Viewpoint - October 26, 2011

Guest opinion: Stanford's strategy on Alpine trail

by Janet Davis

Planning takes vision and forethought, not mere reaction. With respect to Alpine Road, San Mateo County has consistently failed to:

• Address obvious problems of capacity and drainage;

• Leverage intersection widening or Stanford's overuse;

• Maintain the existing neighborhood path;

• Insure development provided adequate access/parking;

• Consider the impact of allowing Stanford to designate it a truck route;

• Control creekside development causing erosion;

• Maintain bike lanes;

• Ensure adequate traffic enforcement of illegal parking at Piers Lane

• Failed to provide safe crossing for kids using the 85 bus line who have to run across Alpine Road when returning from school.

Stanford by contrast excels in long-term planning and strategy:

• The Habitat conservation plan is for 50 years;

• The General Use Permit (GUP) is multi-year ;

• Plans exist for faculty housing on Rural Lane and Arastradero.

Stanford is also expert at playing one jurisdiction/community against another, or relying on governmental ineptitude.

• During Menlo Park Council meetings I argued that the city section of the Alpine "Trail" was a road.

• An obvious prelude to forcing another trail along Stanford Weekend Acres. Stanford spokesperson Larry Horton said this was not "Stanford's intention, but was a mere convenience to allow people to cross the road!"

• During the zoning change for the Buck Estate I argued for a trail along the fire-road connecting Alpine Road with Sand Hill Road. Stanford promised to consider this during renewal of the Use Permit for the Conference Center. They outwitted the county by applying to renovate a "single family home."

• Financing the Portola Valley trail was purely to pressure San Mateo County.

Stanford has ulterior motives.

For example, Stanford is committed to "no new commuter trips." Failure to comply could jeopardize further construction. They are required to build additional bike and pedestrian pathways. Hence the push for a "trail" on Alpine Road and in Los Altos Hills, and the imminent virtual closing of Junipero Serra.

Access to Stanford from the Bayshore Freeway is meager. Access from I-280 via Sand Hill is at capacity despite widening. The obvious short-term, cost-effective option for Stanford is to force widening of Alpine Road. Three things prevent this: creek erosion, Bishop Lane Hill, and the Hetch Hetchy pipeline. Two of these barriers would be removed by approving the "trail." The result would be immediate development of the Alpine corridor, as occurred on Sand Hill.

Stanford will spend $11.6 million on a Recreation Center and a series of paths/bicycle trails on the SLAC land (go to Why could those trails not be used to fulfill their self-imposed obligations under the GUP?

This "trail" cannot be made safe. The suggested mitigations will not solve the inherent problems even if they could be achieved within the $10 million limit. It would serve no one but Stanford, which would get a green light for further expansion, and avoids complying with their self-imposed obligation. It would impose hardship and liabilities on residents plus a reduction in property values, and would subject the county to future expenses. The money should go to Santa Clara and there should be no extension.

Janet Davis lives in Stanford Weekend Acres and is a frequent contributor on this topic.


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