Staff calls for extension of Stanford trail offer


One shoe has dropped. A staff report from the county manager's office, based on community feedback, recommends that San Mateo County supervisors ask Stanford University for a two-year extension on its controversial offer of $10 million to upgrade the rickety trail along Alpine Road through the unincorporated communities of Ladera and Stanford Weekend Acres.

The other shoe will likely fall Tuesday morning, Nov. 1, when the Board of Supervisors is expected to have a public hearing and vote on Stanford's offer. The board meets in the Hall of Justice and Records at 400 County Center (corner of Bradford Street and Hamilton Avenue) in Redwood City.

What could be controversial about a university, in hard times, offering neighbors $10 million to design and pay for an arguably safer trail in place of an old, unsafe and little used one?

The trail's right-of-way is:

■ Wildly inconsistent in width and topography, which could affect heritage trees and what remains of Weekend Acres' secluded lifestyle.

■ Located along a twisting, heavily traveled two-lane artery where speed-limit violations may get worse if the project straightens part of Alpine Road.

■ Unsafe, according to Weekend Acres residents who describe the tedium of waiting to join traffic on Alpine Road and the danger of doing so because the traffic is moving fast and they have only seconds to join the flow. An improved trail for pedestrians, cyclists, kids and dogs could add to their headaches.

There are too many unknowns to be for or against the offer, Assistant County Manager David Holland told an Oct. 4 gathering of 80 to 100 people at the Ladera Swim & Tennis Club. What is needed is a trail design to study and talk about, he said.

"It might look a lot better than what we have in our heads right now," Mr. Holland said.

The audience peppered Mr. Holland with questions, among them whether $10 million is enough, who would pay if it isn't, can traffic be slowed, what will its volume be in 10 years, and what will be the effect of Ladera proponents outnumbering Weekend Acres opponents.

"I do believe that all of these issues can be addressed," Mr. Holland said. "Certainly, a couple of on-demand traffic lights can slow this traffic." As for the greater numerical support in Ladera, trail qualities such as safety will be the primary concerns, he said.

Safety figured prominently in feedback from both Ladera and Weekend Acres residents, Mr. Holland said.

Ladera resident Craig Hirst tried to ease the concerns of Weekend Acres residents, and got a round of applause. "There's a problem there and we've got to take care of that because our kids visit your kids," Mr. Hirst said. "We're one community. Don't make us two."

"Ladera is easy, Weekend Acres is very complicated," Mr. Holland told the Almanac in an interview

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.


Like this comment
Posted by realistic
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 13, 2011 at 11:59 am

Instead of ramming their plan down the throats of residents, Stanford should build what people really want. Repair the sidwalk so that it is safe for pedestrians and wheelchairs. Then add 5 foot wide bike lanes to the street. Everyone will be happy with that. Why does Stanford think they are smarter than everyone else?

Like this comment
Posted by me
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 13, 2011 at 12:30 pm

it's amazing to me how much the surrounding community tries to shake Stanford down.. They offer to build a world class Hospital.. the surrounding towns demand cash for the inconvenience.. how about this [portion removed]... you're getting a world class hospital!
Stanford gives $10 million to rehab a trail.. the surrounding community demands more..
How about this Menlo Park.. Palo Alto.. and the rest of you towns.. where would you be without Stanford, and all it's given to the area.. Up a creek without a paddle that's where..

Like this comment
Posted by update
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Oct 13, 2011 at 1:15 pm

The action item on the Alpine Trail scheduled for the October 18 Board of Supervisors meeting will be moved to the November 1 Board meeting.

Moving the item to November 1 will allow all of the Supervisors to attend the meeting.

Background, the text of e-mails from the public, meeting notes, photos and other information can be found at

Like this comment
Posted by Mitigation not a gift
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Oct 13, 2011 at 1:49 pm

The money is not a gift. It was promised to Santa Clara County years ago as mitigation to the surrounding communities for the impact of developing millions more square feet of buildings on Stanford lands. This was all long before the hospital expansion was proposed. The promised mitigation was to be used for a community use trail, which the community thought would be on Stanford land, on the Santa Clara County side of San Francisquito Creek. However, Santa Clara County failed to hold Stanford to the agreement, and later offered the funds to San Mateo County, in exchange for putting the trail on the San Mateo County side of the creek. Based on design, an EIR, and community input, the funds may be used to repair the existing walking trail and bike lanes along the Alpine Road corridor. It is a connector trail, which one hopes will create a safer link between Menlo Park/Palo Alto and Portola Valley. Note the new meeting date.

