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Future of Lower Alpine Trail Uncertain

San Mateo County Supervisors studying issue.

The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors voted to put off making the final decision on whether to accept an $8.4 million dollar offer from Stanford University to along Alpine Road between Menlo Park and Portola Valley.

The contentious issue that has long divided residents from the Ladera and Stanford Weekend Acres communities in unincorporated San Mateo County that are connected by the trail was brought back before the board for what was supposed to be a final time Tuesday afternoon.

But instead, the board voted 4-1 to spend the time leading up to their December 13 meeting finding whether Stanford would agree to shift configuration of the trail, and alter other contract details, before taking a final vote.

Supervisor , who was the sole dissenting vote against postponing the decision, said she unconditionally opposed accepting the university's money. Groom has twice voted against the project in the past.

Residents in the Weekend Acres community overwhelmingly oppose the project, claiming that the additional traffic that will be brought to their neighborhood will be a detriment, among other concerns.

Yet members of the Ladera community encourage San Mateo County to accept Stanford University's money to study how the trail can be improved; they are in favor of the increased connectivity it would offer to neighborhood residents who want to get to Stanford Shopping Center, and other surrounding areas.

Both sides of the issue agree that the trail is in dire need of repair, citing how dangerously close it is to the traffic-heavy . Erosion has shifted portions of the trail against San Franciscquito Creek.

The disagreements lie in differing opinions of how much repair work needs to be done and where the will trail lead if the decision is made to re-reoute it.

Nearly 40 speakers attending Tuesday's meeting provided perspective to the board on how they believe the project should proceed. Most from Stanford Weekend Acres proposed that the board shoot down the offer from Stanford once and for all, while those from Ladera pled to have a better trail built that they could use to walk and bike on.

Attorney and San Jose State law professor Joseph Dworak spoke to the board in favor of the project being approved. The Ladera resident said his daughter recently crashed while riding her bike on the trail, due to its ill state of repair.

"The new trail is needed. And the trail is needed now," said Dworak.

But John Peterson, who lives in Stanford Weekend Acres, said the proposal should be rejected, because no amount of engineering or studying can be done to satisfy everyone living near it. Peterson's 12-year-old son Ian spoke to the board after his father and echoed the same sentiments.

"I hope we can keep our neighborhood the way it is without having a huge construction project on our street," he said.

Representatives from Stanford have set a self-imposed deadline for the board to vote in favor of accepting the money, but have also expressed willingness to extend the deadline should that be the wish of the county.

If the supervisors elect to decline the university's offer, the money would then be given to Santa Clara County for similar trail projects.

The comes as part of an agreement between Stanford and Santa Clara County as a trade-off for the school's ongoing expansion projects.

