Stanford Area Trails

The Paper Trail
The document history of county trails over Stanford land

Preliminary - 3 NOV 2001

At the request of County Supervisor Liz Kniss, we've put together the available comments on trails in the Stanford area as we've found them in public documents. These are in chronological order.

Stanford's comments on the 1995 trail plan revision.

In 1995, Stanford was asked by the County to comment on the Countywide Trail Master Plan, which was being updated at the time. (Ref Letter K, September 15, 1995, in "Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Report, Countywide Trail Master Plan Update".) Stanford's comment on trail routing at that time was as follows:
"We would not want to provide additional pathways through the existing leaseholds in the Research Park (Trail S1 between El Camino Real and Junipero Serra Boulevard). We would also need to prevent public access to other leaseholds on Stanford lands. The open space west of Junipero Serra Boulevard are agricultural leases and public access would need to be prevented. It would be possible to consider easements at the boundaries of the leases if they were fenced to prevent public access. This could affect portions of trails S1, C1, and C2."

The "leaseholds in the research park" issue reflects that Trail S-1, if run along Matadero Creek as in the plan, would run through the Research Park from El Camino to Junipero Serra. Connecting to the existing trail along Stanford Avenue is an alternative which would avoid this objection expressed by Stanford.

Stanford also pointed out a minor inconsistency in the map:

There is an exception for the section of Trail S1 between Junipero Serra Boulevard and and Page Mill Road, which is Stanford land within the County jurisdiction. It appears this segment should be designated XOX rather than a solid line.

Stanford is pointing out an error in the map in the Trail Master Plan. Stanford thus, in 1995, took the position that trail S-1, as mapped, runs over Stanford land, not along existing roads. The "XOX" designation refers to "trail within private property". (Trail C-1 is already designated "XOX" from Sand Hill Road at the Palo Alto city line all the way to Arastadero Road.)

Stanford also made a general policy statement on trails:

Policy C-PR-26 states that private developers will be encouraged to incorporate indicated trail routes into their projects. We support this concept in all areas where it would not be in direct conflict with our academic mission.

So as of 1995, the positions taken by Stanford were generally supportive of building good trails through Stanford lands, provided that a few specific problems were dealt with.

Early Stanford draft of General Use Permit (November 15, 1999)

An early draft for Stanford's General Use Permit contains the following, in the "Trails and Pathways" section:

Academic studies and agriculture activities can be negatively impacted by trails. A trail can alter the use of the land by wildlife, and/or interrupt the grazing patterns of domestic animals. Field studies and course-related projects are threatened by unregulated access. Two of Stanford's major interests are to preserve its valuable academic reserve and to protect its undeveloped lands from inconsistent uses.

The future trails shown on the County Trails map are proposed as sub-regional and connector trails in the Countywide Trails Master Plan. They are intended to provide links between developed urban areas and open space in the baylands and ridges. Final detailed alignments of these links must be studied carefully to protect sensitive habitat areas, and on-going academic, agricultural, and residential uses.

Route S1 is shown as a "sub-regional route on other public lands" in the Matadero Creek/Page Mill Road corridor and is partially on a public road. The alignment follows Matadero Creek and Old Page Mill Road in the Stanford Community Plan area. A number of constraining factors will affect development of this route.

The connector route C1, in the San Francisquito/Los Trancos Creek corridors, is designated as a "trail route within private property." The alignment generally follows the creeks and Alpine Road. Ensuring the privacy of homeowners and security of agricultural tenants will be important to address in planning this route.

Note that at this time, Stanford recognized that trail C-1 was a trail across private property and that it would run near some agricultural tenancies. Also note that at this time, Stanford made no claim that trail C-1 was complete.

Stanford Community Plan / General Use Permit EIR / Plan Consistency Review (June 23, 2000)

Early drafts of Stanford's GUP, generated by Stanford, did not call for building any trails. In this early draft of the EIR associated with Stanford's GUP, this lack of trail dedications is called out as "not consistent" (ref Item PR-TS 3.7, page 3-5) with the County Trails Master Plan. The EIR points this out as an inconsistency, and justifies the trail requirement which was later added to the GUP. The section ends with the words "Thus, there is a nexus and rough proportionality between the project's impacts and the trail dedication requirement, and dedication of the aformentioned trails could be required by the county as a GUP condition of approval." County staff (with some encouragement from Supervisor Simitian) then added a trail requirement to the GUP.

