Trails package wins approval from Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 on Dec. 13 to approve an agreement allowing construction to begin on a long-awaited trail that will cross Stanford lands near Page Mill Road. The agreement also endorses the creation of another trail along Alpine Road and requires Stanford to offer financial resources to neighboring jurisdictions for its construction. The agreement satisfies a condition imposed when the county issued Stanford's general use permit (GUP) five years ago.

"We are very pleased that this matter has finally been resolved," said Larry Horton, senior associate vice president and director of government and community relations for Stanford. He added that the university would build the trail near Page Mill Road within one year and maintain it after it opens. This trail is known as the "S1" alignment.

A second trail along the western edge of Stanford lands is referred to by county and university staff as the "C1" route. Both trails were proposed in the 1995 Santa Clara Countywide Trails Master Plan, and when the county approved Stanford's general use permit, the university was charged with getting portions of the trails built.

The S1 alignment will begin at the southeast corner of Page Mill Road and Foothill Expressway, run alongside Page Mill to Deer Creek Road, where it will crest over a ridge and wind down to where Arastradero Road crosses under Interstate 280. The trail will split at Deer Creek Road, along which Stanford will create new lanes as an alternate route for bicyclists. The trail and bike lanes are expected to cost about $7 million. In addition, Stanford will offer $1.05 million to Los Altos Hills for improvements for a trail that connects the S1 route to the Arastradero Preserve.

As proposed, the C1 trail would be on land owned by Stanford, San Mateo County and the town of Portola Valley. The agreement stipulates that the university offer $8.4 million to San Mateo County and $2.8 million to Portola Valley to improve an existing portion of the C1 trail, which runs roughly along Alpine Road from the Menlo Park border to Arastradero Road. Those jurisdictions would review and approve the specific design and resolve any potential environmental impacts involved with the construction of the trail.

"Stanford believes that the C1 trail along Alpine Road, if improved to meet the standards of the Santa Clara Countywide Trails Master Plan, would clearly meet the literal requirements and intent of the mitigation measure," Horton said in a Dec. 13 letter to the supervisors. "We also believe that this improved trail would be very popular with its users and local residents once it is completed and in operation."

The agreement provides that Stanford will keep its financial offers to San Mateo County and Portola Valley open for five years, with one two-year extension. If no trail is built within that time, Stanford will give the money to Santa Clara County for use in mitigating the impacts identified in the general use permit—the increased need for recreational opportunities for campus residents and facility users caused by the housing and academic development approved in the GUP. Letters with the formal financial offers to San Mateo County and the towns of Portola Valley and Los Altos Hills will be sent in the coming weeks, according to Horton.

Although Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors Chair Liz Kniss, whose district includes Stanford, supported the S1 trail and was in favor of the proposal that the money would revert to Santa Clara County if a C1 trail were not constructed, she remained opposed to the C1 alignment. At the meeting, she proposed an amendment that would require the university, instead of building the trail, to pay $11.2 million as an "in-lieu fee" to the county Parks and Recreation Department to pay for recreational facilities within 10 miles of the Stanford campus. Other board members did not support her alternative proposal. Kniss was the lone dissenter in the final vote due to her objection to the C1 alignment.

Residents from Stanford Weekend Acres and others who live along Alpine Road attended the Dec. 13 meeting to show their opposition to the C1 trail along Alpine Road. They, along with Kniss and some environmental groups, have referred to the C1 route as a "sidewalk trail" and argued that it does not satisfy the university's GUP obligation. Other speakers at the hearing urged the supervisors to approve the agreement, calling the C1 alignment along Alpine Road a "good and useful trail."

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