Supes reject Stanford's $10.4 million trail offer

'It's over,' says Stanford spokesman Larry Horton

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.

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Like this comment
Posted by Dave
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 13, 2011 at 5:47 pm

Though I knew that this may be the outcome, I'm disappointed with the board.

Like this comment
Posted by bikes2work
a resident of Santa Rita (Los Altos)
on Dec 13, 2011 at 5:57 pm

It is a shame. The path is quite fun. My Wife and I took our 9 and 12 year old boys for a bike ride on the "mini loop" recently. We rode out Arastradero Road and then back to Stanford on this pathway a few weeks ago. There were a lot other people on it. We left the path and entered the bike lane just before 280. The path was just too degraded at that point.

I hope San Mateo County finds a way to improve it in some other way.

Like this comment
Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Dec 13, 2011 at 6:00 pm

This is good for Santa Clara because we get the money. However, the decision certainly makes the SM Supervisors (specifically Groom, Tissler and Gibson) look inept.

Like this comment
Posted by Alpine Trail Advocate
a resident of Portola Valley
on Dec 13, 2011 at 7:04 pm

The article expresses surprise that advocates for improving the trail weren't hanging around after the meeting.

Why should we have stayed? The Board of Supervisors had made its decision.

It was a terribly disappointing decision. We all put a lot of work into advocating for the trail and we lost. There was simply no point in hanging around and watching the "winners" (principally SWA residents) celebrate.

So the money now goes back to Santa Clara County where I hope it is put to good use.

And you know what?

San Mateo County still has a pile of problems to deal with in the Alpine Road corridor. Here are a few:
- The lower Alpine Trail is still in use and still needs maintenance.
---- The pavement is seriously compromised
---- The road crossings around SWA are unmarked and dangerous
---- The crossing of the I-280 North offramp is extremely dangerous
---- The underpass of the I-280 South onramp doesn't have the needed clearance and it floods in winter
- The creek is still eroding the trail and will need fixing.
- The traffic on lower Alpine Road is (or shortly will be) 25,000 cars a day.
- The traffic on the road will still impede entry/exit from Stanford Weekend acres.

Oh, and even though the trail is in bad shape, we still need to use it because there is no other reasonable route through that corridor for walkers, runners, and young cyclists.

We had a great opportunity here to address a lot of these problems.

I now look forward to hear what the supervisors plan to do next. They mentioned applying for grants to fix certain of these problems.

I'm not holding my breath.

Like this comment
Posted by not a trail
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 13, 2011 at 7:06 pm

Calling the project a multi-use trail is what doomed it from the beginning. If they called it a sidewalk, which is all it really is, then there would have been little opposition. That area is really too narrow and winding and with too many driveway crossings for a safe multi-use trail.

Like this comment
Posted by PJ Utz
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 13, 2011 at 11:24 pm

Interesting that advocates were criticized for not staying to discuss the results. Personally, I had a really sick patient to see in my clinic who trumped all, plus students to mentor, basketball to coach, and a flight to catch (am now in SoCal in fact sipping a cool martini and catching up on emails). Standing around discussing the Supervisors' decision is neither productive nor entertaining. The press and SWA residents may be surprised to learn that so many people in Ladera actually have day jobs and contribute to the community in many other ways. Congratulations to SWA on the 'win.' How will things be different in the morning? What of the quest to enter and exit their community, improve traffic flow, slow traffic, bolster faultering property values - and maintain a grip on the bike path where their cars are parked? Unfortunately, I suspect the community as a whole along the Alpine Road Corridor is not going to cede parking on a trail that belongs to the public just yet, certainly if traffic lights are to be installed someday. The opponents missed the most important point - the trail is in disrepair, it is on SWA frontage roads, and it is not going to be abandoned with a 'no' vote in Round 1. This was never about Stanford money. It was about the trail! PJ

Like this comment
Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Dec 13, 2011 at 11:48 pm

I think PJ Utz got it right.

Round 1 for the Nimbys.

So, bicyclists, what's the strategy for round 2?

Like this comment
Posted by cow tunnel
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 14, 2011 at 12:31 am

Round 2 is to pressure Stanford to open the cow tunnel trail to the public. This is an already existing trail that crosses under Hwy 280, giving people safe and easy access from the Stanford area to the Arastradero Preserve. Currently, Stanford prohibits the general public from using the trail.

