State high court rejects Stanford trails lawsuit | February 12, 2010 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - February 12, 2010

State high court rejects Stanford trails lawsuit

Ruling clears way for construction of southern trail, but northern Alpine Road alignment still stalled

by Jay Thorwaldson

Stanford University can proceed with building a new trail link to the foothills along Page Mill Road, according to a state Supreme Court ruling issued Thursday.

The ruling rejects claims in a lawsuit filed by the Midpeninsula-based Committee for Green Foothills that Stanford and Santa Clara County missed a crucial deadline in starting work on two trails on the south and north boundaries of Stanford lands.

The trails are required as mitigation for a "general use permit" granted to Stanford by Santa Clara County for a long-term expansion of Stanford campus and housing buildings.

"Absolutely, for sure, full speed ahead," Larry Horton, Stanford senior associate vice president for public affairs, said Thursday when asked if the ruling means that work on the southern trail will commence.

The trail is actually a bike lane that follows Page Mill and a trail that veers off at Deer Creek Road and winds up over a steep parcel of land along the site of a horse-pasturing operation.

The Supreme Court overturned an appeals court ruling that a key deadline had been missed.

The Committee for Green Foothills lawsuit actually challenged only the northern trail alignment. But the university maintained both trails were linked as part of the same county requirement and that Stanford could not proceed with the southern trail until the lawsuit was resolved.

Horton said start of construction on the southern trail will depend on weather conditions this spring.

Meanwhile, the northern trail has been stalled due to a refusal by San Mateo County to accept a multi-million-dollar offer by Stanford to rebuild parts of Alpine Road to make way for a paved pedestrian/bike path link instead of a trail along Los Trancos Creek.

Brian Schmidt, legislative advocate for the Committee for Green Foothills, said Thursday he is disappointed in the ruling, but that San Mateo County's position still remains as a challenge to the alignment proposed by Stanford.

"The end of litigation means that San Mateo County's previous decision and any potential change of mind will ultimately decide the trail issue," he said. "If San Mateo County continues to reject the sidewalk expansion, Stanford must provide an equivalent amount of money to Santa Clara County Parks Department to mitigate for impacts caused by the massive new development permitted on campus since 2000."

Schmidt said he understands San Mateo County will take up the alignment question again later this year.

Weekly Editor Jay Thorwaldson can be e-mailed at


Posted by Sarah, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 11, 2010 at 1:29 pm

Are we finally going to get a child-safe bike route from Midtown Palo Alto to Arastradero Preserve? The current bike lane along the median of Page Mill Expressway under I-280 is a death trap.

Posted by Big Al, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 11, 2010 at 1:41 pm

that's a very good question sarah.
in the meantime may i suggest taking arastradero rd. via bol park via matadero via park blvd.

Posted by Bravo to the court, a resident of Stanford
on Feb 11, 2010 at 1:45 pm

This is great news. It is about time this issue was settled and it is about time that Committee for Green Foothills was put in it's place. They have no respect for private property rights--look at how they are trying to control Stanford land. They thought they could form a committee with a nice sounding name and then tell Stanford what it can do with it's land. Bravo to the court.

Posted by Sarah, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 11, 2010 at 2:37 pm

Arastradero Road is not safe for children, even when accompanied by adults. It is too narrow with too many speeding cars, especially in the section between I-280 and Page Mill. Plus, that is a longer and hillier route, making it even more difficult for children.

Posted by Big Al, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 11, 2010 at 4:57 pm

Yes sarah, you are most likely correct again!

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 12, 2010 at 12:29 pm

Sarah, I'm unaware of any plan to create child-safe bike passages to the Arastradero Preserve. And given the state, county and city budget issues, I wouldn't bet on anything happening for years and years.

Posted by Alan Mutter, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 12, 2010 at 3:19 pm

Great. This is great news moving this ahead. This Committee has been obstructive. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] The sun does set on this, finally.

A win for sound reason.

Posted by Sarah, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 12, 2010 at 6:50 pm

Isn't the entire purpose of the Stanford "southern trail" to give walkers and bicyclists a safe route from the southern end of Stanford under I-280 to the Arastradero Preserve?

Posted by pecuniac, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 13, 2010 at 12:34 pm

Is Stanford a corporation with all the rights of a "person"? Do they have a right to do whatever they want with land that they have title to even if that land is a substantial part of our local "Commons"?

Posted by Sarah, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 13, 2010 at 1:22 pm

No one has complete free reign to do what they want with their property. We must abide by health and safety codes, building permits, zoning regulations, environmental effects on our neighbors, etc. As part of this process, in the year 2000 Stanford agreed to build these public trails along the north and south edges of their property westwards across I-280. After 10 years of stalling, neither trail has been built yet. It looks like Stanford has no intention of keeping their contractual promises.

Posted by It's over, a resident of Stanford
on Feb 13, 2010 at 4:16 pm

Sarah--but the property belongs to Stanford, is that not correct? They allow to use it out of the kindness of theer heart. Stanford has abided by the terms of the contract--it is the land-grab organization Committee for the Green foothills that never seems to be satisfied. In the early days it was Denice dade and now it is Brian Schmidt--with their puppet Liz Kniss- who have no respect for private property rights and for some reason feel that Stanford's property is theirs to what they please with it.
i guess people like you feel that if you set up a committee with a fancy name, you can do whatever you want

Posted by Frank, a resident of Ventura
on Feb 16, 2010 at 7:21 am

'resident of Stanford' - Do you get the irony of this? Where did Stanford (Leland Stanford) get much of the land to build his rail road? Our government took it from folks and gave it to him for his use. Hi took his profits from this and built a University and now private property advocates defend Stanford University saying the government should not take any SU land or even insist they build a trail.

Perhaps even more ironic is if Stanford had not been there that area would be all homes, roads and strip malls, like the surrounding towns and no one would want to hike there.

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