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When Santa Clara County supervisors decided a few weeks ago to accept an alignment for a multi-use trail that Stanford would build near Page Mill Road, they also accepted a demand by Stanford to include the route for a similar, hotly contested, trail to be built along Alpine Road in San Mateo County. The decision sent shock waves through Alpine Road neighborhoods whose residents don't believe a safe recreational trail can be built on the narrow bike lane in front of their homes and so close to Alpine Road and San Francisquito and Los Trancos creeks. The trail would be eight feet wide with a two-foot shoulder on either side. Stanford's obligation to build the trails came when its president, John Hennessey, signed a general use permit in 2000 granting the university rights to develop nearly 5 million square feet of buildings on the campus. In return, the university agreed to dedicate, build and maintain two recreational trails "which cross Stanford lands shown in the 1995 Santa Clara County Countywide Trails Master Plan (Routes S1 and C1)." From this simple and clear promise has sprung a mire of legal opinions that Stanford insists show it does not have to build trails across its "interior" lands, and in the case of the northern route, to even be built in Santa Clara County. These arguments have dragged on unresolved for almost five years -- until the Santa Clara County supervisors' vote on September 13. Their deadline for an agreement is December 13. By getting supervisors to agree to its interpretation of the general use permit (GUP), Stanford has pressured Santa Clara County into linking a solely Santa Clara County project to the controversial Alpine Road trail alignment in San Mateo County. Santa Clara supervisors, with Palo Alto member Liz Kniss opposed, voted 4-1 for the deal despite never making a formal request to San Mateo County or the Town of Portola Valley to support linking approval of the two trails. If San Mateo County agrees to Stanford's alignment scheme, the university has said informally it will make $8 million available to complete the work. We strongly believe that San Mateo County's supervisors should reject this bullying strategy from Stanford, by which the university is simply trying to push its obligation to Santa Clara County onto San Mateo County lands. We agree with Supervisor Rich Gordon, who told the Almanac two weeks ago that any decision on an Alpine Road Trail alignment will have to be fully explored through public hearings and environmental studies, no matter what agreement Stanford has made with Santa Clara County. County residents along Alpine Road are outraged that Stanford continues to push this trail alignment. Anyone who drives Alpine Road, with 20,000 to 30,000 cars per day, knows its narrow bike lane would make a lousy recreational trail. In some sections, the present bike lane is so narrow that Stanford would have to cantilever the trail over the creek, armor the creek, or even move Alpine Road itself a few feet away from the creek. Before they are presented with a fait accompli on December 13, we hope San Mateo County supervisors will tell Santa Clara County and Stanford that this is unacceptable. We urge them to immediately pass a resolution stating that the county will not be responsible for commitments made by their Santa Clara County counterparts in this matter. Stanford needs to formally apply to build any trail on San Mateo County lands to its supervisors. Stanford may not agree, but we believe it is impossible to build a scenic and safe trail a few feet from Alpine Road. The university should keep its word, respect the spirit of its agreement, and place the trail inside its own boundaries.
Page last updated September 13, 2010 .