Like this comment
Posted by Alpine Trail Advocate
a resident of Portola Valley
on Dec 14, 2011 at 8:31 am

I have no problem with asking Stanford to open more trails on their property. Opening the cow tunnel would be pretty cool. But that would be a recreational trail, not a useful connector trail.

Why do I make this distinction?

The trails in the Stanford hills are not suitable for commuter style access. They are too steep and too indirect.

Further, because the trails are on Stanford property, Stanford has liability issues that they have to manage. The trails are patrolled, are only open during specific daylight hours, and bicycles are not allowed.

If I need to get to work or my kid need to get to school, we need a reasonably direct, accessible trail that has bike access.

The lower Alpine Trail is exactly the trail we need.

So I think there are two separate round 2s:

The people who want trails purely for recreational opportunities can do as "cow tunnel" suggests.

The people who need school/work commuter routes need to continue to ask the San Mateo County Board Of Supervisors to do what they said they "could" do at the 12/13 meeting: seek other sources of funding to fix the lower Alpine Trail in its current configuration.

[By "current configuration" I mean doing the "modest improvements" mentioned by the Board of Supervisors. These include addressing the safety issues mentioned in my previous post and add repaving the trail at around its current width.]

Like this comment
Posted by FastWalker
a resident of Portola Valley
on Dec 14, 2011 at 8:37 am

Sadly, nobody won anything. The lousy trail remains, those who objected are still stuck with their traffic problems, and Stanford gets to do something else with the money that will offer little or no benefit to San Mateo County residents.

Like this comment
Posted by Phil
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 14, 2011 at 4:16 pm

I have mixed feeling about the result. I hope San Mateo county will take responsibility for fixing the Alpine road trail and make it once again suitable for jogging and young bicyclists. I think they missed an opportunity to make it happen in a timely manner during a time of shrinking budgets. I have a feeling that some residents who opposed taking Stanford's money would like to see the trail go away completely, which would be very short sighted and only encourage increased motor traffic. A sidewalk-sized path may result in less safety than a larger well-defined multi-use trail, as drivers will tend to give it little thought as they leave or enter Alpine from their subdivisions or driveways.

On the other hand, it did not make sense to me that money to compensate for development in Santa Clara County should be going to pay for San Mateo County improvements. Unfortunately the back up plan that the Santa Clara supervisors approved ends up with them getting the money, rather than returning to a trail that follows the original county maps (along the Santa Clara side of the creek). The latter would have clearly satisfied the original agreement with Stanford, even though it might have meant some minor relocation of the golf course or the nursery. Now that there won't be a fully developed multi-use trail on the San Mateo side, there is no longer as strong an argument that a trail in Santa Clara County would duplicate one just on the other side of the creek. I hope Santa Clara supervisors will revisit the issue, if not now (they will probably happily take Stanford's money and call it done), then when Stanford's next ten-year use permit comes up for consideration.

Like this comment
Posted by MarkA
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 14, 2011 at 6:45 pm

I know this might sound radical, but how about both sides getting together and coming up with a plan which is mutually satisfactory, instead of shrieking at each other.

Like this comment
Posted by more than 2 sides
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 14, 2011 at 6:54 pm

The problem is that there are many more than 2 sides. And some of them (especially Stanford) have ulterior motives that make them very hard to negotiate with.

Like this comment
Posted by down the tubes
a resident of another community
on Dec 15, 2011 at 9:45 am

Ooooooh, sPoOky. Stanford has "ulterior motives." Fine, San Mateo County, don't take a free $10 MILLION dollars because of a handful of NIMBYs. Santa Clara will be happy to take your money and I'll be happy to vote out the three nimrods that voted against this. You folks don't seem to realize that Palo Alto exists *because* of Stanford, not the other way around. Then they hand you a gift to help improve conditions of a trail that doesn't really impact them and you throw it in their face. Nice job.

Like this comment
Posted by Jim H.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 15, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Stanford is not going to open up the Cow tunnel, they made that clear when they settled on these routes for the trail.

Stanford's "ulterior motive" is to maintain control over as much of their land as they can as an educational facility or, as is the case with the research park, mall, etc..., make money on their real estate investments.

I'd like a nice direct route to parks and schools around me, also, but I don't expect a trail to go through my neighbor's property in order to make that happen. Stanford can't be expected to clean up the mistakes made by the surrounding counties and/or cities by not providing adequate trails to begin with.

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

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