County supes wavering on Stanford trail proposal

San Mateo County supervisors may on Tuesday finally walk away from a multimillion-dollar gift from Stanford University to improve a county trail despite dwindling funds for outdoor space.

The gift simply has too many strings attached, said Supervisors Rich Gordon and Jerry Hill, who recommended a year ago that the county reject the $8.4 million. At that time, fellow supervisors asked for further negotiation with Stanford and Santa Clara County officials. Negotiations have since failed and supervisors will vote on the matter Tuesday.

The money would have been used to relocate and widen parts of Alpine Trail, which runs from Menlo Park’s border with unincorporated San Mateo County through Portola Valley along Alpine Road.

The gift fulfills one of 107 conditions required by Santa Clara County to mitigate Stanford’s 5-million-square-foot development plan in the area.

“This money was not free money to be used to benefit the parks,” Hill said. “It was to improve conditions for Stanford.”

From the beginning, neighbors opposed the widening of the trail. They called the plan “the grand sidewalk” and complained that it ran across driveways and endangered the safety of residents. The county would have had to bulldoze a side of a hill and relocate a section of Alpine Road to complete the project.

“Our proposal was to fix up part of the trail and leave another untouched. Stanford said ‘we won’t release the money unless you do the whole thing.’ But it’s too close to homes and we don’t want to upgrade the trail in that area,” Gordon said.

If supervisors reject the money, it will go entirely to Santa Clara County. Both Gordon and Hill say they hope they can convince Santa Clara County officials to use the money to establish a grant program for regional mitigation, which would benefit San Mateo County.

Stanford spokesman Larry Horton said university officials would like to keep the offer open until 2011 and said he was surprised by the desire to reject the money.

“It seems to me there’s very serious problems with the existing trail — part of it looks like it’s falling into the creek,” he said.

tbarak@examiner.com

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