Can two counties work together on Alpine trail?

The chance for San Mateo County to take $10.4 million from Stanford University to repair an Alpine Road trail is gone, but residents in and around Ladera hope to persuade the supervisors in Santa Clara County, where the money is now going, to help fix the trail now that Stanford is out of the picture.

Through spokesman PJ Utz, residents of Ladera and some from communities nearby persuaded the Portola Valley Town Council to urge the supervisors from both counties to collaborate on improving the deteriorating asphalt trail that borders both counties along the south side of Alpine Road between the Portola Valley and Menlo Park.

"I doubt that it's going to happen," Supervisor Don Horsley said in an interview, adding that a Santa Clara County supervisor broached the idea of sharing long ago, but that it never gathered the necessary momentum.

In December, a 3-2 majority of San Mateo County supervisors rejected Stanford's money, the third time since 2006, and now a deadline has passed. By an agreement related to the university's general use permit, the money now goes to Santa Clara County for off-campus recreational uses that serve the college community.

In rejecting Stanford's money, the San Mateo County supervisors considered using county funds to address the trail. But the project is deeply complicated and money is scarce.

Stanford's millions had been there, but for the sticking points: Did Stanford have an ulterior motive in improving a trail along a commuting artery into campus? Why were the routing options so rigid? As it passes Stanford Weekend Acres, the trail's right-of-way becomes nightmarishly complex. Could it be made safe without impacts the residents would see as adverse? Would even looking at redesign open a can of worms?

Most Weekend Acres residents rejected Stanford's offer out of hand. Residents in Ladera and some in Portola Valley did not deny Weekend Acres' concerns, but urged at least a fact-seeking exploration of the problem. Stanford was willing to pay.

At its Jan. 25 meeting, the Portola Valley council agreed to send a letter to supervisors in both counties. The council had written to the San Mateo County supervisors in September taking a neutral stance on Stanford's offer. This latest letter, based on the original and edited by Mr. Utz, removes the neutrality and advocates for improvements, or at least repaving.

"I wish you all the best," Portola Valley Councilwoman Ann Wengert said to Mr. Utz.

The residents' first proposal anticipates a willingness to share and includes a possible trail realignment, a possible traffic light at Weekend Acres, and much safer paths under Interstate 280.

A second plan has San Mateo County going on its own with a less expensive upgrade, including repaving, better crosswalks, and better signs and striping along Alpine Road.


Posted by Just the facts, please, a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Feb 7, 2012 at 1:21 pm

PJ Utz is NOT a spokesman for Ladera or other communities on Aloune Road. He is only a spokesman for himself . He's loud and brash and has lost a lot of respect among his neighbors from his inability to control his anger, and his tendency to send defamatory emails when riled up.

Please edit the article to remove this gross mischaracterization. PJ stands alone in his fight. He has discredited himself and his goals through his ongoing public behavior.

Posted by finish the report!, a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Feb 7, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Did they or did they not ballpark the MINIMAL fixes to total to about 5 million dollars?? That used to be the budget for one of our smaller high schools.

Now that the money is GONE, there are SWA folks who want stop lights on Alpine? Well, that's going to be a bit of an uphill battle. That would have been nice to have studied on Stanford's dime. Will Santa Clara decide to give money back to San Mateo?? Why would they do that? San Mateo has said "NO" on three separate occasions. Will Stanford permit the money to be used piecemeal to fix the trail? Don't bet your money on it. We're already going to be out a handful of millions for fixing that HAS to be done.

Posted by alone?, a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Feb 7, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Let's put blame where it belongs. Mr. BOYCE characterized Mr. Utz as the spokesman for Ladera. He is in fact a citizen with the freedom of speech to represent himself at county meetings and the CFLAT group that has more then just a few members. (Citizens for Lower Alpine Trail) Ad hominem attacks must END.

I'm all for fixing the Alpine Trail AND the Aloune Trail wherever that is.

The way I heard it, it was the SWA folks who were acted poorly at the last county meeting, angered the supervisors, and subsequently lost their vote on a separate issue. I wonder how their attacks on the supervisors who supported them with the trail decision made those supervisors feel.

Posted by In support of fixing that trail, a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Feb 7, 2012 at 2:07 pm

The trail is there and it needs repair. Many use it. In my view, PJ Utz, many in Ladera, and some in Weekend Acres, too, have only the best interests of our neighborhoods at heart in supporting this path/trail. Whatever you call it, it's a safety issue, and an opportunity to better link Menlo Park, Portola Valley, Palo Alto, and Stanford, and other communities, in both San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties for work, play, and emergency access.

Posted by Joe Hedges, a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Feb 7, 2012 at 4:06 pm

IMHO Mr. Boyce has written an article that reports facts.

It is disappointing that this issue brings out negative emotions which attenuate the common decency necessary for the healthy exchange of ideas and information.

The existing trail continues to be an enormous legal liability for the County and a pain to use.

Personally I applaud any and all efforts to mollify the existing safety issues confronted by bicyclists and pedestrians on Alpine Road and embrace the efforts of advocates who attempt to make the situation better.

