, "We'll see in December."