Court ruling a setback for Stanford trail plan

The Mercury News
April 11, 2008

Court ruling a setback for Stanford trail plan

by Sandra Gonzales

Stanford University’s plan to build a recreational trail has hit another snag after an appellate court ruling allowed an environmental group’s lawsuit challenging the path to proceed.

Wednesday, the 6th District Court of Appeal allowed the Committee for Green Foothills’ complaint to continue — 1 1/2 years after the Santa Clara County Superior Court dismissed the suit in favor of Stanford and Santa Clara County, ruling on procedural grounds against the environmental group.

Now, both the county and Stanford plan to appeal the appellate ruling to the state Supreme Court.

“Stanford has acted in good faith and is entitled to move forward on the basis of our agreements with the county,” said Larry Horton, a spokesman for the university.

But the committee is ready to continue its fight.

“We’ll defend this wherever it goes, it’s a very solid decision,” said Lennie Roberts, legislative analyst for the committee.

The suit, filed in 2006, challenged the county’s decision to expand a second pathway along Alpine Road in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. It cited the lack of environmental review in the planning of the 12-foot-wide Alpine trail.

In dismissing the suit in 2006, the Superior Court noted that the committee failed to file its suit within the 30-day period required by law.

Though the appellate court did not rule on the merits of the case, it allowed the plaintiff to amend the complaint to avoid the statute of limitations issue.

“Disregarding the statute of limitations sets a poor precedent,” said County Counsel Ann Ravel.

In 2005, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors had approved two trails on the eastern and western edges of the campus as part of Stanford’s expansion plans.

But the committee then said Stanford pressured the county to drop one trail requirement in return for an expanded existing sidewalk along Alpine Road that the group contends is expensive, provides no recreational value and is environmentally detrimental to hillsides and a local creek.

“We want a real recreational trail. We don’t want just an expanded sidewalk,” Roberts said.

Stanford and the county contend that the proposed pathway is actually a trail.

“We believe it’s a trail because it complies with the county’s master plan on trails,” Ravel said.

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