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December 16, 2005

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Friday, December 16, 2005

Trails approval closes lengthy chapter Trails approval closes lengthy chapter (December 16, 2005)

County supervisors support Stanford hiking-trails plans

by Don Kazak

Stanford University's proposed plans to build two hiking trails were approved by a 4-1 vote by Santa Clara County's Board of Supervisors Tuesday afternoon, capping a five-year dispute over the exact location of the routes.

The vote satisfies a long-standing requirement of the general-use permit approved for Stanford in December 2000. But it left some people unhappy -- especially the two score people who spoke against the plan Tuesday and wore bright green pocket stickers reading "No Alpine Sidewalk." Many were San Mateo County residents living along the northern trail, which will be built along Alpine Road.

A southern trail near Page Mill Road was not challenged.

"I'm very troubled by the resistance to the (northern) trail," said Liz Kniss, chairperson of the board of supervisors, who was the lone vote against the proposal.

The northern trail is only one-third on Stanford lands and requires subsequent approval from Portola Valley and San Mateo County. If that approval is not obtained in five to seven years, the $11.2 million cost of building the trail -- paid by Stanford -- will go Santa Clara County's Parks Department.

Among those who spoke at Tuesday's meeting was Diane Schiano, who lives on Alpine Road. She said the northern trail "is not a trail. It's a widening of Alpine Road. I don't know why a mitigation (for Stanford development) should be made in my county," she said.

John Matthews, who lives near Alpine Road, agreed. "You are forcing the solution onto San Mateo County and me."

"We oppose it," Brian Schmidt, of the Committee for Green Foothills, said. "We think it is illegal" because the trail would not be on Stanford lands. He said his group is considering filing a lawsuit challenging the county board's decision.

Michael Closson, executive director of the Palo Alto environmental group Acterra, noted that negotiations over the location of the two trails has gone on for more than five years, while the general-use permit required approval of the trails by December 2001.

"Stanford has made dragging things into a fine art," Closson said. "We think it is a ridiculous option," he said about the Alpine Road location.

Stanford also had its defenders, however.

"The trails dispute has dragged on for more than five years," Palo Alto resident Sally Probst said. "It is time for an agreement."

An alternate proposal by Kniss -- that the northern trail alignment be rejected and the $11.2 million go straight into a special fund in the parks department -- failed to get a second.

County Manager Pete Kutras reported to the board at the outset of the meeting that "we have diligently pursued other options" for the northern trail.

Both routes were required of Stanford as part of the impact mitigations for approval of its general use permit -- which allows Stanford to build up to 2 million square feet of new academic space and 3,000 housing units.

Senior Staff Writer Don Kazak can be reached at

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