This morning the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to fund the four most expensive projects submitted for a one-time grant set up to spend $10.4 million originally provided by Stanford University to mitigate impacts on public recreational facilities due to the school’s expansion after 2000.
The Stanford Perimeter Trail was awarded the lion’s share of the funds: $4.5 million, the full amount Stanford says is needed to build it. $4.0 million was given to the Adobe Creek Highway 101 Bridge in Palo Alto, which is estimated to cost $6 – $10 million, depending on the final design chosen. $1.5 million was awarded to Palo Alto’s Matadero Creek Trail, which would be built along the creek’s channelized canal between Waverley Street and Greer Road. That project is estimated to cost $2 million. And $400,000 was provided to the Ravenswood Bay Trail located in East Palo Alto, projected by the MidPeninsula Regional Open Space District to cost $2.1 million.
Six smaller projects, ranging in cost from $136,000 to $976,000, applied for funding but were not chosen or even discussed by the Supervisors except for Liz Kniss. Five other projects were declared ineligible for the funds because they would only maintain existing recreational facilities but would not provide any new recreational uses.
Stanford University was the only applicant that received all of the funds requested: $4.5 million to construct or improve existing portions of a multi-use trail around the edge of the Stanford Campus and along Junipero Serra Blvd. The 3-mile long trail was the subject of most of the meeting’s discussion, both by members of the public and by the five County Supervisors who decided to fund it.
Several members of the public and a few organizations, including Peninsula Transportation Alternatives, criticized the project as wasteful because more than half of the trail already exists as paved paths in good condition ranging in width from 6 to 8 feet that would be repaved and widened to 10 to 12 feet, depending on obstructions such as fences or trees. Deputy County Executive Sylvia Gallegos claimed that the Stanford Perimeter Trail is eligible for full funding because Stanford University would grant public access to the trail in perpetuity, even though she previously advised the Supervisors that projects, or parts of projects, that do not “provide new recreational uses” are not eligible. Currently, anyone can physically access the trail and no one is prevented from using it, but Stanford University could theoretically close the trail for public use at any time because it’s located on Stanford’s private property.
The Committee for Green Foothills and Peninsula Transportation Alternatives both recommended full or partial funding for 9 out of the 10 qualified projects instead, suggesting that the Stanford Perimeter Trail be funded at only 25% of the amount requested because 75% of the length of the Stanford Perimeter Trail would not be modified in such a way that would provide new recreational uses. Several others, mostly Stanford campus residents or Palo Alto residents, urged the Board of Supervisors to fully fund only the Stanford and Palo Alto projects, explaining that these trails would be more frequently used than recreational facilities located further away.
Two different ways to distribute the funds were proposed: the first made by Supervisors Liz Kniss and Dave Cortese, and the second made by Supervisors George Shirakawa, Ken Yeager, and Mike Wasserman. The Kniss-Cortese proposal failed on a 3-2 vote, then the Shirakawa-Yeager-Wasserman proposal was accepted 5-0.
Liz Kniss, Dave Cortese George Shirakawa, Ken Yeager, Mike Wasserman
Stanford Perimeter Trail $2.3 million Stanford Perimeter Trail $4.5 million
Adobe Creek 101 Bridge $4.0 million Adobe Creek 101 Bridge $4.0 million
Matadero Creek Trail $1.5 million Matadero Creek Trail $1.5 million
Ravenswood Bay Trail $2.1 million Ravenswood Bay Trail $400,000
El Corte de Madera Trail $200,000
Alpine Pond Trail $300,000
Supervisor Kniss questioned Stanford University’s proposed reconfiguration of the Dish Trail parking lot, located just east of the intersection of Junipero Serra Boulevard and Stanford Avenue. The current 55 parallel parking spots along both sides of Stanford Avenue would be converted to 40 back-in angle parking spaces on only one side of the street. Back-in angle parking is generally considered by planners to be much safer for pedestrians and bicyclists, but Kniss strongly criticized it because it would reduce parking availability for Dish Trail visitors, and because Stanford had not contacted Santa Clara County regarding the proposed design nor held any public meetings to gather input. This section of Stanford Avenue is located in unincorporated Santa Clara County and therefore the County would have to approve any change before the back-in angle parking could be built. It would cost around $800,000 to reconfigure the vehicle parking, according to County staff.
The Stanford Perimeter Trail, Adobe Creek Highway 101 Bridge, and Matadero Creek Trail were funded at their fully-requested amounts, totalling $10.0 million. The leftover funds, $400,000, were then awarded to the Ravenswood Bay Trail in East Palo Alto.
Supervisor Dave Cortese said he is a strong supporter of the Ravenswood Bay Trail project, which if constructed, would create a continuous network of over 100 miles of trails (both paved and unpaved) stretching from Redwood City to San Jose and to Union City and Fremont in the East Bay. He was also dismayed that so much of the $10.4 million in available funds would go to the affluent areas of Palo Alto and Stanford University, and so little to low-income East Palo Alto, whose residents lack safe access to parks and trails. Just before the Board made its final vote, he commented:
“This is really a great case study for a political science class on why East Palo Alto continues to be East Palo Alto. It’s certainly a case of the rich get richer and the poor stay where they’re at.”