Viewpoint - August 1, 2012

Guest opinion: Another perspective on Stanford funding for trail

by Steve Schmidt

The June 29 guest opinion in the Palo Alto Weekly submitted by Stanford's James Sweeney is laden with misleading and selectively chosen arguments. Mr. Sweeney's piece ( addressed the $10.3 million Stanford failed to impose on San Mateo County on three separate occasions to build a multi-use bicycle path along Alpine Road.

After 12 years, it is a travesty that Stanford continues to dodge its commitment and spin the facts in an elaborate attempt to confuse the community. A review of the history of the 2000 general use plan agreement (the GUP) between Stanford University and Santa Clara County is in order.

In 2000 Stanford agreed to construct a multi-use trail, designated C-1, on Stanford land in Santa Clara County in exchange for 5 million square feet of new campus development. Rather than honor its obligations and while building its newly granted entitlements to increase campus development, Stanford spent five years lobbying the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors that the C-1 Trail should be in San Mateo County, mostly in the right-of-way of Alpine Road.

I was a Menlo Park City Council member in 2000 actively involved in the discussion of the mitigations for the university's expansion, and I know that a trail along Alpine Road was not a consideration included in the GUP. However, it soon became clear that Stanford had no intention of ever allowing public easements for a trail on Stanford land, even for groups like Mr. Sweeney's Stanford Campus Residential Leaseholders.

By 2006 Stanford's relentless efforts had paid off; the C-1 Trail had become the responsibility of San Mateo County. Three times the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors rejected Stanford's proposal to build a multi-use trail next to Alpine Road, in part for safety reasons. It violated well-established design standards for locating combined pedestrian and bicycle facilities within a few feet of a heavily traveled arterial road, populated largely by car and truck traffic generated by Stanford construction and growth.

The $10.3 million that Mr. Sweeney thinks should be used to supplement his already generous on-campus recreational opportunities has now returned to Santa Clara County. Residents of both Santa Clara and San Mateo counties experience the loss of recreational opportunities caused by limiting public access to the Dish and the negative effects of unending Stanford expansion in both counties.

It behooves the Santa Clara County supervisors to fund recreational improvements with this money that provide the widest benefits to local residents, including but not limited to, the Stanford Leaseholders. I urge the supervisors at their Aug. 7 meeting to direct these funds for the completion of the Bay Trail in Palo Alto and to partially fund the bicycle-pedestrian over-crossing of 101 at Adobe Creek.

For years the region has endured the impacts of Stanford's twice-a-day employee commute traffic, two world-renowned hospitals, a regional shopping mall, disruptive sports events and the heavy use of local public roads for dangerous construction vehicles. The entire region deserves genuine mitigations. Thinking regionally is appropriate when one realizes the extent of Stanford's footprint on the Peninsula.

Steve Schmidt is a former mayor of Menlo Park


Posted by Andrew Boone, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 6, 2012 at 10:20 am

Steve Schmidt is right - it's appropriate to spend funds allocated to the mitigation of the loss of recreational opportunities associated with Stanford's campus expansion since 2000 on improvements that would benefit the greatest number of residents, whether they live on the Stanford Campus or not.

It's shameful that Stanford is trying, 12 years later, to prevent Santa Clara County from making key improvements to the Bay Trail - a world-class recreational facility that's used every day by thousands of local residents, including Stanford Campus residents.

Completing the missing section of the Bay Trail in Palo Alto and construction the Adobe Creek Bike/Ped Bridge over Highway 101 are far more useful for recreation than any trail improvement on the Stanford Campus could possibly be, given that the campus is already blessed with a multitude of walking, jogging, and bicycling trails.

Posted by registered user, Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 6, 2012 at 10:48 am

Schmidt claims that because of " limiting public access to the Dish" then Stanford should pay a fine of $10 million!!

Why in the world does Schmidt feel that the public has a RIGHT of access to private property?

Does Schmidt allow public access to his property?

[Portion removed. Personal attack violates terms of use.]

Posted by Adina, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 6, 2012 at 12:23 pm

Peter, it is not a fine. It is a mitigation measure that *Stanford agreed to* in its General Use Permit agreement with Santa Clara County in 2000. Stanford agreed to compensate the public for the loss of publicly accessible trails that it closed off as part of its plans to expand campus.

The money was committed more than 10 years ago, and has been gathering interest rather than building trails.

Posted by Margaret Pye, a resident of another community
on Aug 6, 2012 at 12:29 pm

I'm afraid Mr. Carpenter is missing the point here. Stanford already agreed to pay this $10 million, years ago, because they realized their expanded building projects would impact traffic badly in the entire area. This is not about "fining" Stanford $10 million.
I strongly agree with Steve Schmidt that the best use of this money (which has already been promised by Stanford) is the completion of the Bay Trail and the Adobe Creek / 101 overcrossing.

Posted by registered user, Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 6, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Stanford agreed to mitigate the impact of its development - that development has nothing to do with building a bridge over 101.

And if San Mateo County turned down the funds then why should Stanford be compelled to do anything?

