August 31, 2001, the applicant, Stanford University, proposed
specific routings for trails S-1 and C-1 as they relate to
Stanford's obligations under its General Use Permit.
Here are the applicant's proposal, the County's response,
and our comments.
In general, the proposed trail route for S-1 is suboptimal but
could be made acceptable, while the proposed route for C-1 is totally
noncompliant with the letter and spirit of the County Trails Master
Plan and General Use Permit. Worse, the applicant is proposing to
omit building certain of the segments of trail C-1 along the route
they propose for reasons that are specious.
The applicant owes the county an easement for trail C-1 about
3.6 miles long and 25 feet wide at a location to be determined.
We are not discussing whether there is such an obligation; that
is in the General Use Permit accepted and signed by the applicant's
officers and the Board of Supervisors of Santa Clara County. We
are discussing the details of what property is to be dedicated to
The applicant's proposed routing would not provide a viable
recreational trail. At best, it would provide a usable bicycle transportation
Our detailed comments
Greg Betts, the Palo Alto Open Space manager, is taking the lead
on trail S-1, and we generally leave comments on that route to him.
His main concerns are that the trail provide a good connection between
the intersection of Stanford Avenue and Junipero Serra (where the
City of Palo Alto trail system ends) and the Arastadero Preserve
of the City of Palo Alto.
Regarding trail C-1, we make the following comments:
Stanford's proposal for trail C-1 consists mostly of ways to route
the trail around Stanford land. The Countywide Trails Master Plan
shows a route east of San Francisquito Creek across Stanford land.
Stanford's proposed route is west of the creek by as much as half
a mile, in San Mateo County, and mostly off Stanford land.
Bear in mind that all this is a proposal by the applicant to avoid
building along a more desirable,
and safer, recreational route that would cross Stanford land east
of the Stanford golf course. Our proposed route for the segment
north of I-280 goes through the campus along existing pathways,
across Junipero Serra at Campus Drive (a signaled intersection),
along the eastern perimeter of the Stanford golf course, and exits
Stanford property at Piers Land and Alpine Road, connecting to an
existing trail at that point. Alternatively, it could go under I-280
at an existing but little-used cattle tunnel and continue through
the Felt Lake area to connect to the DeAnza National Trail near
Arastadero Road or the Arastadero Preserve of the City of Palo Alto.
In this document we're concentrating on the sections north of I-280,
which present the most problems.
Alpine Road is a road through hilly terrain, and much of the road
is cut out of hillsides. This has limited the width of Alpine Road,
and as a side effect has severely constricted the paths alongside
it as the road has been widened over the decades. Slopes along the
road are in the 45 degree range, near the limit of what can be supported
without retaining walls. The east side of the road, where Stanford
proposes to put the trail, runs alongside the Happy Hollow subdivision.
Structures and fences come as close as 17 feet to the edge of the
paved highway. The existing trail is basically an asphalt sidewalk,
with occasional gaps.
The existing Alpine Road trail was built as a horse trail in the
1960s, with federal funding. (Although currently signed as a bike
trail, the designation does not seem to have been changed by official
action.) Within a half mile of the trail in the segments under discussion
are six large horse facilities (Portola Pastures, Creekside Stables,
Piers Ranch, Webb Ranch, the Portola Valley Training Center, and
the Stanford Equestrian Center.), totaling about 500 horses. The
trail sections south of I-280 are routinely used by horses, although
heavy traffic north of I-280 has discouraged horse use of that segment.
Most bicyclists tend to use the bike lanes on Alpine Road, which,
although narrow and dangerous due to heavy traffic, are well-maintained
and flat. We take the position that all sections of trail C-1 south
of the Palo Alto city line (the urban boundary) should be "shared-use
trails, natural tread" as defined in figure G-1 of the Trails
Master Plan, which includes off-road bicycle, pedestrian, and equestrian
usage. This is a recreational facility, not a sidewalk.
(The segment terminology here follows Stanford's proposal; the
County Trails Master Plan uses a different nomenclature.)
Segment A - Sand Hill Road from El Camino Real to the Menlo Park
border (1.5 miles)
Considerable work has been done in this segment as part of the
Sand Hill Project, but there are still gaps. Stanford asks that
the existing trails (basically sidewalks and bike lanes) be accepted
as sufficient. They write "This segment does not conform precisely
to the County design guideline. The improvements are less than two
years old, provide a variety of safe and comfortable recreation
and transportation opportunities for pedestrians and cyclists."
The trails don't conform to County guidelines because the county
requires a recreational route, while Stanford built transportation
facilities. They also left gaps, dangerous gaps, which have already
killed one Stanford student forced to cross busy Sand Hill Road
at an uncontrolled point while jogging. We have proposed
improvements which would fix those gaps.
County staff recognizes this requirement in their Recommendation
Segment B - Sand Hill Road from the Menlo Park border to Junipero
This is a narrow section of roadway which Stanford wants widened
from two to four lanes. However, the City Council of Menlo Park
has addressed that issue and voted not to widen the road. The applicant
proposes to make their compliance with the GUP conditional on the
City of Menlo Park reversing their decision. The applicant is thus
asking first that they not be required to route the trails through
the campus (which is a viable alternative and identified as such
by county staff) and second, having requested a reroute for the
applicant's convenience, not to actually build the rerouted segment.
This is unacceptable and noncompliant.
proposes to do nothing about this section unless and until
the City of Menlo Park agrees to widen the highway to four
lanes, an expansion the Menlo Park City Council has rejected.
south on Sand Hill
towards Junipero Serra.
north on Sand Hill towards Palo Alto.
that the path and bike lane disappear at the bridge.
County staff recognizes this requirement in their Recommendation
Segment C - Sand Hill/Santa Cruz intersection to Alpine Road alongside
the Stanford Golf Course (0.25 mi.)