Stanford letter to Sara Jones, County Planner (August 7, 2000)

In response to the Draft EIR review mentioned above issued by Santa Clara County on June 23, 2000, Stanford replied by letter, which included the following:

I. Chapter 3 — Plan Consistency

Stanford disagrees with the EIR's conclusion that approval of the proposed Community Plan and General Use Permit would be inconsistent with the Santa Clara County Trails Master Plan. As stated in the EIR, Stanford's proposed Community Plan identifies the two route alignments shown in the County Trails Master Plan. Both trail alignments are located in the foothills district, one near Matadero Creek and the other near San Francisquito Creek. No development is proposed near these routes. Therefore, approval of the Community Plan and build-out of the projects authorized by the GUP will not interfere with future implementation of the County's Trails Master Plan. Furthermore, the proposed Community Plan carries out the trails plan by requiring Stanford to work with local agencies to define more precise trail alignments for the portions of the trails crossing Stanford lands.

The EIR appears to conclude, nevertheless, that to achieve consistency with the Countywide Trails Master Plan, Stanford also must dedicate the two trails crossing Stanford's lands. This conclusion is in error. The Countywide Trails Master Plan provides:

Development projects proposed on lands that include a trail as shown on the Countywide Trails Master Plan Map may be required to dedicate/and or improve such trail to the extent there is a nexus between the impacts of the proposed development and the dedication/improvement requirement. The dedication/improvement requirement shall be roughly proportional to the impacts of the proposed development. (Policy PR - TS 3.7) (emphasis added)

It is clear from the Plan's language that dedication and/or improvement of trails is not necessary in order to achieve consistency with this policy: the policy states that the County may require dedication in appropriate cases. If the County chooses not to require dedication and/or improvement of the trails crossing Stanford's land as a condition of approval of the Community Plan and/or General Use Permit, the County's decision would not be inconsistent with the Plan.

In this case, dedication of the trails is not warranted. No development is proposed on land that includes the trails shown in the Trails Master Plan. Further, there is not an essential nexus between the proposed dedication condition and the project's impacts. Nor is the dedication requirement roughly proportional to the project's impacts. As shown in Table 4.2-1 of the Draft EIR, Stanford provides numerous recreational and athletic resources to the campus community and to the general public. These facilities have sufficient capacity to accommodate the increased demand for recreational opportunities created by the increase in campus residential population, as well as the increase in the faculty, staff and student population. Existing and proposed campus open space and recreational areas also have sufficient capacity to accommodate any increase in demand for such resources caused by the proposed infill development of vacant parcels in the faculty subdivision. As the EIR explains, under the Community Plan's proposed land use designations, Stanford would continue to maintain campus parks and open space at a rate far exceeding the maximum requirement of 5 acres for 1,000 population.

Stanford remains committed to working with the County and other local agencies to study alignments of the trails crossing Stanford's lands that are shown on the Countywide Trails Master Plan. The goal of these studies would be to arrive at an alignment that would protect sensitive habitat areas, as well as on-going academic, agricultural, and residential uses. However, Stanford opposes a requirement that it dedicate these trails at this time.

This appears to be Stanford's earliest formal opposition to trail dedications. Stanford is arguing that they should not be required to dedicate trails in the foothills as part of this project, because they're not being allowed to build much in the foothills. The County does not agree.

Preliminary Staff Recommendations on the the Stanford Community Plan (August, 2000)

From the Open Space, Recreation, and Visual Resources section of staff comments:

Recreational use of Stanford land is enjoyed by residents of the Stanford campus and neighboring communities. The close proximity of the Stanford foothills to the developed areas of the Midpeninsula make it a popular destination. Use of these lands is allowed by permission of the University. Recreational use of the foothills raises several associated issues:

• While the foothills are a popular recreation destination and used in the manner of a park by many visitors, they are not publicly owned or operated. Stanford does not provide the amenities that are normally associated with public trails and does not patrol the area to prevent visitors from leaving designated trails or manage the land as a recreation area. As a result, recreational use may contribute to trail and environmental degradation.