Brian Schmidt November 08, 2011 at 01:44 AM
Again, it is factually incorrect to say the funds for a grant program would be used for solely for the benefit of on-campus residents. The Environmental Impact Report for Stanford's campus clearly identified the promised trail easements as mitigation for cumulative impacts that occur off campus as well as on-campus. The done deal, signed in ink, states that Stanford has to give the money to Santa Clara County Parks Department if it fails to reach an agreement, and that money can then be used for both on and off-campus mitigation.
Brian Schmidt November 08, 2011 at 01:51 AM
I work for Committee for Green Foothills. Unfortunately, Mr. Utz misunderstands both the facts and the law in this issue. As for the facts, the C1 Trail is identified in the 1995 Santa Clara County Trails Master Plan Map as being on the Santa Clara County side of the County line, on Stanford land. Much of the controversy over the last 10 years has resulted from Stanford's attempt to ignore the map identification without doing environmental review of that change. As to the law, it provides two possible deadlines - 30 days or 180 days. The appellate court agreed with us that the 180 day deadline applied. The California Supreme Court disagreed. I assume Mr. Utz was unaware of that lower court decision because how otherwise could he have been aware of it and made his accusation that it was a legally-baseless "political move" in good faith. And the case resolved only the deadline issue, not the proper trail location. I am not very familiar with the original Stanford Weekend Acres lawsuit, but I believe it was settled. Maybe someone else can comment. The hear of this issue is not wasting the 10 million dollars on an environmentally-destructive and unsafe sidewalk-widening project that provides virtually no recreational benefits. The money is already obligated because Stanford has expanded its campus operations, so the public deserves something much better, safer, and more environmentally sound than what they've offered.
M. Peterson November 08, 2011 at 10:44 AM
A few comments to set the record straight. The poll is fatally flawed, but at least while it still shows overwhelming opposition, it tracks rather well with the opinions expressed for and against Stanford's trail proposal at the November 1st BOS meeting. Also, please note that many SWA residents were unable to attend the meeting but were able to vote in the poll. Those of us living in SWA would love to see a recreational trail that our kids (and we) could ride on safely. But, we're smart enough to know that putting a bi-directional, multi-use trail with bikes, kids, and joggers directly in the path of traffic is a very bad idea. We are not the enemy. We just don't want to have to worry about hitting a runner, cyclist, or child traversing smack in front of our cars each time we leave our homes or return. Even if the cars from our some 140 homes crossing that trail don't worry you, the UPS truck, garbage truck, Alplundh Tree Service truck, and PG&E truck that rumble across it should. And by the way, what kind of physician advocates children riding across busy interstate freeway ramps and in front of cross traffic, anyway? First, do no harm. Then, look for alternatives.
pj utz November 08, 2011 at 05:09 PM
M. Peterson is correct on one thing - the poll is indeed fatally flawed! Not even worth addressing, nor is it worth addressing the issue of the numbers for and against. The second County meeting was overwhelmingly in favor of fixing the trail... Regarding a trail - you ALREADY have one,and it runs ON your frontage roads. There is an EXISTING danger. A "yes" vote enables the county to study how to make it safer. Your danger arguments are illogical - it is so dangerous now that it can only get better. As for a physician advocating kids using this trail, you obviously have not read anything i've written. In its current condition, I strongly discourage kids from using the trail. If studied and fixed (and the fixes are actually easy and cost taxpayers nothing), this become an awesome and safe trail for everyone. The County can study dropping the trail underneath the 280 off ramp, completely eliminating that danger - as one example. It is a shame SWA is trying to force the County to abandon an existing trail and holding the entire corridor hostage. Good luck with your property values, noise, pollution and health. A "win" for SWA with a "no" vote? SWA loses more than anyone else! Keep sticking your heads in the sand and hope to wake up to less traffic and easier exodus from your little island. Sooner or later it just might happen!
pj utz November 08, 2011 at 05:31 PM