This is currently a viable section of trail, separated from traffic
for most of its length by a barrier of trees and shrubbery. Unfortunately,
it doesn't connect to much, so it is underutilized. It is also substandard
according to current trail standards, but improvement is quite possible.
The current trail easement does not conform to the County minimum
of 25', but there is sufficient room for an expansion. Because the
current easement is undersized, a retaining wall was built to support
Alpine Road. The trail lies below the retaining wall. Similar construction
would be required along other segments.
The one good
section of trail on the proposed route.
About 0.25 mile long.
south along Alpine Road south of Junipero Serra, in Segment
Segment D - This is a continuation of segment C above, continuing
along the Stanford Golf Course to Rural (?Stowe) lane.
(about 0.1 mi.)
This short section is similar to the above, and could easily be
improved to current trail standards if a suitable easement were
made available. Stanford owns the necessary property.
Alpine Road "trail" alongside Stanford property.
The existing trail is unsafe and too close to the road, but
space exists for widening.
Segment E - Happy Hollow (0.65 miles)
This segment runs along the frontage of a subdivision, not the
applicant's property. But because this is a proposed substitution
by the applicant, the applicant has the burden of acquiring the
necessary easements from property owners in the area.
proposed site of 25' trail easement. That parking space and
fence will have to go, along with part of the homeowner's
front yard, to put a trail through there.
north at 2443 Alpine Road in the Happy Hollow area, segment
This section of Alpine Road is cut out of the side of several hills
and will present construction problems. Alpine Road is currently
about as wide as it can get without using retaining walls to hold
up the hills. This has squeezed down the pedestrian paths (which
are too narrow to qualify as proper sidewalks, let alone recreational
trails) to a one-person width.
One section of the Alpine Road trail in the Stowe Lane area is
the subject of current litigation. Some of the houses in that section
appear to be built on a County easement, and fences have been placed
on land undisputedly owned by the County. In this section, the terrain
drops off sharply at the edge of Alpine Road, drops about 30-40
feet at a slope of 45-50 degrees, and then becomes flat. Development
has progressed to the bottom edge of the slope, which is roughly
the edge of the disputed easement. The disputed section is the steep
slope. Even if the legal problem can be resolved, trail construction
would require substantial cuts and retaining walls. The required
25' trail setback from occupied residences in an urban service area
could not be met without acquisition and demolition of several houses.
|| We're peering
over a fence from Alpine Road into someone's back yard. See
that white stake next to the bird cage? The County of San Mateo
has an easement down to that point, and that's the easement
Stanford wants to use. The property owners are litigating with
San Mateo County over this land.
about a 20' drop with a 45 degree slope down that hill. The
trail would have to be cut into the side of the hill, with
a retaining wall to hold up Alpine Road. And that would still
put a trail in someone's back yard.
The section of Alpine Road bordered by a vehicle guardrail presents
serious problems. The existing "trail" in that area is
just the pavement fringe extending beyond the guardrail, is 5 to
6 feet wide, and is bordered by a 45 degree drop-off and vegetation.
Beyond the vegetation is a private road and developed private property.
The County does not have an easement beyond the road edge in this
is there for a reason; the slope of the land was too steep
for a road shoulder.
minimal "trail" to right of guardrail.
photo was taken on a quiet Sunday afternoon. On weekdays,
this road is jammed with traffic from I-280 to the Stanford
north on Alpine Road, in Segment E.
"trail" behind the guardrail. This barely qualifies
as a sidewalk, let alone a recreational trail. It's about
a 10' drop with a 45 degree slope down that hill on the right.
The owners of the adjacent land have planted shrubs to screen
their property from the road. There are houses behind that
north on Alpine Road, in Segment E.
The affected landowners have not been contacted by the applicant,
Santa Clara County, or San Mateo County. The ones we've talked to
hate the idea of a trail running through their back yards.
County staff recognizes many of these problems in their Recommendations
2 and 3.
Segment F - Piers Lane to Arastadero Road via Alpine Road (2.1
This is several miles of trail, and exists but does not meet current
standards. Most of this section is in the Town of Portola Valley.
The Town of Portola Valley has an active trail dedication and management
program, run by the Portola Valley Trail Commission and the Town Engineer.
The Town has not been consulted in this matter by the applicant.
Our contacts with the Portola Valley Trail Commission, before which
we have appeared formally, indicate that their plans for buildout
of trail C-1 call for a trail through the Felt Lake area on Stanford
land, and Portola Valley would insist on this should the applicant
come before the Town in a matter affecting that property. Comments
on this long segment will be developed further after consultation
with Portola Valley officials.
County staff recognizes the lack of coordination with Portola Valley
in their Recommendation 5.
Operational and implementation issues
The applicant suggests a "phased implementation". Early
drafts of the General Use Permit, drafted by the applicant, requested
a phased implementation of trails based on development thresholds.
That language was not accepted by the County and does not appear
in the final GUP. Thus, a phased implementation is inappropriate.
That issue was disposed of during the GUP negotiation process.
The applicant states "We may wish to operate this trail similarly
to the Stanford dish trails and use the personnel and management
structures currently in place for this purpose." As regards
maintenance, this is a subject for negotiation between the landowners,
the applicant, and the County. (Recall that the applicant is proposing
trails over the lands of others.) As regards patrols and enforcement,
section M -5.0 of the County Trails Master Plan calls for patrol
and ranger operations to be performed by County personnel. The landowner
may not exert control of a public dedicated trail easement, any
more than they may exert control over a public highway.
As section M - 5.7 suggests, the Midpeninsula Open Space District
is an appropriate agency to take on this function under contract,
especially since MROSD has personnel in the North County.
These are the official documents filed with the County of Santa