• Trail user parking is a particular concern to residents of the neighboring faculty/staff subdivision. As a result, Stanford instituted a residential parking permit program in this neighborhood and trail users have been parking along Stanford Avenue, which is a County-maintained road. As a result of continued resident concerns, the speed limit has been reduced and the County has modified the road to manage parking and reduce erosion, but has continued to allow public parking along the street.

• Visitor access to environmentally sensitive areas, particularly riparian areas which are home to special status species, has the potential to result in degradation of habitat and direct impacts on animals, as well as adverse effects on research, education, and restoration efforts.

Maintaining natural resources in the foothills will require achievement of a balance between environmental protection and access to open space.

Note the mention of the Stanford Avenue parking and traffic problem. This is an ongoing issue for the Stanford "residental leaseholders". (A recent proposal involving a traffic circle at Stanford and Junipero Serra may alleviate this problem, by allowing trail users to turn around without causing traffic jams.)


These lands are located south of Junipero Serra Boulevard, extending across Interstate 280 and into San Mateo County. The foothills consist of grassland, mixed woodland, and riparian areas, and are largely undeveloped. They are used for research and agricultural leases, most notably “the Dish.” They are not officially designated for recreational use, but are commonly used by the public for jogging and hiking. While Stanford currently has a policy restricting public use to designated trails, this policy has not been enforced. Stanford recently announced its intentions to limit access and enforce trail use restrictions through its Conservation and Use Plan for the Dish area, as described below. The Stanford foothills provide a scenic backdrop to the central campus area. This area is currently designated as Special Condition Area C under the 1989 GUP, where development regulations require a separate County Use Permit for all non-residential buildings in excess of 5,000 square feet and all residential buildings other than caretaker housing units.

Here we see a mention of the fact that public access to the Dish area was allowed until August 2000, but that Stanford was preparing to restrict access.

Public hearing, September 7, 2000

A hearing on the above recommendations took place on September 7, 2000 in the Palo Alto City Council Chambers, with Supervisor Joe Simitian presiding. Minutes of that meeting presumably exist, but are not immediately available to us. Those who were there (which included most of the people involved on all sides) will recall strong community support for continued access to the Dish area and strong opposition to its development.

Public hearing, Board of Supervisors, November 2000

This contentious hearing ran into the early morning hours, with more than a hundred speakers representing both sides. Stanford bused in its supporters; the community generally car-pooled. Minutes are probably available.

Stanford's General Use Permit (December 2000)

In December 2000, after a long, contentious public process, agreement between Stanford and Santa Clara County on the General Use Permit and Community Plan was reached. The trail requirement went into the General Use Permit and was formally signed off by both the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and Stanford's administration.

From the final Conditions of Approval of Stanford's 2000 General Use Permit: from the County of Santa Clara:
2. Stanford shall dedicate easements for, develop, and maintain the portions of the two trail alignments which cross Stanford lands shown in the 1995 Santa Clara Countywide Trails Master Plan (Routes S1 and C1), according to the following timeline:
a. In consultation with the County Parks and Recreation Department, Stanford shall identify trail easements and complete Agreements for Trail Easements within one year of GUP approval. For purposes of this condition, the term “easement” includes any other equally enforceable mechanism acceptable to the County Board of Supervisors.
b. Stanford shall work with the County Parks and Recreation Department to identify responsibilities for trail construction, management and maintenance. An agreement regarding these issues, including but not limited to a time frame for implementation, shall be reached within one year of GUP approval.

This is the basis of Stanford's legal commitment to dedicate and build trails.

Letter, Charles Carter (Stanford) to Mark Fredrick (Parks and Rec), August 31, 2001

(click here for related documents and maps)

This is Stanford's first formal proposal on trail alignments. Discussions between Stanford and Parks and Rec had been underway for months, but had not generated a public paper trail. This letter is from Charles Carter, a planner at Stanford, to Mark Fredrick, a planning supervisor at Parks and Rec.

This letter is entirely about trail issues. The route proposed for trail C-1 is entirely along Sand Hill and Alpine Roads, the Alpine Road section being in San Mateo County and continuing into Portola Valley. Stanford indicates that some parts of the trail are complete, some are substandard, and in some areas there is "no tral". The proposal envisions a bike route, referencing "County design guidelines T-1, T-4, and T-5", which is a reference not to the County Trails Master Plan proper, but to the 1999 addendum for urban bike paths.