Like this comment
Posted by Los Altos Hills
a resident of another community
on Oct 13, 2011 at 8:17 pm

Local communities unite !!! Why on earth are these Stanford trials being shoved down the throats of our local communities ? The meetings, the concerned residents, etc. Most local residents pay a pretty tax penny to own an acre or so of rural property. Our properties, our local trail systems, the bay trails, Arastradero Preserve, the Palo Alto Preserve etc offer more then adequate outdoor recreation for our families. The local towns just won't let this go. The town councils offer mitigation ideas instead of protecting the value and quiet enjoyment of our homes and the environment !!! We in LAH hear mitigation ideas like why don't we put "no parking signs here and here and here and here". I want my own personal no parking sign in front of my home, how about you? How about "let's put stop lights at intersections that will be a concern". They are many. If we want our rural neighborhoods looking like Town Square Shopping Center, we'd rent an apartment over Main Street. How about "what if we make the 8' tall artificial concrete retaining trail wall look natural and nice". Personally, the existing rural mustard seed hill is just prefect. The majority of Los Altos Hills residents impacted by "the other side" of this inappropriate project wrote hundreds of personal letters of objection against increased traffic and safety and privacy concerns. They attended town meetings in unprecendented numbers and voiced a majority of objections. The residents on both sides should unite together and say no. We should relieve any council members who feel that Stanford's concerns are above those of our residents. We didn't ask to be the barter chip for Stanford's added development. We have some real questions for Santa Clara County officials over this as well. Building a new hospital has nothing to do with the need to build these trails. If Stanford's development whether business or residential requires additional recreation, then put the recreational trails on Stanford land. Stanford is the largest property owner in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. Stanford had many options to locate the trails on their land. They refused citing the cow tunnel crossing as old and unsafe. Keep your money Stanford and put your $10M into a new tunnel and trails on your land or do whatever else you need to do to facilitate your lucretive expansion goals ! Keep our neighborhoods out of your plans. When you offer to pay our property taxes, we will be all ears. Until then, our goal is to protect the value of our homes and the quiet enjoyment of our properties. Thank you, but NO THANKS.

Like this comment
Posted by Wake up and unite !!!
a resident of another community
on Oct 15, 2011 at 9:47 am

Fact: The concrete wall at the entrance of Los Altos Hills along Arastradero will actually reach 10 foot high and will span a length of 450'...and Ladera/Weekend residents think they have concerns over their metropolitan looking sidewalk!

Council sites that the path in this area is rutted and narrow. Instead of fixing a short length of rutted path and adding 1 or 2 retaining ties to slightly expand the seldom used footpath, we will have a 450' long by 10' high concrete hillside entrance to our rural community.

Fact: When a formal traffic study was conducted along the area of the proposed wall, less then a handful of pedestrians were recorded. However, hundreds upon hundreds of cyclists from Palo Alto, San Jose and across the bay were recorded.

The idea of the effected homeowners on both sides of this trail uniting is a terrific idea. Hundreds of Los Altos Hills homeowners along the proposed 1 mile LAH trail will be impacted by increased traffic. Page Mill and Arastradero is also the main road access for thousands of upper hill residents. The trail expansion will increase cyclist traffic that is almost in unbearable proprotions now. Upper hills residents in these communities need to be made aware of the negative impact to their commutes.

After all, once the trail expansion is complete on each side of Arastradero Road, it won't be Ladera and Weekend residents big city sidewalks or LAH residents massive 10' by 450' concrete trail wall concerns anymore !!! The two trails will connect to form a loop through Arastradero Road. The Stanford dish last recorded 500,000 people a year. This loop will support hundreds of thousands of cyclists on the only arteries to and from our homes (along with their parked cars)!!!

