The 3-2 vote on Tuesday (Dec. 13) was different than the unanimous votes in 2006 and 2010, but the outcome was the same: the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors rejected an inflation-adjusted offer of $10.4 million from Stanford University to upgrade a deteriorating asphalt path that runs along the south side of Alpine Road between Portola Valley and Menlo Park.
The offer, which would also have paid for studies of trail design and environmental impacts, sharply divided the unincorporated communities of Ladera, where upgrading the path was uncomplicated, and Stanford Weekend Acres, where the complications were many.
The board faced a Dec. 31 deadline, after which Stanford's offer for a two-year extension will expire. Board President Carole Groom and supervisors Adrienne Tissier and Rose Jacobs Gibson rejected a motion proposed by Supervisor Don Horsley and seconded by Supervisor Dave Pine to ask Stanford for the extension.
The board chambers, which seats 115, was half empty by the time of the vote but standing room only at the start of the discussion. Ms. Groom said she received requests to speak from 60 people, a turnout similar to the November meeting, when speakers had 90 seconds each; this time, they had 60.
A few people, many of them opponents of Stanford's offer, stayed in the hallway outside the board chambers after the decision.
"Incredible relief is what I feel," said Lennie Roberts, an environmental activist and resident of Ladera who had urged the board repeatedly not to take the money. "It was anybody's guess as to the outcome," she added. "I think in the end, the women recognized how you (can) impose this on a community."
"I'm amazed it was that close," Weekend Acres resident Walter Nelson said, adding that he credited the decision to research that showed extreme danger in building a multi-use trail next to a busy road, research he said he expected to be ignored.
"It's over," Stanford spokesman Larry Horton said. It has been Mr. Horton's job since 2006 to present Stanford's offer and be an ear witness to diatribes from Weekend Acres residents characterizing him and his employer as having base and ulterior motives. "The board has acted," Mr., Horton added. "We accept that with good faith."
"I don't know how an elected official can turn down a study and $10 million in private money. I'm very disappointed," said Portola Valley Councilwoman Maryann Moise Derwin, who spoke to the board in favor of Stanford's offer.
Though public comment was about evenly split, advocates for Stanford's offer were few in the hallway after the meeting. P.J. Utz, a Ladera resident and ardent advocate of upgrading the path, spoke at the meeting but commented via email: "The Supervisors have spoken," he said.