San Mateo postpones Alpine Trail decision

Nov. 8, 2011, 2:25 a.m.

San Mateo County supervisors voted 4-1 last Tuesday to postpone the decision of whether to accept Stanford’s proposal to repair a portion of the Alpine Trail, opting instead to ask Stanford to consider three additional alternatives and conduct an environmental review before the next board meeting on Dec. 13.

San Mateo postpones Alpine Trail decision
San Mateo supervisors voted 4-1 last Tuesday to postpone their decision on Stanford's proposal to repair a portion of the Alpine Trail, asking the University to study alternatives. (ALISA ROYER/The Stanford Daily)

If the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors does not accept Stanford’s $10.4 million offer toward renovation of the trail by Dec. 31, then the money will to go to Santa Clara County for recreational facilities.

San Mateo Board Supervisor Carole Groom said the topic will not be discussed further until Dec. 13 because Stanford must prepare to assess the three alternatives proposed at last week’s meeting, which would bring the total number of alternatives studied by the University in its proposal to six.

San Mateo County has declined Stanford’s offer twice before, and the debate about whether the offer should be accepted and how the funds would be used dates back to 2006.

“It’s a really complex, long-standing, three-party issue, and it has been going on for a long time,” Groom said. “Supervisors have come and gone in both San Mateo County and Santa Clara County, so there have been different ideas and different perspectives.”

The three additional options that Stanford will prepare to look into are ending the trail at Piers Lane, where there is already an existing and damaged trail; having the trail cross over Alpine Road and hug the other side, then cross back over at the end of Weekend Acres; and building a trail crossing over Alpine Road, which would go over the hill and then cross back, according to medical school professor Dr. P.J. Utz, who attended the meeting. Supervisor David Pine proposed the three additional alternatives.

If the offer is accepted and the position of the trail falls within unincorporated San Mateo County land and other plots designated in the original agreement between Santa Clara County and Stanford, the University will fund the reviews. If, however, the land chosen is different from the original agreement, San Mateo County will pay for the environmental review and outside expert analysis, giving the county full control of the study.

Larry Horton, Stanford senior associate vice president and director of government and community relations, said that Stanford will be preparing as well as it can until the next board meeting, since the exact locations of the new options have not yet been identified.

“We would have to agree on alternative wording that would be satisfactory to both parties,” Horton said.

Utz said that if the county were likely to get an extension on the final decision, these additional three propositions would have to change.

Strongly voiced positions by community residents on both sides directly affected by the current trail have contributed to drawing out the debate.

“This is not one where you can make a decision and make everybody happy,” Horton said.

The communities of Ledara and Portola Valley support the decision to accept the offer, while residents of Stanford Weekend Acres represent the opposition.

Chris Rubin, a resident of Stanford Weekend Acres, said that not all of his community is actually in opposition.

“I think there’s a select few members from Stanford Weekend Acres who are extremely vocal in their opinions against the trail, and I think that the Board of Supervisors is trying to accommodate those people,” Rubin said. “But unfortunately I’m not convinced that it’s necessarily representative of the majority of people it would benefit.”

Both sides use safety as a major consideration in defending their position. For Stanford Weekend Acres residents like Sarah DiBoise, much of the concern is related to entry and exit into the community.

“I understand there are issues about safety on the ingress and egress from Weekend Acres onto Alpine Road, and that is a busy road and those are legitimate concerns,” DiBoise said. “I think that’s part of why the trail is so unsafe today.”

Both Rubin and DiBoise said that even the overall current condition of the trail needs attention. According to DiBoise, the trail is barely navigable on foot, forcing walkers to stick close to bushes and putting them at risk of on-coming traffic. For Rubin, who bikes to work every day, the trail’s current state poses a great risk, as the trail is even less suitable for bikes.

“I think it would be a wonderful resource for the whole community if we could have a continuous trail that went from Menlo Park all the way into Portola Valley-and it was safe,” DiBoise said.


Ileana Najarro is the Managing Editor of News at The Stanford Daily. She previously worked as a News Desk Editor and Staff Writer.

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