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Santa Clara County awards $10 million to Stanford and Palo Alto for new trails

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors Tuesday voted to allocate $10 million to fund proposals made by Stanford and the City of Palo Alto to expand area bike and pedestrian trails. The decision ends a decade-long debate about how Stanford should satisfy an agreement contained in its 2000 General Use Permit with Santa Clara County.

BMS Design Group Artist's rendering of proposed pedestrian and bicycle trails on Stanford Avenue.

Artist's rendering of proposed pedestrian and bicycle trails on Stanford Avenue between Junipero Serra Boulevard and El Camino Real.

The Santa Clara Board of Supervisors Tuesday unanimously approved $10 million in grants to fund pedestrian and bike path improvements proposed by Stanford and the City of Palo Alto.

The approved projects are:

  • The $4.5 million creation of a new Stanford Perimeter Trail along Junipero Serra Boulevard between Old Page Mill Road and Stanford Avenue; Stanford Avenue between Junipero Serra Boulevard and El Camino Real; and El Camino Real between Stanford Avenue and Quarry Road.
  • A $1.5 million extension of a bike and pedestrian path along the existing levee access roads of Matadero Creek, linking the Bryant Street bicycle boulevard and Greer Road.  
  • A $4 million grant to complete the design phase for a pedestrian and bike Adobe Creek overcrossing bridging Highway 101 and improving access to the Baylands.

The supervisors also approved $400,000 to further a proposed Ravenswood Bay Trail connection under the auspices of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District. The Ravenswood Bay Trail is a 26-mile segment between Redwood City and Alviso and is part of a San Francisco Bay Trail.

The supervisors' decision brings to a close a decade-long debate about how Stanford should satisfy a trails-related, recreational mitigation contained in its 2000 General Use Permit (GUP) with Santa Clara County.

The GUP, in tandem with a Community Plan, outlines under what circumstances the university can add academic facilities and housing units. As part of the GUP, Stanford agreed to some 100 conditions, including building area recreational hiking and biking trails to lessen the potential impact of lost recreational opportunities created by proposed development. The exact location of the trails has been a source of debate since.

As part of an agreement between Stanford and Santa Clara County related to the mitigation, Stanford offered $10.4 million to San Mateo County to improve 2.1 miles of the Lower Alpine Trail, which runs along Alpine Road. That offer, which was made in 2006, expired on Dec. 31, 2011. By agreement, the $10.4 million then reverted to Santa Clara County with the intent that it be used to provide recreational opportunities to Stanford campus residents and facility users.

In response, Santa Clara County established a program to award the grant funding and invited proposals. In a first-of-its-kind effort, Stanford and Palo Alto partnered to submit a five-project proposal. Also competing for grants were 10 projects proposed by area governments and agencies.

Two of the Stanford-Palo Alto-proposed projects were ruled ineligible by county staff, leaving under consideration the three the supervisors eventually approved. Left unfunded were a proposed bicycle path on Park Boulevard and improvements to the Arastradero Road Trail, both of which are designed to bring bikers and hikers from the Bay to the ridge unimpeded. The City of Palo Alto, however, has indicated it will proceed with – and pay for – those trails.

The Stanford-Palo Alto proposal was presented to the supervisors by Sid Espinosa, Palo Alto City Council member; Jaime Rodriguez, Palo Alto chief transportation officer; and Larry Horton, Stanford senior associate vice president for public affairs. The joint proposal also received testimonial support from representatives of a wide range of organizations, including the Palo Alto Council of PTAs, the Palo Alto Unified School District, the Stanford Campus Residential Leaseholders, the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.

Staff of Santa Clara County will now begin working with Stanford and Palo Alto to negotiate the exact terms of the work the county will fund. Both the university and city have promised to cover any cost overruns. In addition, Stanford has promised Santa Clara County easements on university land affected by the new Stanford Perimeter Trail.

Also on the university's agenda as a result of the supervisors' action will be three community meetings to discuss trail design and proposed road and parking reconfigurations designed to improve safety and expand access to trails.