Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - July 27, 2012

Guest Opinion: Stanford recreation funding should benefit entire region

by Steve Schmidt

The Guest Opinion submitted by James Sweeney of the Stanford Campus Residential Leaseholders (June 29) is laden with misleading and selectively chosen arguments.

A review of the 2000 General Use Permit (GUP) history would reveal that in 2000 Stanford agreed to construct a multi-use trail, designated C-1, on Stanford University land in Santa Clara County in exchange for 5 million square feet of new campus development. Rather than honor its obligations, and while building its newly granted entitlements, Stanford spent five years lobbying the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors that the C-1 Trail should be in San Mateo County, mostly in the right-of-way of Alpine Road.

I was a Menlo Park City Council member in 2000 actively involved in the discussion of the mitigations for the University's expansion, and I know that a trail along Alpine Road was not a consideration included in the GUP. However, it soon became clear that Stanford apparently had no intention of ever allowing public easements for a trail on Stanford land, even for groups like Sweeney's Leaseholders.

By 2006, Stanford's relentless efforts had paid off; the C-1 Trail had become the responsibility of San Mateo County. Three times the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors rejected Stanford's proposal to build a multi-use trail next to Alpine Road, in part because it violated well-established design standards for locating combined pedestrian and bicycle facilities within a few feet of a heavily traveled arterial road, ironically populated largely by car and truck traffic generated by Stanford construction and growth.

The $10.3 million that Sweeney thinks should be used to supplement his already generous on-campus recreational opportunities has now returned to Santa Clara County. Residents of both Santa Clara and San Mateo counties experience the loss of recreational opportunities caused by limiting public access to the Stanford Dish and the negative effects of unending Stanford expansion in both counties.

It behooves the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors to fund recreational improvements with this money that provide the widest benefits to local residents, including but not limited to the Stanford Leaseholders. I urge the Supervisors to direct these funds for the completion of the Bay Trail in Palo Alto and to partially fund the bicycle-pedestrian over-crossing of U.S. Highway 101 at Adobe Creek.

For years the region has endured the impacts of Stanford's twice-a-day employee commute traffic, two world-renowned hospitals, a regional shopping mall, disruptive sports events and the heavy use of local public roads for dangerous construction vehicles. The entire region deserves genuine mitigations. Thinking regionally is appropriate when one realizes the extent of Stanford's footprint on the Peninsula.

Steve Schmidt is a former mayor of Menlo Park and served on the council from 1994 to 2002.

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