Supes up ante on Stanford's Alpine trail offer

On 4-1 vote, county supervisors ask Stanford to revise offer to examine three more alternatives

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."

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Like this comment
Posted by sidewalk user
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 2, 2011 at 9:44 am

The existing Alpine Road sidewalk is much to narrow to support increased usage. If they want to attract users regional users (like the Stevens Creek Trail), then it would have to be 3 times as wide as it is now. But then the short length becomes a problem unless they extend it all the way up to Portola Road, or even all the way up to Skyline.

If they want a more local project, they should call it a sidewalk, not a trail. Allow only pedestrians and children. Paint real bike lanes on Alpine Road and let adult bicyclists use those.

Like this comment
Posted by George
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Nov 2, 2011 at 10:03 am

Just forget it already look at the nice one they built along PageMill road and literally no one uses it

Like this comment
Posted by Lew
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 2, 2011 at 10:51 am

For any trail to be successfully used by the "community" it must have adequate parking. The "Dish" trail is used by a widely diverse community because of the "parking" available on Stanford Ave., a rather poor solution because it directly impacts the surrounding neighborhood. The new Page Mill trail is underused because there is no parking at the trail-head, it has a rather steep, unpaved portion that is not easily accessible unless one is in good shape and not wheeling a stroller, and it terminates at another trail without a direct connection to the original trail-head; it is not a "loop" trail. For the Alpine Rd. trail to work it must have a parking area and connect to other trails in such a way as to allow people to walk in a loop and return to their cars. Otherwise, it is only available to those who live close by and are willing to reverse their path on the return.

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Posted by sidewalk user
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 2, 2011 at 11:18 am

The "trail to nowhere" along Page Mill Road is pretty useless. When they complete the connection to the Arastradero Preserve then they will get plenty of users.

I hope they don't have the same half baked plans for the Alpine Road trail.

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Posted by sidewalk user
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 2, 2011 at 11:22 am

Parking isn't a big deal if the trail actually goes somewhere. For example, the Stevens Creek Trail in Mountain View doesn't have any big parking lots, but it has plenty of users. The proposed Alpine Road trail starts nowhere and ends nowhere, so what is the point? It is really just a sidewalk, so stop calling it a "trail".

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Posted by Menlo Parker
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 2, 2011 at 12:34 pm

San Mateo County has had YEARS to propose whatever it wants. It is absurd to ask for another delay. If the supervisors want to turn down Stanford's generous offer, so be it. It will be another example of cutting off their noses to spite their faces. I'd much rather they choose one of the alternatives noted in your article and GET ON WITH IT. The whole point of the Alpine trail is to connect the trail along Sand Hill to the trail in Portola Valley. It doesn't have to be a "loop", and it doesn't have to include parking lots--see the overall trail plan conceived many, many years ago.

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Posted by sidewalk user
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 2, 2011 at 1:12 pm

The original plan was to have one trail from Stanford to the Arastradero Preserve from the south and another trail from Stanford to the Arastradero Preserve from the north. That would create an interesting loop. Over the years, Stanford has been reneging on big sections of the original agreement so all we are left with is two (or maybe just one) trails to nowhere. What a waste of a big opportunity.

Like this comment
Posted by Phil
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 2, 2011 at 4:42 pm

There wasn't an original plan to connect to Arastradero Preserve exactly, although lots of people hoped that would/will happen. Stanford agreed to complete the portions of the trail across its land as shown in the county trail maps. If Stanford followed the maps, Stanford's portion of the S1 trail (Arastradero) would have followed Old Page Mill Rd ending at the Freeway overpass at Page Mill, with Los Altos Hill's portion connecting to Arastradero Preserve (and no real way to safely get under the freeway). Instead Stanford proposed to build a longer trail along Coyote Hill over the top of the hill now housing Page Mill Pastures and meeting the Los Altos Hills trails at the Arastradero Rd underpass under 280, and that was what was built.