Regarding J Peterson's posting: Again, you really, really need to learn the facts here. David Holland presented studies suggesting the feasiblity of an 8 FOOT WIDE TRAIL. This would connect the 8 FOOT WIDE existing Stanford trail with the 8 FOOT WIDE Town of Portola Valley trail that is nearing completion (and it is gorgeous, thank you TOPV!). We've heard from Lennie Roberts and Janet Davis repeatedly over the years that this is going to be a 20 foot trail. At least now the width you are describing is down to 12 feet. But in fact it really would be 8 feet per David Holland - and David noted publicly that in some areas near the creek and 280 it would be less than 8 feet to preserve the environment. So please, keep the facts straight. Someone is feeding you incorrect data. Regarding crossing 7 driveways - as it CURRENTLY EXISTS, the EXISTING C1 TRAIL crosses 7 driveways (I assume you are correct, I will count them on my bike ride home tonight, but will give you the benefit of the doubt). Now go over to the residents on Sand Hill Road and see what would result from MOVING the EXISTING TRAIL off your frontage road and placing it closer to the road. This reduces the number of driveways/streets crossed in SWA to 1 or 2. A claer improvement in safety over the existing condition. I have already addressed the 280 interchange - you are absolutely correct, as it exists now, it is a death trap and needs to be fixed. we agree.
pj utz November 08, 2011 at 05:56 PM
Regarding Mr Schmidt's comment. If the money leaves San Mateo County, it goes to another County with no jurisdiction over this EXISTING C1 TRAIL. I am not going to speculate regarding for what the money will ultimately be used. I'll speculate on things for which it will not be used. It most certainly will not be used for a Regional Grants Program. It will not be used for trails on Arastradero Road or Upper Alpine Road. It will not be used by CGF to pay for CGF legal expenses, including those incurred when they lost their Supreme Court case. It will not be used to fix the C1 trail or to install lights for SWA. I will speculate that there will be years more fighting in court over the funds. I will also speculate that the SCRL (Stanford Homeowners Association), which represents faculty and staff living in over 1,000 different units on campus, will have their own strong opinions on the use of these funds. Last I checked, Stanford Faculty as a group are pretty intelligent, highly motivated, and have lots of law professors who may even work for free.
janet davis November 08, 2011 at 07:48 PM
P.J. Utz does not know what he is talking about. All the bicycle manuals: Federal, State and San Mateo County have requirements for bi-directional mult-use trails. Next to a busy road they have to be 12 feet wide with a min. 5 ft separation from the roadway and a barricade at least 42 in. high between the road and the trail. Further, there never was a TRAIL along the SWA part of Alpine. Also, CGF did not LOSE their case, they filed their papers late and thus it was a purely technical decision. If we are talking "vocal," PJU takes the biscuit for that. He and all the other Stanford boosters and shills need to get their facts right
pj utz November 08, 2011 at 08:01 PM
If "the bicycle manuals, Federal, State, and San Mateo County have requirements for bi-directional multi-use trails of 12 feet widths and 5 feet of separation and 42 inch barricades." then how is it that TOPV and Stanford have built 8 foot wide trails??? Sorry Janet, but these are recommendations. You might drive up to the new trail being completed and pull out a tape measure. You are just plain wrong. As for a trail in SWA not existing - wrong again - it is on official County and City Trail Maps. A continuous trail exists there, called the C1 trail. Finally, regarding losing - CGF lost. Just as in football you can lose on a penalty, or a fumble, or a missed field goal - CGF lost. Had they filed in time they would have lost a different way. But they lost yet again. Make no bones about it - a "no" vote means almost everyone loses except for Stanford campus residents. I'll be vocal up until this is decided. I'm sure you will be also. And I respect and appreciate the opinions of everyone.
Greg Richardson November 08, 2011 at 09:01 PM
We can all appreciate the need for Safety. That said, if that's our overriding concern, why wouldn't we want to change what is today a horrifically unsafe situation for pedestrians and children on bikes. Safe enough is an objective measurement but clearly more safe today will be easier to identify and that is what Stanford's proposal provides - A far safer situation than presently exists. It would be good for those opposed to Stanford's proposal to suggest an alternative that allows pedestrians and children bikers to safely navigate Alpine Road
For Safe Trails November 08, 2011 at 10:56 PM
Mr Utz, regarding your statement "This poll is a complete waste of time. . . so faulted that it rivals the ridiculous poll in Weekend Acres", I am a lifelong market researcher and I defined and oversaw the methodology for the petition signing process, which you have dubbed "the ridiculous poll" in Stanford Weekend Acres. I invite you to meet and I will review the methods used for sampling, recontacting and recording and reporting responses. As a scientist, I trust this will carry greater weight than uninformed emotional rhetoric. I will send you my contact information via email.