How many of the council members actually reside along the impacted area in Ladera and Weekend ? I can tell you the answer in Los Altos Hills. 0 mayor and city council members and 0 planning, trail and open committee members live along the areas that will be impacted.

Ladera, Weekend Acres and LAH homeowners...Wake up and unite !!!!

Like this comment
Posted by Elizabeth Brown
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Weekend Acres
on Oct 19, 2011 at 4:11 pm

This is not about a "trail"! It is about Stanford trying to hoodwink San Mateo county into reconstructing Alpine Road to permit more Stanford commuters. Expansion, expansion, expansion! That's all Stanford stands for nowadays and with Page Mill and Sand Hill saturated with their commuters, they want Alpine straightened and widened to accommodate more. They care nothing for the 150 families who would suffer immense hardship if this road construction project were to be given the go-ahead. Come on Almanac staff. Let's show a little more insight into the real issues here. The article says:
"if the project straightens part of Alpine Road".
Mr. Holland has already confirmed that ALL options require, as he put it: "moving Alpine Road".
"Moving" a road to build a "trail". Really!

Like this comment
Posted by An SWA Resident
a resident of La Entrada School
on Oct 19, 2011 at 11:55 pm

We need to get one thing perfectly clear -- this isn't a matter of Stanford magnanimously offering San Mateo County a gift. Particularly for residents who live along Alpine Road and who will be negatively impacted by Stanford's plans to straighten and widen Alpine Road (think hillside excavation outside the front doors of Stanford Weekend Acres residents, heavy, indefinite construction for months or years, the ripping out of the trees and foliage along the SWA stretch of Alpine Road, and the construction of a 10-12 foot wide sidewalk where there is now a 3-4 foot wide trail sheltered by trees. Needless to say, once built, this "trail" is likely to attract joggers, moms with strollers, a child on a bicycle, and pedestrians who will all be in danger of the continual traffic which cuts across this proposed "trail" as cars pull into or out of the crowded neighborhoods along Alpine. Yet it will never be used by the hardcore cyclists it is supposed to "protect" as they will use (as they always do) the bike lane on the road. Our Stanford Weekend Acres neighborhood will lose much of its charm and rural character. Our housing prices will suffer for it. Some of us will have construction literally in our front or back yards, as well as potentially having property seized in an eminent domain argument for the "public good." In this case, the "public good" is not a recreational trail to benefit the community, but a shady plan on the part of Stanford to get their foot in the door on a major restructuring of Alpine Road. Santa Clara County after all, dictates that the width of the "trail" be 10-12 feet -- but that doesn't work in the SWA portion of Alpine Road unless one cuts into the hillside opposite our neighborhood and restructures the road! Who would have thought? So, no, we are not coyly turning down a $10M gift. We are opposing Stanford's subterfuge -- a plan to benefit Stanford's expansion plans and need for expanded traffic routes -- we are opposed to suffering years of the heaviest duty construction, the ripping out of our trees, an excavated hillside with potential for instability and slides opposite our homes. We are opposed to Stanford not manning up and meeting its obligation to build a truly recreational trail in an appropriate area in Santa Clara County on ITS land as it promised. That would be the true gift. It's no wonder Ladera residents are largely in favor of this plan -- their homes are on the opposite side of the road and up the hill from the construction! It's inconsequential to them. To those of us in SWA, we are on the front lines.

And I might add that I was amused to read Craig Hirst's comments about how Ladera kids visit SWA kids and we're all neighbors.

[Portion deleted. This sounds too personal -- not part of the public issue.]

None of the Ladera kids come to visit SWA on the "trail". Their parents would never let them do that. After all, in order to do so their kids would have to cross busy Alpine Road, a busy 280 freeway exit and at least two busy entry points to neighborhoods along Alpine Road. What is Stanford thinking?

Like this comment
Posted by Resident LAH
a resident of another community
on Oct 30, 2011 at 11:28 pm

Stanford has two main objectives in offering money to local communities such as LAH, Ladera, Weekend Acres, etc., for trail improvement projects: getting approvals from county boards for continuing massive building programs and substantially reducing the number of visitors to the dish. The respective town councils seem eager to receive Stanford’s offers in spite of opposition by an overwhelming majority of residents in the affected areas due to concerns such as increased number of out-of-town bicyclists and pedestrians, change in the rural character of our communities and adverse impact on our property values. The residents of the affected areas must come together and fight until these projects are stopped. We should not pay a high price for Stanford to solve its internal problems and for the town councils to satisfy their appetite for Stanford money.

