Widgets Magazine

Alpine Trail debate mounts

San Mateo County supervisors vote Nov. 1 on whether to accept Stanford’s $10.2 million offer to repair the 1.8-mile stretch of the Lower Alpine Road Trail and complete a decade-long project detained by conflicting residential opinions.

Officials have until Dec. 31 of this year to accept the fund. If they refuse the offer, the funds will go to Santa Clara County for recreational activities for Stanford residents.

San Mateo County is debating whether to accept Stanford’s $10.2 million offer to repair the Lower Alpine Road Trail, which extends from the corner of El Camino Real and Sand Hill Road to a mile into Portola Valley and includes a portion of Stanford Loop Trail. (ALISA ROYER/The Stanford Daily)

The full Alpine Road trail extends from the corner of El Camino Real and Sand Hill Road in Palo Alto to a mile into Portola Valley and includes a portion of the Stanford Loop trail. The plans to build the trail network stem from agreements in Stanford’s 2000 General Use Permit with Santa Clara County. As part of the deal, the University agreed to build a pair of recreational trails worth $19 million from the campus to the surrounding foothills in return for permission to add five million square feet of new buildings on campus. The trail through San Mateo County property runs along Alpine Road from Ladera to Stanford Weekend Acres.

As of now, associate professor of immunology PJ Utz —  a resident of Ladera, one of the San Mateo communities along the trail —  described the condition of the trail as unsafe for bikers.

Utz said the portions of the trail that are only two or three feet wide are at risk of eroding into the creek separating San Mateo County from Santa Clara County. Those sections are also dangerously close to major freeway ramps.

“The trail as it exists in its current condition is much too dangerous to be used by typical commuting bikers or certainly my kids and family,” Utz said. “As a taxpayer, as a parent, as a resident and as a biker I think that it would be fiscally irresponsible for the supervisors to not take the money and fix the trail.”

In addition to voting on Stanford’s offer to repair the trail, San Mateo County officials will also vote on granting the county responsibility to design the revamped trail, conducting an environmental review and requesting an extension to complete the remodeling by Dec. 31.

“For Stanford’s part, if Stanford has to comply with this agreement, which we said we would in our 2000 agreement, we would like to see the money go for this purpose because we do have many people in Ladera and Weekend Acres that work at Stanford and [are] alumni . . . that it would be worth the restoration,” said Larry Horton, director of government and community relations. Any improvement to the trail afterward would be funded by taxes.

From 2000 to 2005, residents of Ladera, Weekend Acres and other communities debated the trail’s location, ultimately settling on its present site. In 2006, Stanford offered $8.4 million to San Mateo County and $2.8 million to Portola Valley to repair the conditions of the connector trail. Only Portola Valley accepted the offer.

Horton attributed San Mateo County’s refusal to internal political disputes. Utz, who formerly opposed Stanford’s offer, also attributed the hesitation to miscommunication on behalf of residents, who informed others of false facts relating to the trail’s remodeling. The county refused Stanford’s second offer in 2009 for similar reasons. However, Stanford’s General Use Permit prevents the county from fully rejecting the offer that stands now until Dec. 31.

Horton said that current opposition to the offer also stems from residents in Weekend Acres who express legitimate safety concerns they think will come from the remodeling, which should not be ignored.

“Every safety and traffic issue asked by Weekend Acres must be studied in the Environmental Impact report according to a particular design and then evaluated,” Horton said. “I can assure you that San Mateo County should not approve it if they do not have a design that is safe and accommodates those matters.”

Utz, who will be a key speaker at the vote in November, said he is hopeful for the outcome.

“I think the likely scenario here is that the supervisors will vote to agree to have Stanford pay for designing the trail and then get public feedback for what that trail would look like,” Utz said.


About Ileana Najarro

Ileana Najarro is the Managing Editor of News at The Stanford Daily. She previously worked as a News Desk Editor and Staff Writer.
  • Janet D

    The existing “trail” does not run to El Camino.  Ladera is NOT “along the trail.”  It is far removed.  There are perfectly good, freshly resurfaced, well marked bike lanes along Alpine.  The path along Stanford Weekend Acres never was a trail.  It is a neighborhood path.  Putting bi-directional pedestrian/bikeways along a truck route with many intersecting roads, driveways and a freeway ramp is idiotic and inherently unsafe.  This is especially so given the number of accidents that occur with cars veering onto the existing path and over the embankment.  Stanford promised to put trails on its own land in Santa Clara County, not in San Mateo. 

  • mpcyclist

    What is being proposed is the construction of a Class I Bikeway across 10 intersections and driveways in Weekend Acres alone (it’s not just “fixing” a trail).  More than 40 years worth of studies in major cities across the US and Europe have all shown that the construction of Class I Bikeways across multiple intersections and driveways is inherently UNSAFE, causing a substantial increase in accident rates.  The Cal. Highway Design Manual warns against it as do local communities such as Palo Alto.  No amount of design or engineering can make it safe!  Why beat a dead horse?  The current bike path as currently configured is perfectly adequate for commuting (except for a soon to be repaired 60ft. section between Stowe and Rural Lane) but it is not a path for kids.  No bike path along a heavily traveled corridor like Alpine Road is, any more than the Sand Hill/Santa Cruz intersection or the bike trail along Juniperro Serra.

  • Nscott54

    We have heard, discussed, and debated this subject over and over for 11 years.

    In 2000 Stanford University agreed with Santa Clara County to build two trails from the campus to the surrounding foothills. No explanations needed. Stanford has to comply to this agreement, they said they would.
    And then… in 2006 Stanford offered $8.4 million to San Mateo County to repair, restore, remodel and revamp the trail along Alpine Road. What a generous offer! Apparently Weekend Acre residents( and other communities) settled on the trails location.
    This does not look like the same agreement to me.
    Ladera residents, how many of you would be driving over this recreational trail and bike 
    path? I don’t think a survey has been done. The Weekend Acres residents suggest that this should be the next study.