bike hiker November 09, 2011 at 12:53 AM
Calling the Alpine trail the C-1 trail is like calling a mud puddle a swimming pool. In your wildest dreams it might be but in reality it is not, at least not yet. The C-1 trail is a proposal NOTHING more than that! The Alpine trail is a federally funded bike and pedestrian trail built in the 60's (Wow, that is around 50 YRS ago!) Don't call it the C-1 trail unless you insist on being incorrigibly, factually incorrect. The C-1 trail route I like best starts at Piers Lane east of the Los Trancos bridge, goes down the old dirt road along the creek past the confluence with San Francisquito, past the sweatlodge and continues along the edge of the woods joining up with the bike trail just past Rural Lane. The beauty about my preferred route is that it will give us an evacuation route in case we can't use Alpine Road such as what might happen in an earthquake or an accident like the wire from power pole on Junipero Serra that went down in a storm a few months ago blocking the road for hours! No way emergency crew were getting through that mess!
Erics Lai November 09, 2011 at 01:14 AM
The center of this issue is that Stanford has the obligation to build 2 recreational trails on it's OWN land for public use. Stanford should stick to their words.
commuter November 09, 2011 at 01:21 AM
I agree with Erics. Stanford should build the trails on its own land. And both trails should run from the Stanford campus to the Arastradero Preserve (west of Hwy 280).
Greg Richardson November 09, 2011 at 01:26 AM
I'm trying to understand how Stanford's obligation to build two trails on their own land impacts the goal of making Alpine Road safer than it is today? Can't we have both? If we have to choose, I would take making Alpine Road safer today than connecting the dish trail to Arastradero preserve or something that only adds to the public's ability to better traverse or enjoy recreational areas.
pj utz November 09, 2011 at 03:32 AM
I would love to meet but am placing my efforts on December 13, not on pools that double-counted residents. I have already confirmed that many residents for the trail were never polled. Meeting with you wil lnto change anything. I also do not meet with unidentified people on the internet. Very clearly there are only ~130-140 homes in SWA but many more 'votes.' Good luck trying to get it published!
commuter November 09, 2011 at 03:35 AM
I don't see how the proposed trail will make Alpine Road safer for anyone. For pedestrians, the proposed trial will not be any safer than the existing sidewalk. Same goes for very young bicyclists (who ride at walking speeds). For older bicyclists, the trail creates a huge problem since it is only on one side of the road and bicyclists heading in the other direction face a dangerous situation trying to get to or from the trail. Most bicyclists will continue to use the road anyway since a sidewalk is really only appropriate for walking speeds. However, the pickup truck crowd will now yell at bicyclists to get on the sidewalk. If Stanford wants to create a genuinely useful trail, they should look at what Mountain View has done with the Stevens Creek Trail. That is a long straight trail that gives trail users a car-free alternative to dangerous freeway interchanges and connects numerous neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, and shopping districts. Stanford's proposal is essentially a sidewalk to nowhere. The same goes for Stanford's Page Mill trail that mysteriously ends in the middle of a horse pasture, when everyone was expecting it to continue across Hwy 280 to the Arastradero Preserve.
pj utz November 09, 2011 at 03:42 AM
Erics and Commuter: You should read the wording of the GUP and also the agreement voted on by SCC 5 years ago. I read them to see precisely what Stanford must do. They are not required to build a trail on the other side of the creek, as much as we all may have eanted this. Moreover, I met with a Stanford administrator in person to go over the maps - and it turns out that the existing trail minking the 2 points you describe is already >50% on Stanford lands. We all need to stop fighting a battle that was lost 5 years ago, take Stanford's funding to study the options, then fix the whole corridor.
Greg Richardson November 09, 2011 at 03:44 AM
Commuter, There is currently no sidewalk from Piers Lane to Bishop Road where it reappears before disappearing again until you cross Stowe Lane. And even where there is a sidewalk it is very narrow, making it impossible for more than one bike to be on it at a time. An 8'+ wide dedicated trail will be significantly safer. Walk or bike on the trail that exists from 280 up Alpine Road through Portola Valley and compare that to what is currently in place on the east side of 280 along Alpine Road. The difference in safety and recreational value is immense. Greg
