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Stanford Report, January 8, 2003

Three options to be studied for trail on Stanford-owned land

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted Dec. 17 to proceed with further environmental review of three possible trail routes on the east side of Stanford-owned land and dropped consideration of an interior route that Stanford officials had called too intrusive. Supervisors also voted to study a fifth possible eastern route only if the other routes proved unfeasible.

During its negotiations with the county in 2000 for a 10-year General Use Permit (GUP) regulating development on Stanford land, the university agreed to build two public recreational trails included in a 1995 Santa Clara Countywide Trails Master Plan. Precisely where the two trails should be built has been the subject of months of study and intense public debate.

Last summer, county staff asked Stanford to fund supplemental environmental reviews for nine possible routes, including routes into the interior of the Dish area on the east side of Stanford land. Although the GUP and the county master plan show the trails on the periphery of Stanford land, seven environmental groups had lobbied for more interior routes, calling them safer and more scenic. Groups, including the Sierra Club and the Committee for Green Foothills, have argued that the alignments in the Countywide Trails Master Plan were intended as a guide, not a mandate.

In addition to calling for alignment of trails away from sensitive ecosystems, environmental organizations urged the county to require that the trails connect to other existing and planned trails, avoid busy intersections and be designed for recreational use, not transportation. Acterra, Mid-Peninsula Action for Tomorrow, Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, Stanford Open Space Alliance and People for Access to Trails in the Hills at Stanford joined in support of studying alternative trails.

In a letter sent to county supervisors in August 2002, Gordon Earle, vice president for public affairs, objected to funding the study of interior routes, citing the university's interest in retaining the rights to its land in order to meet the future needs of the university.

County counsel Ann Miller Ravel sent a letter to county supervisors on Dec. 17 recommending that further study of one interior alternative trail route -- designated as S1-B -- be dropped since it substantially diverges from the trail that appears in the 1995 Santa Clara Countywide Trails Master Plan and master plan policies concerning trail placement. It could be considered "legally unfeasible," she wrote. Another interior route, S1-E, only should be studied if the remaining eastern routes prove unfeasible for environmental reasons, Ravel wrote.

At the Dec. 17 meeting, supervisors also voted to postpone study on possible alignments for the planned trail, designated as C-1, on the west side of campus to give officials in Santa Clara County and San Mateo County more time to discuss possible options. The proposed western trail alignments cross land that is under the jurisdiction of both counties.

Stanford will pay for the supplemental environmental reviews requested on Dec. 17 but has not been informed of the estimated costs, said Larry Horton, associate vice president of public affairs and director of government and community relations.

More information about the trails can be found at http://neighbors.stanford.edu.