The route proposed for S-1 begins at Page Mill/Junipero Serra, follows Page Mill to Deer Creek, and then crosses Stanford land to end at Arastadero Road and I-280 near Los Altos Hills. Again, bike paths, not recreational trails, are proposed, and references are made to guidelines only applicable inside urban areas, even though Stanford's proposed route goes through undeveloped terrain.

Stanford does not propose to actually build all the required trail sections; some are merely to be "studied" at this time. The Stanford route proposal thus leaves sizable gaps in the trail, most notably the section through Menlo Park anong Sand Hill and the section past Happy Hollow on Alpine.

Letter, Mark Fredrick (Parks and Rec) to Charles Carter (Stanford) (September 19, 2001)

This is the County's reply to Stanford's proposal. It contains five specific criticisms of Stanford's proposal:


Recommendation 1: Provide regional connectivity for the Bay Trail to the Bay Area Ridge Trail route by linking the S1 Route on unincorporated Stanford lands to the countywide network of regional trails.

  • Extend Route S1 - Segment A from its proposed start/terminus location at Page Mill Road and Junipero Serra Boulevard to connect to the City of Palo Alto's Trails Master Plan route(s) that will continue to the San Francisco Bay Trail (See Map 1).


Recommendation 2: Provide a complete and continuous trail as per the GUP conditions by providing either alternative trail alignments outside of Stanford lands and/or alternative solutions on Stanford unincorporated lands. There should be no unaccounted for gaps in the proposed trail routes.

Gap identified on Route C1 -Segment B (Sand Hill Road Area):

  • Develop Route C1 - Segment B alternative alignments that can be used by trail users in the interim period, given that the status of the Sand Hill Road improvement project in Menlo Park remains unresolved at this time.
  • Develop and execute an Agreement with the City of Menlo Park to indicate the specific time frame that Stanford will complete the trail alignment along Sand Hill Road within MenloPark's jurisdiction.
  • Or, identify alternative trail alignments within Stanford's unincorporated lands to fulfill the GUP conditions.

Gap identified on Route CI-Segment E (Happy Hollow Area):

  • Submit a trail assessment study of the existing conditions for the Alpine Recreational Trail, incollaboration with San Mateo County and Portola Valley, as noted in the proposal. Trail assessment should consider the following design recommendations:

a) Incorporation of the existing bike lanes on Alpine Road, where existing, into the widening of the improved Alpine Recreational Trail.

b) Use and design of safety barriers and landscaped buffers within the appropriate trail setbacks, as determined in Table UD-1 of the Uniform Interjurisdictional Trail

Design, Use, and Management Guidelines, to provide for the safety and aesthetic experience of the trail users on Route C1.

  • Develop and execute an Agreement with San Mateo County and other necessary jurisdictions for the construction, maintenance, and management of the improved Alpine Recreational Trail segment for Route C-1.


Recommendation 3: Provide preliminary environmental analyses for the evaluation of the trail feasibility of Routes S1 and C1.

  • Identify significant environmental issues and provide information on the possible environmental impacts in the proposed locations of Routes S1 and C1. Stanford may refer to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Initial Study Environmental Checklist document as a guideline for preparing a preliminary environmental analysis. However, an independent consultant retained by the County at Stanford's expense will prepare an Initial Study, if one is needed, for CEQA documentation.
  • Include analyses of trail user safety, traffic, circulation, and parking impacts for the proposed trail routes.
  • Identify areas of environmental concern(s) for biological resources, such as red-legged frog and riparian habitat areas, on a map showing the proposed trail alignments.


Recommendation 4: Provide site topographic maps to determine the feasibility of aligning Route S1 trail segments along the agricultural leasehold lands east of Page Mill Road.

  • Provide a trail slope analysis for Route S1 to identify portions of the trail alignment that exceeds the optimum 11 % slope.
  • Where needed, complete a grading plan to indicate how Route S1 will be designed to meet the Countywide Trails Master Plan design guidelines for trail grades within 11% and not to exceed 15% slope in the foothills.