Posted by registered user, Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 6, 2012 at 1:13 pm

Wille Sutton's Rule - Rob banks because that is where the money is.

Local residents who have depleted their local government coffers by imprudent spending - Rob Stanford because we have wasted all of our money and Stanford has wisely conserved its endowment.

Posted by a promise is a promise, a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Aug 6, 2012 at 7:32 pm

I agree with Mayor Schmidt. Stanford made the promise to build these trails in return for various building permits and accommodations by neighboring cities. Stalling for 12 years is abhorrent. Stanford had plenty of time to do the right thing, but they chose not to. The government was negligent in not pushing harder. Now it is time to take charge and get something done before the people hurt by Stanford's actions are dead and gone.

If Stanford continues to refuse to build a direct trail from campus to the Arastradero Preserve, then the bridge over Hwy 101 and Bay Trail segment are the most worthy alternatives in the local area.

Posted by registered user, Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 7, 2012 at 4:52 am

"If Stanford continues to refuse to build a direct trail from campus to the Arastradero Preserve"

That was never the deal that Stanford agreed to; Stanford has tried hard to get San Mateo County to accept the $10 million and the county has refused. Don't blame Stanford.

Posted by registered user, Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 7, 2012 at 6:58 am

Let get some perspective:

Stanford University
1 –is the areas' largest employer
2 – provides housing for a majority of its employees and customers (students) – the ONLY local employer to provide any such housing
3 – provides public access to thousands of acres of its private land
4 – built and maintains, at no cost to the community, a world class hospital and emergency room
5 – provides via its own commercial activities and those of its leasees millions of dollars of property taxes
5 - provides via its own commercial activities and those of its leasees millions of dollars of sales taxes
6 – created, via its faculty, graduates, research programs and its research park, the nucleus and impetus for the creation of Silicon Valley
7 – provides a broad range of cultural opportunities to the surrounding communities
8 – retains more than 70% of its land in open space – far, far more than any of the surrounding communities
9 – provides a free shuttle service that extends into the surrounding communities
10- maintains, at no cost to the public, its own roadway system to which the public has free access.

When was the last time that any local leader acknowledged the above facts?

Instead what we have is current and former local leaders, having carelessly depleted their own financial and open space resources, wanting to get even more and more from Stanford.

Ignorant and shameful.

Without Stanford the surrounding communities would be Gilroy without the garlic.

Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on Aug 7, 2012 at 9:55 am

Great summary, Mr. Carpenter. Please copy/paste it for future use -- It should be printed each time the community extortion nonsense (a major part of the "Palo Alto Process') begins.

Posted by Reality Check, a resident of another community
on Aug 8, 2012 at 9:36 pm

Peter Carpenter does everything but acknowledge and address the fact that Stanford is sleazily reneging on a promise made. A deal's a deal, and Carpenter's endless enumeration of non sequitur facts/observations has no bearing on that. Irrelevant.

A fine honorable upstanding citizen (literal or figurative) keeps his (its) word ... regardless of how many good deeds and philanthropic actions his defenders and apologists proffer on his behalf.

Posted by registered user, Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 8, 2012 at 10:23 pm

Stanford has totally complied with its agreement with Santa Clara County. Only people who have not read the agreement can continue with the lie that Stanford has not done so.

Stanford signed a legal agreement with Santa Clara County that provided that Stanford fund or provide trail enhancements in the immediate vicinity of the campus. The southern trail has been built and for the northern trail Stanford has repeatedly tried hard to get San Mateo County to accept the $10 million and the county has refused. The funds then reverted to uses in Santa Clara County.

Posted by amazed, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 9, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Yet again those with their own agendas eye Stanford's money as their own and begin to put forth the lies to base their claims to deciding how it should be spent.

Mitigation ... of what? The loss of lands for recreation use to the STANFORD residents, not us. Traffic mitigation? Exactly how many cars have been taken OFF of our roads by all the housing they put in?? Where is the housing in oh... say Menlo Park? or Portola Valley? They are just getting around to that. Stanford is DONE.

We'd have the Alpine situation halfway completed by now if not for the lies about the SIZE of the trail that the naysayers created to make sure that the offer died. A trail across the Dish? Never promised. Go find the lawyer to prove it. That's issue is dead!

A trail that doesn't even come close to Stanford as mitigation for the recreational areas taken away? Fat chance!

You want to get angry? Get mad at those that pushed the idea the Stanford wanted to create a freeway out of Alpine and now have to figure out how to find the money to keep it from falling into the creek.

How many millions has Stanford pushed into the local economy vs all the corporations that are sitting on their earnings? All that, and they still can offer you an education at the same cost as a UC (much easier these days) if you can't afford the full cost.

Palo Altans? You feel the need to have MORE given to you when you keep your own park closed to the rest of us in the area? Now THAT is cold. Stanford only keeps us out when it's not safe. How many San Mateo open spaces can you visit? How 'bout you mitigate some money to us?

Posted by WEISMULLER, a resident of another community
on Aug 10, 2012 at 11:18 am

Why not take a trip to the coast where there are miles of open trails and much prettier? You have branches for banks in case you feel too far from your money.