Viewpoint - August 24, 2011

Opinions clash on Alpine Road trail plan

by Janet Davis

Stanford Professor P.J. Utz, the author of last week's guest opinion titled "Counterpoint on the Alpine Trail," knows not of what he speaks. In my view, he should check his assumptions before asserting them as facts. I believe each one of his "facts" is totally wrong.

Fact 1: The trail was absolutely not designated as the approved trail in the General Use Permit issued to Stanford by Santa Clara County. That document required a trail on Stanford land in Santa Clara County. Alpine Road was suggested by an errant employee of the Parks Department.

Fact 2: Obviously Professor Utz is not up to date. At a recent San Mateo County Board of Supervisors meeting, it was decided to meet with representatives from Santa Clara County with a view to setting up a grant fund to benefit both counties.

Fact 3: The idea that if Stanford funds are sent to Santa Clara County after Jan. 31, 2011, taxpayers would have to pay for costly trail and creek repairs is plain nonsense, in my opinion.

Fact 4: I do not agree that trail repairs will not damage sensitive creek and riparian habitats.

Fact 5: This is flat out wrong. All the original drawings prepared by Stanford called for a 20-foot-wide, cantilevered, asphalted, "roadway" above Stanford Weekend Acres (SWA) residents' homes and extensive realignment in the lower Ladera area. It also called for the destruction of about 100 mature oak trees.

The plans now being pushed by Stanford's Larry Horton call for an 8-foot-wide paved section with 2-foot-borders on each side, which equals 12 feet as Lennie Roberts correctly stated in her guest opinion of Aug. 10.

Alpine Road carries about 32,000 vehicles a day and is going to be deluged with considerably more because of Stanford's addition to the hospital and its proposed "calming" of all traffic on Junipero Serra, which will increase that load. Much of the Alpine Road traffic exceeds even the posted excessive limit of 40 mph, which exceeds all other arterials in the area. At present, residents of Stanford Weekend Acres can only get out of their houses with great difficulty because of the existing traffic.

Stanford was instrumental in having Alpine declared a truck route despite the fact that it has several blind turns. Recently I counted 43 double semi-tractor trailers coming and going to a Stanford site within approximately one hour. Those of us living in Weekend Acres have to watch for traffic from both directions, plus bike traffic in both lanes, plus bi-directional traffic in the existing path, plus peletons, all within about one second. To gain access to I-280, we have to accelerate such that it is impossible to avoid going into the westbound bike lane.

Additionally, there have been many, many accidents, including a lot involving vehicles going over the embankment and even more accidents have gone into the existing path. During rush hours, cars and motor bikes have used the existing bike lane to overtake other vehicles. Adding additional two-way traffic is an accident waiting to happen.

Another major factor, acknowledged by Stanford's consultants Fehr and Associates, is the total lack of drainage along Alpine Road. Any sidewalk as proposed would eliminate recharge areas and result in flooding of areas such as Wildwood Lane.

The "trail" built in the Menlo Park jurisdiction is unsafe, does not conform to ADA standards, is poorly and infrequently maintained, rarely used by cyclists, and exhibited (until recently removed) gang graffiti and was frequented by homeless people.

Stanford owns all the land on the other side of Alpine Road and could very easily construct a rewarding recreational trail on that side of the road.

It is not Stanford Weekend Acres residents that need "educating." A good many of them have lived here 40 or 50 years, and have been intimately involved in all areas of the "trail" issue for the last several years. In my view, relative newcomers have been hoodwinked by Stanford's public relations effort, whose goal is to wiggle out of the university's obligations to Santa Clara County.

Janet Davis lives on Alpine Road in Menlo Park.

Trail commentary made critical points


In regard to P.J. Utz's guest opinion on the Alpine Road corridor hike/bike path, as a 29-year resident of Ladera and a frequent biker who avoids the roadway, I want to thank him for making critical points.

Each time I pass the Portola Valley stretch of trail being improved, I shake my head at how both Weekend Acres and Ladera responded as victims rather than beneficiaries when the bike/hike trail was initially proposed. At the time, this was caught up with the strongly held opinion that Stanford was skirting its responsibility to put in a nature trail through the center of its lands.

Clearly, only one option is on the table so far as San Mateo County and the residents of the Alpine Road corridor are concerned. Unbelievably, the current situation undercuts every sensibility in encouraging bike and walk commuters, largely isolating the "bike route to nowhere" being built by Portola Valley. Only those who are willing to venture onto Alpine Road once they pass the Ladera Shopper will use it because of the deteriorated condition of the old path as it continues under Interstate 280 and past Weekend Acres to Sand Hill Road.

This discussion should have input from the Portola Valley bikers and walkers who need to ride down the Alpine Road corridor and face the gap as well as ecologically minded folks in Ladera and Weekend Acres who would benefit from a decent path.

Edward S. Mocarski Jr.

Erica Way, (Ladera) Portola Valley

Stanford offered county any size trail


In her Aug. 10 guest opinion, Lennie Roberts is so eager to lambaste Stanford for its generous offer to build hike and bike trails along Alpine Road that she completely overlooks a critical fact: Stanford never demanded that San Mateo County accept the 12-foot trail concept Roberts despises.

The university offered to build whatever the county requested, up to the 12-foot design. The county could have asked for a 2-foot dirt path if it had wanted to, or an 8-foot tanbark trail, or a 10-foot asphalt bikeway, or anything else it liked.

It's discouraging to see the same old anti-Stanford diatribes in our local newspaper. The university has been more than accommodating to all the demands made on it except for one unreasonable one, that the trustees give away a central part of its foothills for use by the general public. We rightly don't demand that any other institution make up for our lack of foresight in reserving parkland. Why pick on Stanford?

Kathleen Much

Hillside Drive, Menlo Park


Posted by altview, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 23, 2011 at 1:34 pm

Well, at least Stanford has managed to divert attention from the original promise, which was to allow the public access to its TWO EXISTING TRAILS cutting underneath 280 and going back around Felt Lake. This entire area has been essentially unused since Old Man Peers gave up his moo-cow lease, and is clearly what both sides of the negotiating table had in mind when Stanford was allowed to build FIVE MILLION additional square feet.

Given its history, including treatment of its neighbors, I think it's fair to call Stanford an INDIAN GIVER.

By the way, interesting to note the degree to which Santa Clara County has been in bed with Stanford all along. They approved the agreement, and if SAN MATEO county doesn't like what is now being shoved down its throat, SANTA CLARA gets the cash...

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