Supervisors to face music on Stanford trail offer

The issue returns to the supervisors Dec. 13

Moments of truth have come and gone for the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, Stanford University and the residents of Ladera and Stanford Weekend Acres in the five-year odyssey to determine the fate of a rickety asphalt path along the south side of Alpine Road that passes by both communities.

Another moment, perhaps the moment, is coming Tuesday (Dec. 13) at 9 a.m. when the supervisors meet to weigh in a third time on a 2006 offer from Stanford to pay millions of dollars to upgrade the roadside path that leads east from Portola Valley to Menlo Park as well as Palo Alto and Stanford.

The board, which rejected Stanford's offer in 2006 and 2010, meets in the Hall of Justice and Records at 400 County Center (corner of Bradford Street and Hamilton Avenue) in Redwood City.

Stanford's offer expires Dec. 31 unless the supervisors ask for an extension and agree to have various path options studied at Stanford's expense. And there is the rub. The supervisors in November added three options to Stanford's original three.

Stanford has offered up to $10.4 million (inflation adjusted) to study three options, then building one of the two that involve actual construction and paying for it with the remaining funds.

Those three options are:

• Move sections of Alpine Road north to make room for an adequate trail on the south side of the road.

• Leave Alpine Road alone and make do without the extra space.

• Do nothing because the trail cannot be made safe.

A majority on the Board of Supervisors added three more options on Nov. 1:

• Build a trail that hugs the north side of Alpine Road into Menlo Park after crossing at Piers Lane (to avoid Weekend Acres).

• Build a trail that crosses Alpine at Piers Lane, hugs the north side of the road and re-crosses at Stowe Lane to continue into Menlo Park (to avoid Weekend Acres).

• Upgrade the existing trail on the south side of the road between Portola Valley and Piers Lane and stop (to avoid Weekend Acres).

The common theme in the last three options -- avoiding Stanford Weekend Acres -- is at the heart of what adds controversy to what might otherwise seem a welcome infrastructure investment from a wealthy neighbor, particularly in hard economic times.

Supervisor Dave Pine introduced the alternative options, adding that the trail cannot be left as it is. Board president Carole Groom and supervisors Adrienne Tissier and Rose 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 additions.

Asked for a reaction at the time, Stanford spokesman Larry Horton smiled and said, "We'll see in December."

A recent poll of 180 Weekend Acres residents regarding a trail between Piers Lane and Menlo Park showed opposition by 165 respondents, or 83 percent. The poll, which the Almanac has seen, involved visits to 128 of the 130 total households, of which 106 responded, said resident Ginger Holt, who surveyed the community.

Space is scarce for a two-way trail on Alpine Road as it passes Weekend Acres, and residents talk of long waits to pull in and out of the neighborhood. County Public Works studies show 18,000 vehicle trips daily on Alpine Road running by Weekend Acres. Residents worry that an improved trail would draw cyclists and pedestrians and make things worse.

The trail's right-of-way is a) wildly inconsistent in width and topography, which could affect heritage trees and what remains of Weekend Acres' secluded lifestyle; b) located along a twisting, heavily traveled two-lane artery where speed-limit violations may get worse if the project straightens part of Alpine Road; and c) is unsafe, according to practically everyone.

But an improved trail for pedestrians, cyclists, kids and dogs could add to headaches for Weekend Acres residents who have to cross it to get into and out of their community.

Ladera residents, by and large, tend to support the proposal to upgrade the path. The right-of-way in Ladera is relatively uncomplicated by comparison: it is flat, straight, wide, not so near the creek, and not running alongside heavy commute traffic in and out of Stanford, Menlo Park and Palo Alto twice a day.

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Like this comment
Posted by bike lanes instead
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 8, 2011 at 9:28 am

They should use the money to stripe standard bicycle lanes on Alpine Road. The current bike lanes are too narrow and the width is inconsistent.

Like this comment
Posted by its mine
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 8, 2011 at 10:49 am

I think this issue is dominated by the fact that the homeowners along the road have incorporated the public's trail/walkway/path right-of-way into their own yards and off street parking. All of the excuses sound a bit like a smoke screen.

Like this comment
Posted by Sidewalk
a resident of University South
on Dec 8, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Why not just fix the existing narrow path and make it a sidewalk? It could be used for walking and jogging. Then fix the bike lanes on Alpine and bikes can use that. It's silly to have a bike path right next to a road with bike lanes.

We have seen a bicycle fatality at the Alpine/280 intersection, and fixing the problems there would be a better use of this money.

Like this comment
Posted by bike lanes instead
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 8, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Making the path a sidewalk for pedestrians and children only sounds fine with me. Install real bike lanes on the street for adult bicyclists.

Like this comment
Posted by bikes2work
a resident of Santa Rita (Los Altos)
on Dec 8, 2011 at 10:22 pm

So we all have to suffer because Weekend Acres was a poorly planned development? The property layout really looks like a hodgepodge on Google Maps.

How about combining the "trail" with a true frontage road to connect all of Weekend Acres? Then they can place a signalized intersection at Stowe or Bishop for easier ingress and egress for all of these residents. Part of the frontage road already exists as Wildwood Lane and Alpine Lane. Wildwood Lane to Stowe appears to have enough right-of-way for a frontage road. To complete it, a modified driveway around a single property at the end of Homer Lane could provide the connection between Homer Lane and Wildwood Lane. The County has the power to make that happen. It would be safer for everyone.

The existing trail is pretty decent between Arastradero and 280 and then from Rural Lane all the way to Stock Farm Road into Stanford. It would be a real shame to see this generous offer tossed away.

Like this comment
Posted by TreesplusSafety
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 9, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Keep the heritage trees alive!!, so you have to have make space or the trees WILL die.
Other than that, I don't know what is the best idea..for safety, and visuals/beauty.

Like this comment
Posted by john
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 12, 2011 at 6:31 pm

I've seen this story a few times and always kind of thought it was nimbyism opposition. Finally remembered to take a jog along there last weekend.

The trail isn't in good shape in places, and I didn't see many other people along there. Then again, it's right on top of the road - not my idea of a hiking destination. I'm not sure how you could squeeze a path in front of Weekend Acres. There is no path/right of way along that part currently. Maybe on the other side of the road but you'd have to cut down a lot of trees. A dedicated bike path would definitely improve things for bikers. However it still has to cross two ramps for 280, and would dump out presumably on Sand Hill Road. Wouldn't be happy having my kids biking that route with or without a trail.

All in all I was left thinking it's a weird plan. I can understand why Stanford doesn't want to use its own land for a trail, but they could come up with a million better ways to use $10m in mitigation....

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

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