Posted by Just the facts, a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Weekend Acres
on Feb 7, 2012 at 6:34 pm

SWA residents did NOT reject the trail "out of hand" they rejected it on safety and environmental grounds. Furthermore traffic lights were not part of the proposed study. This would only have been appropriate if the trail had crossed Alpine Road from SLAC on Stanford land, which was not going to happen since SU just renegotiated their agreement with the US Govt., as stated by Larry Horton. There is a perfectly good bike lane throughout the county area of Alpine except at the I-280 intersection and improvement of that is being worked on. The safety problem on Alpine is attributable totally to Stanford's traffic which they have done nothing to reduce.

Posted by PJ Utz, a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Feb 7, 2012 at 8:10 pm

I continue to follow the rhetoric with great interest, and frankly with tremendous amusement. I love the first comment in particular as it demonstrates how irrationale and emotional many from the opposition have been all along, and continue to be even today.
Let's check back 3 years from now when the (existing, San Mateo County-owned, Lower Alpine) Trail is not fixed; traffic is way worse; entry and exit to SWA is even more "nightmarishly complex", and there are no funds to do anything. History will show just how terrible a mistake was made on December 13, 2011.
Of course, the author of comment #1, and we all know who it is, "knows not of what she speaks". Keep writing though! You are helping this "Lone Statesman's" cause!

Posted by PJ Utz, a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Feb 7, 2012 at 8:42 pm

Also - let it be known publicly that I am not on the Ladera list serve, have sent no emails in months on the subject, have written no articles for newspapers in months, and was not even interviewed by Mr Boyce for this article. Tough to be a spokesman without speaking. It is also tough to discredit myself when silent. I acknowledge quietly biking to work each day, often cordially saying hello to opponents of the trail who I run into on their walks. Perhaps I am a 'spokes' person because I bike...

I would encourage readers to watch the tapes of the San Mateo County Supervisors meeting a few weeks ago when a group of local residents were publicly castigated - by the Supervisors themselves - for accusing the Supervisors of back door deals and corruption. The tapes speak for themselves. As did the 5-0 vote that they lost. If only this could have happened before 12/13!

Posted by HA HA.., a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Feb 7, 2012 at 9:40 pm

Traffic Lights were not part of the proposed study?? Wow. You folks really really didn't listen to much did you? We never got around to making any plans on what any "STUDY" would have included. The idea of SLOWING traffic on Alpine was major issue for EVERYONE.

As for the "facts"... if Alpine's traffic is mostly for Stanford, why in God's name don't they list STANFORD on the exit? Oh, well... it is listed on the OTHER roads that crosses their land. I'm pretty darn sure they list STANFORD on the Sand Hill exit and Page Mill exits but NOT Alpine.

Thanks for being such great neighbors! We love that those houses were built on what was a nice quite frontage road... the served as a link for the Alpine Trail... on what used to be the OLD Alpine Road. Move Alpine to create a highway? Folks you LIVE on the OLD Alpine and not a single one of us would allow Alpine to change to four lanes. A plan that you all THOUGHT was a fact.

Oh here's another one for you. The trail never EVER had to be a Class One bikeway or any such garbage. All we needed was a CONNECTING TRAIL.

Good luck ever getting traffic lights or any drainage repairs!

Posted by Menlo Parker, a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Feb 8, 2012 at 12:36 pm

It is eminently reasonable for the Ladera folks to ask for contributions from both counties to fix the trail. Unfortunately, reason did not prevail, and that is a barren hope. San Mateo County supervisors cut off their noses to spite their faces; the SWA NIMBYs got their wish.

Let's move on to another topic. This one is dead. We can revive the issue when it comes time to vote against the three female supes.

Posted by JTF, a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Feb 8, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Yes, Mr. Boyce got his facts wrong. In fact, he's shown a very strong bias in all his articles about the trail. I've been reading the Almanac for over 40 years and never before have I felt I needed to filter through bias to get the facts. And again, he has often gotten the facts wrong, in this article and others about the trail. Objective reporting? Not here.

As for Dr PJ: you may not be on a Ladera list serve any more, but your foaming emails, full of ad hominem attacks, live on (on the PV list, perhaps). It's rare that an email is so nasty that it triggers multiple responses chiding the author and pleading for a return to civility. I really loved the one where you stood on your credentials and acclaimed yourself one of the top scientists at Stanford, in regard to the "humongous difference" of two words, "in support." Woo hoo. I think you're lucky that didn't go viral, it was actually pretty funny.

I hope Santa Clara County takes years to do anything with THEIR money, so we all get back to being friendly neighbors again.

And in case Stanford wants to do a bit of damage repair -- and demonstrate they do actually do care about the safety of the trail, there is a very simple and cheap thing they can do: make it possible for a bike to turn left from Alpine onto Junipero Sera without having to go through a gravel patch. It's bewildering that they did so much work on the Alpine/Junipero/Sandhills intersections, including redoing much of the bike trail, and they didn't complete the less than 10 feet needed to make safe left turn there. D'oh? Didn't they say they wanted to make it safer for their bike-commuting employees like Dr PJ?

