Expanded Alpine Road trail opposed

Dozens of residents have flooded the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors with calls and letters opposing the expansion of a pedestrian and bicycling trail along Alpine Road from unincorporated Menlo Park to Portola Valley, in spite of Stanford University’s offer to pay for it.

Stanford is offering the county $8.5 million for the 1.6-mile stretch of the trail in San Mateo County, which, if accepted, would fulfill one of 107 conditions set by Santa Clara County on university development over the next 10 to 15 years, Stanford spokesman Larry Horton said. That development is capped at 2 million square feet of academic building space and about 3,000 student and faculty housing units during that time period, Horton said.

Horton said the Alpine Road proposal was approved in a 4-1 vote by supervisors in Santa Clara County last year. The plan has been a source of contention for local environmental groups, however, who want a recreational trail on theuniversity’s undeveloped property instead, officials said.

“The thought of letting Stanford renege on their promise to provide a recreational trail on their property in Santa Clara [County] and instead widen Alpine is a measure of how power can be misused,” Menlo resident Shoshanna Kaplinsky said, in an e-mail to San Mateo County supervisors.

Under the current proposal, which will be presented to the public for the first time Tuesday, the county could choose to take the money and upgrade the trail or ask Stanford to manage the work under the county’s direction. The only limitations are that the trail must be accessible to both pedestrians and bicyclists and work must be completed by Dec. 31, 2011.

After that, Stanford can simply give the $8.5 million to Santa Clara County and walk away. “We’re not going to try to convince area residents to accept the plan,” Horton said. “If they really do not wish to see this trail improved in their community then the money will go to Santa Clara and Stanford will have met its requirement either way.”

Supervisor Rich Gordon estimated opponents’ letters to the board outnumber proponents’ by 10-to-1 to date. He sees Tuesday’s public hearing as a chance to take local residents’ temperature on the subject. “We need to decide whether we want to recommend to [the full Board of Supervisors] whether we want to pursue the trail and, if so, at what level,” Gordon said.

Some residents have also complained that the enhanced trail will require the bulldozing of the side of a hill and will overhang the San Francisquito Creek in places, Gordon said.

Not everyone opposes the plan, however. Menlo Park resident Kathleen Much wrote supervisors encouraging them to take advantage of Stanford’s “generosity.” “I urge my county supervisors to take the $8 million-plus offered by Stanford to improve the existing Alpine Road trail from Sand Hill Road to Portola Valley,” Much said.

As part of the plan, Stanford has offered Portola Valley $2.8 million to enhance the 1.2 miles of the same trail in its jurisdiction, Horton said.

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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