News - February 17, 2010

State Supreme Court rejects Stanford trails lawsuit

by Jay Thorwaldson

Stanford University can proceed with building a new trail link to the foothills along Page Mill Road, according to a state Supreme Court ruling issued Feb. 11.

The ruling rejects claims in a lawsuit filed by the Midpeninsula-based Committee for Green Foothills that Stanford and Santa Clara County missed a crucial deadline in starting work on two trails on the south and north boundaries of Stanford lands.

The trails are required as mitigation for a "general use permit" granted to Stanford by Santa Clara County for a long-term expansion of Stanford campus and housing buildings.

"Absolutely, for sure, full speed ahead," Larry Horton, Stanford senior associate vice president for public affairs, said Thursday when asked if the ruling means that work on the southern trail will commence.

The trail is actually a bike lane that follows Page Mill and a trail that veers off at Deer Creek Road and winds up over a steep parcel of land along the site of a horse-pasturing operation.

The Supreme Court overturned an appeals court ruling that a key deadline had been missed.

The Committee for Green Foothills lawsuit actually challenged only the northern trail alignment. But the university maintained both trails were linked as part of the same county requirement and that Stanford could not proceed with the southern trail until the lawsuit was resolved.

Mr. Horton said start of construction on the southern trail will depend on weather conditions this spring.

Meanwhile, the northern trail has been stalled due to a refusal by San Mateo County to accept a multi-million-dollar offer by Stanford to rebuild parts of Alpine Road to make way for a paved pedestrian/bike path link instead of a trail along Los Trancos Creek.

Brian Schmidt, legislative advocate for the Committee for Green Foothills, said Thursday he is disappointed in the ruling, but that San Mateo County's position still remains as a challenge to the alignment proposed by Stanford.

"The end of litigation means that San Mateo County's previous decision and any potential change of mind will ultimately decide the trail issue," he said. "If San Mateo County continues to reject the sidewalk expansion, Stanford must provide an equivalent amount of money to Santa Clara County Parks Department to mitigate for impacts caused by the massive new development permitted on campus since 2000."

Mr. Schmidt said he understands San Mateo County will take up the alignment question again later this year.


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