Residents turned out en masse Tuesday to express their opinions about whether or not the San Mateo County Board Of Supervisors should accept a $10 million offer from Stanford University to improve a trail along .
After more than an hour of discussion at the board's meeting in Redwood City, Supervisors unanimously voted to spend the next five months collecting more community input on the issue.
Most of the 15 people who stood up and spoke to the board were residents of the nearby Ladera neighborhood in Portola Valley and the Stanford Weekend Acres community, which is close to the trail near the Stanford campus.
Opinion regarding whether the board should accept the university's gift was split between the speakers, which is representative of the division of opinion surrounding the issue since it was proposed in 2006.
Initially the university offered $8.4 million to the county as part of an expansion project. Since then, the board has twice rejected the offer, citing concerns expressed by residents in surrounding neighborhoods.
Those living near the trail have said they oppose the trail project because they are against the influx of traffic, from both trucks and bicyclists on Alpine Road, that may swarm the area following the improvement.
Those in favor of the project say the erosion caused by , which flows through the area, has narrowed the trail to the extent that it is no longer safe to walk along, especially when forced to share the space with traffic on Alpine Road.
The board's vote directs county staff to spend time from now until December 2011 collecting further input from those in the communities near the trail, in an attempt to make a more informed decision before making a decision about the money. Should the board elect to decline Stanford's offer, or allow the December 31 deadline to pass without taking action, the money would be given to Santa Clara County to be spent for recreation purposes.
Representatives from Stanford have said they are willing to extend the deadline until 2013.
A representative from the office of Santa Clara County Supervisor Liz Kniss, who spoke at the meeting, said Santa Clara County would be willing to participate in conversations regarding how the money should be spent on the trail improvements.
When asked why they were willing to reconsider the school's offer, rather than shoot it down the way the previous board had, supervisors said changes in the economic environment limited the county's ability to pay for the improvements without financial assistance from other entities.
Supervisor said whether or not the board accepted the school's money or not, changes needed to be made along the trail to improve safety conditions in the area.
"If we reject the money, we still have to do something," he said.
Pine said he would be willing to accept Stanford's offer to extend the deadline on the project if it proved necessary after gathering input from the community in the subsequent months leading up to the end of the year.
He also said he would be willing to hear input from Liz Kniss and others on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors in regards to how the should be pursued.
Supervisor Don Horsley said he believed the trail is dangerous as currently constructed, and cited a bike accident that took place last year in which .
"The trail isn't safe as it stands," he said.
The issue will come back to the board at their meeting in mid December, with a report further detailing the community's perspective.