Another SU Professor's Family November 09, 2011 at 05:57 AM
I wonder how Mr. Utz would feel if they put a 42-inch wall in front of his house, as they will have to do to make the sidewalk safe from the speeding cars on Alpine. That's what would have to happen to the homes that now are on the frontage road.
Another SU Professor's Family November 09, 2011 at 06:43 AM
I love where I live. When we moved here 25 years ago, we looked at 60 houses in our price range. I hated them all. When I saw our SWA house for the first time, I called my husband and said--it's rural, there are trees. A tree lover (he can identify most), he came to look at it immediately and we wrote a contract that night. We didn't buy our house because maybe there would be a recreational trail in the area one day. We knew it wasn't perfect. Not many in this area can afford perfect. We choose what is most important to us. We knew we couldn't walk to school or to town, but if that was most important, we wouldn't have bought this house. Over the years the traffic has grown exponentially. It's much less rural. I fear that soon, everything we love will be gone. The street will look like Sand Hill Road. Many of the trees that are across the way will be gone along with the hillside. I'll no longer be able to look out my door and see "our" police car cows because there will be a wall there instead. How sad.
M. Peterson November 09, 2011 at 08:05 AM
Response to PJ Utz: Ironic, isn't it how even a flawed poll can speak the truth? Its numbers match the overwhelming opposition expressed at the BOS meeting. There was also strong opposition at the county meeting. And yes, PJ, we know there's an old footpath across SWA. How do we know? Because we drive across it every day. So do a lot of trucks. Big trucks. Use of that part of the trail should be discouraged, not expanded. Even if we try to stay on guard against hitting trail users, trucks rumbling across that trail will not. It's "magical thinking" to believe more study will solve this problem. Try logic. An SMC traffic official has already ruled out a 280 off ramp underpass, saying it's not feasible. Even if that were resolved, though, cars and trucks would still keep rolling over that trail at six more places along SWA. It crosses traffic at 280, Piers Lane, Bishop Lane, two entrances to Wildwood, a residential driveway before Stowe, and Stowe Lane. (Rural Lane is also zoned residential.) Even an on-demand light at Piers or Bishop doesn't solve the problem of cars and trucks rumbling over the trail -- remember, we have "right turn on red." If Stanford's funds can be used to build a beautiful trail on an alternative route, one that will take kids and other trail users safely out of the line of cross traffic and one that will not encroach on someone's yard, then we all win. We might even end up with a trail I'd be willing to let my kids use.
pj utz November 09, 2011 at 03:55 PM
There are 2 major problem areas for hikers and bikers. The first is 280. All of us agree this is a problem on both sides. A biker lost her life on the other side a year ago. I am not aware of any study stating that the trail could not drop down below 280. I've studied it and think it can be done, but I acknowledge that I am not an SMC engineer nor did I stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night. The trail drops down at the other 280 pass, so it should be do-able there too. It can and should be studied. The other danger area begins at Piers Lane, goes along the narrow guard rail with drop off on the right, and proceeds until SWA is in the rear view mirror. The possiblity exists to create a private frontage road (or two) for SWA in these places with a single point of exodus and a traffic light. The trail would be moved off the frontage road. This would mean a single point (the light) would be a danger area. This should also be studied. Common sense and the experience on Sand Hill tells us that it would be safer than the existing condition. David Holland noted this also. A trail elsewhere would be nice too but it is not on the table. Instead of blaming each other for this, we should blame SCC which crafted the documents in 1999 and then clarified positions in 2006. This is the hand we've been dealt.
Another SU Professor's Family November 09, 2011 at 05:12 PM
And all of this (including the environmental studies) can be done for $10million? More magical thinking? Or will the rest of this money be coming from our poor students and seniors?
M. Peterson November 09, 2011 at 09:02 PM