Recommendation 5: Expand the current program description of maintenance and management responsibilities for Routes S1 and C1.

  • Meet with the involved agencies, such as the San Mateo County Parks and Recreation, Portola Valley, and etc. to determine the responsibilities.of the maintenance and management for Route C1
  • Develop and execute an Agreement with the involved agencies for maintenance and management of Route C1

Parks and Rec staff have pointed out the clear deficiencies in Stanford's proposal. Staff appears to be willing to accept Stanford's routings if, and only if, Stanford can resolve all the problems inherent in those routings.

Letter, Robert Reidy (Stanford) to Paul Romero (Parks and Rec), October 16, 2001

This letter represents Stanford's bargaining position as of mid-October, 2001. The mater has escalated one level on each side; Robert Reidy is Stanford's Vice Provost for Land and Buildings, while Paul Romero is Director of Santa Clara County Environmental Resources/Parks and Recreation. Stanford is unhappy about Parks and Rec insisting on compliance, and offers various reasons why compliance should not be required of Stanford.

We do feel, however, that it will be useful for us to articulate our basic position on the trails requirement. Stanford's proposal for meeting the GUP trail requirement remains what was put forth on August 31, 2001.

Our staff will provide documentation that the proposed S-l (Matadero) route can be built and operated to meet Uniform InterJurisdictional Trail Design, Use and Management Guidelines. (See Attachment #1). Alternatively, if the County feels that the proposed routes cannot be accepted without agreements for extension from adjoining jurisdictions, Stanford will propose an alignment on Stanford Land that specifically conforms to that shown in the Community Plan and County Wide Trails Master Plan. (See attachement #2)

Santa Clara County and San Mateo County have deemed the C-1 (San Francisquito) route complete in their respective trails master plans. Stanford believes that its proposed alignment follows this route and is therefore consistent with the Community Plan and County Wide Trails Master Plan. Further, we believe that plan policies for protection of existing agricultural use and environmental resources support continue use of this route. Stanford has proposed measures to improve the C-1 route and has reached tentative agreement with Menlo Park for implementing improvements and management of the Sand Hill Road segment of C- I in Menlo Park. Stanford will continue to work with the agencies to develop an appropriate improvement and maintenance program for the remaining segments of the C- I route within the existing alignment in San Mateo County.

The "tenative agreement with Menlo Park" mentioned above does not exist. A preliminary meeting did take place between Stanford University representatives, the Menlo Park City Manager, and the head of Menlo Park Parks and Recreation. However, Stanford's request for a letter of support for Stanford's proposal was rejected. (Documents to follow. Contact Menlo Park City Manager David Boesch or Menlo Park Councilmember Paul Collachi for confirmation.)

Note the reference to "Uniform InterJurisdictional Trail Design, Use and Management Guidelines.". All previous documents, including the GUP, have referenced the County Trails Master Plan. The distinction is that the County Trails Master Plan contains the standards for rural trails, while the "Uniform InterJurisdictional Trail Design, Use and Management Guidelines" is an addendum from 1999 which specifies standards for urban trails and bike paths designated as "High Volume/Urban Experience". These are "Interjurisdictional Guidelines" because they are intended for use by cities within Santa Clara County. It would be appropriate to use these guidelines for trail sections within the city limits of Palo Alto, for example, but not in rural areas or open space. This is an attempt by Stanford to escape the trail width, trail type, and setback requirements of the County Trails Master Plan. For example, the County Trails Master Plan specifies unpaved recreational trails with a 25' easement (Table G-2) and setbacks from occupied dwellings of 150-500' outside urban service areas, depending on land use (Table G-1). The Interjurisdictional Guidelines, on the other hand, describe paved bike paths which can run as close as 10' to an occupied dwelling (Fig. T5A).

The claim that trail C-1 is "complete" rests solely on one checked box in the "trail matrix" in the Santa Clara County Trail Master Plan. This is an error. The trail is not complete on the ground. In previous documents from Stanford quoted above, Stanford did not claim it was complete.

This letter from Reidy thus contains multiple misrepresentations and deceptive statements. (This is in contrast to the previous documents from Stanford, with which one can disagree, but which generally seem to be factual.)


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Last update November 16, 2001.