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 31, 2011 at 8:51 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I suggest that Stanford let this offer expire. And it would also make sense for Stanford to use Palo Alto's Foothills Park standard for public access to the Dish.

Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 31, 2011 at 10:23 am

There's a solution: Foothill Park, where you can visit only if you live in Palo Alto or are accompanied by someone from Palo Alto.

Palo Alto is no example for anyone. The last I heard, pretentiousness is not character trait that is desirable. Palo Alto has a reputation, well earned in my opinion, of thinking much, much too highly of itself and its amenities. To be frank, it reeks.

Like this comment
Posted by janet
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 31, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Stanford should be ashamed of itself. It voluntarily obligated itself to build a trail on its own land and has lied its way out of this obligation for over a decade while reaping all the benefits of its contract. The $10 million doesn't even begin to cover the damage to roads and environment done by their trucks and commuters. The first wrongful death suit resulting from any such trail as proposed will result in a verdict over that amount. The county's own trail manual requires any such trail to be 50 ft. away from residences. All the authorities require a multi purpose bidirectional trail in such a location to be 12 feet wide with a 5 foot space from any road with a high fence/barrier along the entire length. The authorities also require 4 or less intersections within one mile. Here there would be 10 plus a freeway off ramp. This is an idiotic proposal driven by greed.

Like this comment
Posted by Father of biking kids
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 31, 2011 at 2:40 pm

As a father of kids who like bike from Portola Valley to Stanford - PLEASE build the bike path!

Do we want our kids to have a safe path? YES
Do we want more bikes able to use Alpine? YES
Do we want our little community to operate like Congress?: NO

Thoughtful people can work together, put people to work, save our kids from getting killed on Alpine and spend Stanford's money for all to benefit.

Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 31, 2011 at 3:02 pm

Dear Father of biking kids - A question: how do you propose to make this path's crossing of the two off ramps for 280 north safe enough for your kids to cross, as well as safe for other kids older or younger who may not be accompanied?

If these kids are headed west, how do you propose to get drivers to look east, through the overhanging trees there that are occasionally trimmed at best, when they are looking west for traffic that might inhibit their desire to merge and get out of there?

A tunnel? OK. How would we pay for it? From Stanford's $10 million? Does that leave enough for the design of the trail and all the other necessary improvements?

What can be done to make this part of such a path safe?

Like this comment
Posted by Father of biking kids
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 31, 2011 at 4:44 pm

Today hundreds of children safely travel through cross-walks, navigating the streets of Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and cities and towns across the country -- they don't need tunnels or other erroneous (excuses) to safely bike -- they merely use common sense. Many less fortunate cities across the country would be thrilled for $10M to build a path, and perhaps even the community would come out to help, not hinder its progress.

Just say YES -- let's go solve bigger issues in our community.

Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 31, 2011 at 5:32 pm

I guess that's an answer, but a cavalier one.

As someone who has encountered fast-moving traffic at these two off ramps many times, "Just say YES" is not going to cut it.

Crosswalks are not safe. Pedestrians are injured and killed in them regularly, particularly in crosswalks that drivers do not expect to be there or that are typically empty, or that are in the vicinity of a freeway or any other stretch of road where drivers are thinking about where they want to get to rather than where they are and ratchet up their speed.

This is such a crosswalk.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

All your news. All in one place. Every day.

After experiencing harassment, owner of Zareen's restaurants speaks out about Islamophobia, racism
By Elena Kadvany | 28 comments | 7,610 views

Don't Miss Your Exit (and other lessons from an EV drive)
By Sherry Listgarten | 14 comments | 2,507 views

Goodbye Food Waste!
By Laura Stec | 8 comments | 2,460 views

Good News: The New Menlo Park Rail Subcommittee Hits A Home Run
By Dana Hendrickson | 12 comments | 1,640 views

Premarital and Couples: Tips for Hearing (Listening) and Being Known
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,039 views


Register today!

On Friday, October 11, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

Learn More