The C1 (Alpine Rd) portion should have gone between the Creek and the Golf Course, according to the map, and reach Arastradero Preserve with a small section in Portola Valley (all within Santa Clara Co.). Somehow Stanford talked the Santa Clara Valley supervisors into approving the improving of the Alpine Rd path (in San Mateo Co.) as having less impact on the creek. Basically Stanford is willing to pay more to not have the path impact the golf course or to stray more deeply into Stanford's "academic preserve." I think they should have stuck closer to the original plan--if they could move the golf course a bit to enlarge Sand Hill Rd, they should be able to modify it to accommodate a path that wouldn't fall into the creek in a big rain storm.

At this point a compromise might be to improve the Alpine path in the less populated areas, but to move back across the creek into Santa Clara Co. around the Bishop Lane and other built up areas. It would require some new bridges across the creek, but nothing outside the budget Stanford has been willing to spend. Unfortunately it may be too late given the Santa Clara Co. supervisors acquiescence.

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Posted by Phil
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 2, 2011 at 4:45 pm

Correction to my last post: I think the small connection section would be in Los Altos Hills not Portola Valley.

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Posted by mj
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 2, 2011 at 5:11 pm

to "Menlo Park"

As I understand from the original agreement, it was up to Stanford to propose two appropriate trail routes to connect the campus with the Astradero preserve. This was part of the mitigation agreement Stamfprd agreed to for County authorization for their last ten year massive central campus development plan.

Stanford was to build two pleasant, peaceful, relaxing hiking trails from the Stanford campus on Stanford lands to connect with the Astradero preserve. A north trail and a south trail. Unfortunately, Stanford was given permission to propose the exact routes across their land rather than having the exact route imposed by the County.

So Stanford proposed two glorified sidewalks along two busy roads, Page Mill and Alpine, with the noise and fumes of cars and trucks, that don't even connect with Astradero.

Stanford has been trying to weasel out of this mitigation agreement from the day they got development approval. Stanford always hopes to outlast everyone else, as they always do. In this case the County Supervisors and the Committee for Green Foothills have tried for years to hold Stanford to the spirit of the original agreement.

Please don't blame the County Supervisors for doing their job.

Interestingly, the County's previous ten year development authorization is coming to an end. Soon it will be time for Stanford to apply to the County for approval of their next ten year development plan.

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Posted by mj
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 2, 2011 at 5:20 pm

My understanding of the proposed trails is corrected by Phil's post above. Guess I was one of those who hoped Stanford would improve the cattle underpass under highway 280 linking to the other side of the freeway and on to Astradero.

Still think Stanford has done everything to delay and weasel out of their agreement for the north trail!

Like this comment
Posted by 99
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 2, 2011 at 11:37 pm


10 million for a little trail??? What's wrong with these morons??

Like this comment
Posted by mh
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 2, 2011 at 11:46 pm

Menlo Parker and Phil are factually correct. +1
Work takes me along Alpine not infrequently - in a car. If I had to bike it I'd want a path like there is right by the golf course at Alpine and Santa Cruz. That nice one Stanford built there.
Don't see how supervisors Gordon and Hill rejecting a multimillion dollar check means that Stanford has delayed and weaseled. Seems like their position has been exactly the same for a decade.

Like this comment
Posted by Jane
a resident of University South
on Nov 3, 2011 at 1:18 am

Stanford HAS definitely done everything possible to delay and weasel out of the minimum agreement to provide 2 recreational trails in exchange for the right to add millions of sq ft of construction.

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Posted by MJ
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 3, 2011 at 12:49 pm

Did the agreement for two "recreational trails" mean two glorified sidewalks beside roads with constant noisy vehicles and fumes? I don't think so.

Ten years ago, Stanford was given County authorization for a massive amount of development on campus. So why shouldn't Stanford be held accountable for conditions negotiated and signed off on at the time?

Why should Stanford be allowed to renege? Because Stanford has spent nearly ten years of time and money (including the taxpayers), trying to weasel around and violate a legal obligation? Because Stanford can rely on people's short memories or ignorance to eventually appear as generous benefactors? Rely on outlasting any of our elected officials? Would you reward a bully for being persistent?

