Almanac

Viewpoint - November 9, 2011

Editorial: Supervisors play hardball on Alpine trail

San Mateo County supervisors did the right thing last week when they once again voted to turn down Stanford's inflation-adjusted $10.4 million offer to build a new pedestrian/bicycling trail along Alpine Road unless the university accepts consideration of three new options, two of which would move part of the trail to the north side of the road at Piers Lane. A deadline of Dec. 13 was set for Stanford to respond.

Twice before this contentious issue has been before the supervisors, and both times they turned it down due to the trail's impact on residents of Stanford Weekend Acres, which is not affiliated with Stanford. At least two supervisors said they would vote to turn down the offer yet again unless Stanford accepts the three new alternatives as viable. Although the supervisors did not include more details about those alternatives, it is likely that a stop light at Piers Lane would allow walkers and recreational cyclists to cross Alpine. Stanford spokesman Larry Horton would not comment on the offer except to say, "We'll see in December."

During the lead-up to the critical supervisors meeting Nov. 1, battle lines over the trail had generally pitted residents of Ladera and Portola Valley, many who favor building a trail on the south side of Alpine Road, against residents of Stanford Weekend Acres, whose homes are located off the south side of Alpine, and who have consistently opposed any trail that they believe would further erode safety along busy Alpine Road.

A 12-foot-wide trail would not fit in the narrow confines of the frontage road where Weekend Acres residents queue up to turn on to Alpine, which is choked with traffic bound for or leaving Stanford every morning or evening. It has been the specter of a trail design that would not conquer that problem that has stymied its approval for some five years.

Given the complexity of the traffic and safety issues, including stabilizing the bank of San Francisquito Creek, it almost certainly will take more than $10 million to build an alternative that would be acceptable to all stakeholders. And even if more funds were provided, we doubt that residents of Stanford Weekend Acres would approve of any trail improvement unless it was located on Stanford lands south of the creek. Some SWA residents see the trail as a precursor to a Stanford effort to win approval for widening Alpine Road, perhaps to four lanes, especially after the huge hospital improvements now under way at Stanford are completed in a few years.

We would urge Stanford to take a look at the three options provided by the supervisors, or better yet, agree to build a trail on Stanford land that would move it away from the busy Alpine Road traffic. That would create a truly scenic and safe pedestrian and biking trail and end this contentious discussion once and for all.

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