Posted by PJ Utz, a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Feb 8, 2012 at 7:26 pm

Not sure what a 'foamy' email is, or 'ad hominum' either. JTF seems to have located a thesaurus.

Perhaps JTF should write for the Almanac given his/her inability to get the facts straight. JTF, feel free to produce the evidence that Dr PJ stated that he was 'one of the top scientists at Stanford.' This has absolutely never been written. Ever. That said Dr PJ is very proud of what his lab has accomplished, and the many scientists he has trained. But please get the facts straight.

I bet if you look hard, the statement about Dr PJ's scientific prowess is somehwere in the GUP - near that statement that Stanford was 'required to build the trail on Stanford land.' I've asked for months for ANYONE to produce such evidence. Of course nobody has because it does not exist. Just as Dr PJ has never written that he is one of the top scientists at Stanford. Or that Stanford has a secret room with a 100 year map of ho they plan to build out every square inch of their 8,000 acre campus.

Finally, Stanford needs to do NO damage repair. They offered to do $10M of ALPINE ROAD DAMAGE REPAIR to fix a county problem, one that still remains. Stanford should be lauded for all they do for the community, local and around the world. And thank you Larry Horton and Stanford University for trying your absolute best to improve the Alpine Road Corridor. History will show that everyone else involved -SWA residents, Laderans, myself, and the Supervisors blew an enormous gift. I hope it does not cost the life/lives of trail users in the coming years.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 8, 2012 at 7:30 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" Stanford should be lauded for all they do for the community, local and around the world. And thank you Larry Horton and Stanford University for trying your absolute best to improve the Alpine Road Corridor. History will show that everyone else involved -SWA residents, Laderans, myself, and the Supervisors blew an enormous gift"

I totally concur.

This Forum offers a priceless opportunity for unregistered anonymous posters to make unsupported and unsupportable claims without any risk to their reputation - and hence they do so with impunity.

Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on Feb 8, 2012 at 10:20 pm

Anonymity is a straw man issue. Outrageous or biased opinions about a range of topics routinely come from both signed and unsigned comments on this page and on Palo Alto Online. For example, Hank Lawrence isn't shy about signing his bizarre editorial and subsequent nonsense about the President and the New York Times.

It's a democracy and we're all entitled to express whatever opinion we wish to express. Mr. Carpenter and Mr. Lawrence -- you sign your name. Good on you. I and a lot of other writers don't. To each his/her own.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 9, 2012 at 6:29 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

This Forum offers a priceless opportunity for unregistered anonymous posters to make unsupported and unsupportable claims without any risk to their reputation - and hence they do so with impunity. There is no way to hold someone calling herself 'neighbor', for example, accountable since by design that person is an unknown and often changeable entity. Those of us who are registered and or use our real names are prepared to be held accountable for what we post - which is a big difference, not a 'straw man'.

Posted by Joe Hedges, a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Feb 9, 2012 at 1:09 pm

JTF, I'm not trying to be an unfriendly neighbor. I'm just trying to understand your post. Please explain which facts in the article are wrong?

Is the gravel patch that you define as "going left from Alpine Road to Junipero Serra" in fact the gravel patch that is encountered when leaving the Alpine trail and going right on Junipero Serra? I think you need to contact the City of Menlo Park to get this paved. I believe the City of Menlo park was responsible for improving the Alpine trail at that location (with Stanford money) and would be entity responsible for covering the gravel/dirt with pavement.

I don't think Stanford gives a rip about your or my safety on Alpine Road and in reality should not. The county of San Mateo is responsible for Alpine Road and should care about our safety but with a 3-2 vote in December, the Board of Supervisors have shown that they don't give a rip about making the Alpine Trail safer.

Good luck getting the gravel patch paved.

Posted by Lovinda Beal, a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Feb 10, 2012 at 10:31 am

The path/trail is there and it needs repair. Please, let's dust ourselves off and find a way to work together for the safety of all.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 10, 2012 at 10:38 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

This is a classic example of the quest for a perfect solution destroying the easy accomplishment of a good solution.

If we keep looking for the perfect solution then nothing will ever happen and the trail will get worse.

Sad for the trail users, sad for the trail neighbors, sad for the taxpayers and sad for Stanford which very much wanted to provide substantial support for the 'good' solution.

Posted by GOOD POINT, a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Feb 10, 2012 at 2:00 pm

There is a NEED for a good connection from the current path at the corner of Junipero Sera and Alpine that would allow path users to transition to the bike lane on Junipero Sera!

I encourage JTF to send a note to Stanford and the county proposing that someone makes that connection.

As to why it wasn't made previously? Well the idea was to connect the ALPINE TRAIL. The designers really could have used some input from the community on adding some features to the trail. On Sand Hill Road the trail takes a turn towards Stanford and leaves those wishing to continue straight a nice curb to transition to the bike lane. That too should be addressed.

It would have been nice to have had a chance to design a better trail, and slight improvements to the current path system. Perhaps some supervisor will make that happen. Stanford has been waiting to make plans for the last decade to suit the needs of the community. Now that we've all said "NO!," it's up to us to motivate our local politicians to get busy to fix what has to be fixed. I thought there were folks on both sides of the issue who wanted to make that happen.

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