Does anyone know if the agreement Stanford signed specified the recreational trails could also be bike trails? I thought they were to be hiking trails. Sharing a trail with fast bikers does not exactly make for a relaxing, recreational, hiking experience. Please listen to the people who live beside Alpine and experience this constantly.

I miss the old campus, but accept the need for development to strive for cutting edge, world-class status as a University. I even appreciate most of what Stanford has to offer. I know why Stanford doesn't want to keep to what was originally understood and agreed to. I just don't like the subterfuge.

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Posted by Marcus
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 3, 2011 at 2:17 pm

I wasn't sure why this was so controversial until I looked at the plan in more detail. This sure isn't my idea of a hiking trail. It's sandwiched between a golf course and a major road. To build it Stanford wants to hack into the hillside and move Alpine Road over. It seems like the new route is about 2 ft from some peoples' front doors in places.

So I now understand why people have been objecting to this. Dumb plan. Reject it and spend the money on proper recreational facilities in Santa Clara county. At least that is more in the spirit of the original land use agreement, about which Stanford was apparently extremely disingenuous.

They should learn that people will remember, and won't trust them in future when they come bearing bribes for votes.

Like this comment
Posted by Phil
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 3, 2011 at 2:32 pm

I don't think there is anything in the agreement about bikes, but I recall a lot of discussion about "multi-use" trails. Here is the agreement from the 2000 General Use Permit (as copied from
"2. Stanford shall dedicate easements for, develop, and maintain the portions of the two trail alignments which cross Stanford lands shown in the 1995 Santa Clara Countywide Trails Master Plan (Routes S1 and C1), according to the following timeline:
"a. In consultation with the County Parks and Recreation Department, Stanford shall identify trail easements and complete Agreements for Trail Easements within one year of GUP approval. For purposes of this condition, the term “easement” includes any other equally enforceable mechanism acceptable to the County Board of Supervisors.
"b. Stanford shall work with the County Parks and Recreation Department to identify responsibilities for trail construction, management and maintenance. An agreement regarding these issues, including but not limited to a time frame for implementation, shall be reached within one year of GUP approval."

I think for the next use agreement, the details of any trail alignments need to be worked out ahead of time--not after the agreement. Once the 2000 agreement was signed, Stanford came up with their suggested alignment. But Stanford wanted to solve problems with the county map alignments mostly by moving the trail alignments further "out" (away from the central campus) from the county maps, while trail advocates tried to move the routes "in" (closer to the central campus), in a way that they hoped would have allowed connections to the dish trails (something Stanford never agreed to and was firmly against). The county supervisors eventually sided with Stanford, with the one north county supervisor (Liz Kniss) casting the only no vote. I don't think there was any subterfuge on Stanford's part, but I'm not happy with the (likely in the case of C1) results.

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Posted by Phil
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 3, 2011 at 4:24 pm

As for bikes on paved trails, one good example of how to do this well is the Sawyer Camp Trail in San Mateo County. There is a paved center section with compacted unpaved paths on each side. Bikes are required to stay on the paved part, while hikers can avoid bikes by staying on the unpaved paths. This also discourages walkers from spreading three or four abreast over the center line and blocking the entire trail as often happens on the Bol Bike path in Palo Alto. Unfortunately, the new S1 trail section along Page Mill Rd is all paved, with the potential that hikers will spread out, ignore the center line, and wander into the path of overtaking bicyclists. I doubt they will do any better on the C1 trail, whether along Alpine Rd or not.

Like this comment
Posted by stanfordtrials(andtribulations)
a resident of another community
on Nov 3, 2011 at 10:28 pm

MJ--Good points. Stanford was to improve and make available two PRE-EXISTING trails, which were understood to be the two perfectly good trails extending from the dish area, under 280 and past Felt Lake. All they had to do was continue them on to Arastradero, which they could have done for under a million bucks.

Stanford should not be allowed ANY further development (I would have included the hospital, which is currently plenty big enough to take care of the "community"), until it make good on its previous promises.

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

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