A majority of the Portola Valley Town Council agreed on Sept. 28 to send a message of neutrality to the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors as the board wrestles with whether to accept some $10 million from Stanford University to rebuild a roadside trail that runs through Ladera and Stanford Weekend Acres.
Residents of Weekend Acres tend to vigorously oppose the idea because the money cannot be subdivided to address parts of the trail and because improving the trail might increase trail traffic and complicate an already dangerous situation driving from Weekend Acres onto Alpine Road.
Many residents of Ladera say they don't want the county to turn down $10 million but make the most of it and design a trail that families can use in east-west trips that don't require cars.
Public comment at the council's meeting reflected this divide, with proponents noting the importance of safety for children and opponents saying that this route cannot be made safe.
Councilman Steve Toben, who saw the issue as outside the council's purview, said he wanted no letter at all but tentatively agreed with colleagues Ann Wengert and John Richards to send a neutral statement that will include a note on the town's positive experience with Stanford on upgrading a Portola Valley section of trail.
Mr. Toben said it bothered him that Portola Valley residents were weighing in on a project that won't affect them where they live. That the trail is proximate to Portola Valley was irrelevant and that it could reduce greenhouse gas emissions was unimpressive, he said.
In dissent, Councilwoman Maryann Derwin said that, while she is "very sympathetic" to Weekend Acres residents' concerns and hopes for their relief, she would have recommended accepting the money. (Mayor Ted Driscoll recused himself because his wife works for Stanford.)
"I was disappointed in my colleagues' vote to remain neutral," Ms. Derwin said in a telephone interview. The council has taken positions on external matters before and the greater good is at stake, she said.
George Mader, planning consultant to the town and the letter's author, told the council that an upgraded trail could help reduce traffic congestion on Alpine Road after Stanford expands its hospital, that the eroding bank of Los Trancos Creek will eventually need attention, and that a multi-use path could transfer slower bikes out of the bike lanes.