Sorry, PJ. I think you should give it a rest. An SMC Traffic Control Official at one of the county meetings said the county will not put an underpass at 280 because it's not feasible. His only suggestion was to take away the right turn curve. In terms of creating one or two frontage roads and a separate space for the trail, are you serious? There is no space for the current proposed trail, so how are you planning to fit a new frontage road or two for all of SWA plus separate the trail from that road without serious property destruction? Remember, SWA residents do have homes that back up to or front Alpine. And if you were to create this frontage road and separate the trail from it, you would have made the problem worse! First, we would all have only one exit which would be a disaster in case of fire or emergency evacuation. But on a daily basis, every time one of us pulls in or out, we would then have to look out for cross traffic at the frontage road, we'd have to watch for cyclists or runners on the trail, and then we'd have to deal with normal Alpine traffic. Ironically, the light would do nothing to solve the problem of cars and trucks rolling directly over the trail. Even with a light, all vehicles can turn right on red. And all cars coming or going at SWA have to drive over the trail. Yes, there was a tragic bicycle death on the other side of 280. Let's not forget she was killed by a truck.
M. Peterson November 09, 2011 at 09:19 PM
Any recreational trail that has cars and trucks driving over it is by nature, not safe. Expanding the current SWA footpath into a major recreational trail that puts even more joggers, cyclists, walker, kids in the path of cross traffic is irresponsible.
pj utz November 10, 2011 at 07:21 AM
I'll rest when the trail is fixed. Or on the golf course next to your property this weekend. Regarding the 280 underpass, I think you are incorrect. You have a 'selective hearing deficit.' Hopefully a 'yes' vote on 12/13 will allow us to study the options. As for your frontage roads. You must be living in a cave, or have had a seizure during all the public discussions. SMC stated that one option to be studied was TO PRESERVE EVERY SQUARE INCH OF YOUR PROPERTY AND YOUR FRONTAGE ROADS. Alpine Road in this option would be moved northward by shaving the hillside, and the trail moved into the space between the road and your property. Please don't insult everyone's intelligence by suggesting otherwise. I will be signing off now and not responding to your posts. I have turned off my automatic update email notices also. Deailing with people who are not listening to proposals made publicly by SMC staff are not worth anyone's time. Good luck with your situation, now and in the coming years. If the situation gets too dangerous for me to ride my bike, I'll just add 2 more Alpine road trips past SWA in my car. What will you do?
pj utz November 10, 2011 at 07:23 AM
This has been a fun debate, but life is short and I have more important things to do. Thanks! Post what you like, I've gotta get back to my family and day job. PJ Utz
M. Peterson November 11, 2011 at 10:44 AM
Please let me try, one last time to politely explain this to you since it takes a very long time for things to get through. 1.) My husband spoke directly with the traffic official from San Mateo County regarding the 280 underpass idea. He was told by the SMC traffic official that it is not feasible do build an underpass there and too expensive. He said he was considering making the turn a hard right. 2.) Regarding frontage roads, yes, PJ. We have a small frontage road that covers Sneckner and Happy Hollow residents and feeds onto the tail end of Bishop Lane. It is bad enough that so many of us share this same space for ingress/egress even now as it's dangerous to cram too many people onto one exit route in case of emergency. Adding other residents who now have their own exits onto our frontage road, and having us all exit at the same spot on Bishop would be a disaster in terms of mass evacuation. But the real point is, even if your idea were to come to fruition, it would do nothing to prevent cars and trucks from rolling directly over the trail all day long. Adding more hikers, joggers, cyclists, kids in the path of our vehicles is wrong. Many of the trucks are very large, PJ. You may want to ignore this fact, but you simply can't. Just like you can't ignore the fact that a cyclist has already been hit by a car at the 280 exit, and a cyclist has already been killed by a truck across Alpine Road.
janet davis November 11, 2011 at 03:23 PM
Utz is wrong again. Some residents filed a Motion to Vacate part of the land above Homer Lane. The reason for that was that the County had in error issued building permits for construction on its own land. Those residents WON that and DID NOT LOSE. As a scientist he should get his facts right
commuter November 11, 2011 at 04:11 PM
A 280 underpass is not feasible because it is too expensive? Stanford is offering $10,000,000. Is that not enough? They should put the money into something that everyone really wants (like safer bicycle and pedestrian freeway interchanges).

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