Stanford Area Trails
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A trail plan for the Stanford area

Executive summary

Stanford is required by its General Use Permit to dedicate easements for and build out sections of two county trails within one year of its signing of the GUP. Trail C1, as mapped, runs from Sand Hill at the Palo Alto city line to the Arastadero Preserve, generally following San Francisquito Creek through the golf course and the Felt Lake area. Trail S1, as mapped, runs from El Camino Real through the Stanford Industrial Park, then along Old Page Mill Road, and then connects to the Arastadero Preserve of the City of Palo Alto. The mapped routes are considered general and are subject to adjustment.

As of June 1, 2001, nothing definite has been decided. Santa Clara County Parks and Recreation (Jane Mark) is the lead agency on this. Stanford Dish area issues are generally considered a "hot political topic" and thus this is being approached cautiously by county staff.

UPDATE June 23, 2001: We have received this first version of the proposed "trail matrix" from County Parks and Recreation, along with this cover letter. This proposal would relieve Stanford of almost all its trail obligations, contrary to the explicit terms of the General Use Permit. Trail C1, listed in the County Trail Master Plan as having a 3.6 mile segment over Stanford land, exists in this "trail matrix" only as a sidewalk and bike lane along the half mile section of Sand Hill Road from Palo Alto to the Sand Hill/Junipero Serra intersection, where it dead-ends. This is unacceptable and non-compliant. Trail S1 is forced to cross Page Mill Expressway (a four-lane divided highway without traffic lights) near I-280 to avoid going over Stanford land.

Further comments and action will follow.

The Requirement

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.

The trail alignments in the Countywide Trails Master Plan

To the left is the relevant section of the Countywide Trail Master Plan Trail Map, reproduced from "Santa Clara County Countywide Trails Master Plan Update", as adopted November 14, 1995, by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.

The relevant trails are C1, at left, and S1, at center-right. Note Junipero Serra Boulevard and Page Mill Road at the center for orientation.

Solid green lines indicate "Trail Route within Other Public Lands".
Dashed green lines are "On-street Bicycle Route within Road Right of Way".
"O-X-O-X" indicates "Trail Route within Private Property".

The large black dot indicates an existing staging area, the parking lot at the Arastadero Preserve.

Light gray represents incorporated areas. Dark grey represents existing county parks or publicly owned open space. The dashed black line is the Santa Clara county line.

NEW: Click on the image to see this map overlaid on aerial photographs.

Trail C-1

Trail C-1 is shown on the Countywide Trails Master Plan as paralleling San Francisquito Creek on the east (Santa Clara County) side of the creek. (The creek is the county line.)  Trail C-1 is mapped with the X-O-X-O notation indicating a trail on private property from the Palo Alto city line to Arastadero Road in Portola Valley. This entire stretch of land is owned by Stanford from the Palo Alto line on Sand Hill Road to the Arastadero Preserve of the City of Palo Alto. So this is the section of trail C-1 for which Stanford has an obligation.

From table D-1 of the Countywide Trail Master Plan:
length (miles)
San Francisquito / Los Trancos
Creeks Connector Trail
San Francisquito Creek
and Los Trancos Creek
From: Stanford Golf Course 
To: West Arastadero
Stanford University

The trail alignment shown by the trail plan runs through the Stanford Golf Course. This is the main problem. Were it not for the golf course, the trail routing would be clear - it would run along the east bank of San Francisquito Creek. This is the baseline route.

There is general agreement amongst all parties (trail users, golfers, environmentalists, and Stanford) that going through the golf course is undesirable, for reasons of safety, environmental impact on the creek and its wildlife, and impact on the golf course itself. It is not impossible to run a trail very close to a golf course. Pebble Beach has trails along parts of its golf courses. But it would be better to go around if at all possible.

Immediately to the east of the golf course is undeveloped open space owned by Stanford. There are no serious physical or environmental obstacles to a routing east of the golf course. Stanford has previously objected to this routing on the grounds that it might interfere with future development of this open space. (Ref: conversation with Charles Carter, Stanford planning). This is the only significant problem with that route.

Immediately to the west of the creek is San Mateo County. There is a significant legal question as to whether Stanford can legally fulfill its obligations to Santa Clara County with a project in another county.

The area immediately west of the creek contains residential developments, running up to the creek bank in some instances. The area is generally suburban.

There is an existing sidewalk along Alpine Road in San Mateo county. It was once a recreational trail, developed with Federal funds in the 1960s. But with increasing urbanization and widening of Alpine Road, it has been reduced to a sidewalk. Some sections are substandard as a sidewalk, let alone a trail.

Our general position on this trail is as follows: The trail must be entirely within Santa Clara County. It should start at Sand Hill in Palo Alto where Stanford's existing bike trail connects, be reachable from the Stanford Equestrian Center, continue across the campus using existing pathways to Junipero Serra and Campus Drive, continue towards the golf course, and run outside and east of the golf course. It should connect to the existing Alpine Road trail at the Piers Lane bridge. At this time, we have no detailed position on a preferred route for the section of this trail through the Felt Lake area. This trail should meet Trail Standard G-2 (multi-use, paved and unpaved) or G-3 (multi-use, unpaved). The trail must have no gaps between the endpoints.

Trail S-1

Trail S-1 is shown on the Countywide Trails Master Plan as paralleling Matadero Creek. On the version of the trail map that appears in Stanford's materials, this trail dead-ends at I-280 and Page Mill Road. However, on the official county trail map (November, 1995), it goes under I-280 slightly west of the Page Mill - I-280 interchange (where there is an existing service road underpass) and connects through to the Arastadero Preserve. Parts of this trail are shown going through The Town of Los Altos Hills.

From table D-1 of the Countywide Trail Master Plan:
Length (miles)
Matadero Creek / Page Mill
Sub-regional Trail
Matadero Creek From: Palo Alto Baylands Park / Bay Trail
To: Foothill Expressway
Palo Alto
Matadero Creek / Page Mill
Sub-regional Trail
Old Page Mill Road From: Foothill Expressway
To: Arastadero Road
Los Altos Hills
Stanford University
Matadero Creek / Page Mill
Sub-regional Trail
Arastadero Road From: Page Mill Rd.
To: Arastadero Preserve
Los Altos Hills

The first listed segment of this trail has been built by Stanford, but along Stanford Avenue rather than Matadero Creek. It is thus necessary to make the trail connection at Junipero Serra and Stanford Avenue, rather than Matadero Creek at Foothill Expressway (which is east of Page Mill Road.)

Our general position on this trail is as follows: The trail must connect to the existing trail endpoints: Stanford Avenue at Junipero Serra, and the Arastadero Preserve. This trail should meet Trail Standard G-2 (multi-use, paved and unpaved) or G-3 (multi-use, unpaved).The trail must have no gaps between the endpoints. We suggest a routing that goes under I-280 at the service road tunnel nearest Page Mill Road, because a trail crossing at the I-280 interchange would be unusually dangerous due to the high-speed multilane traffic of the two-lane Page Mill to I-280 onramp, uncontrolled by signals, at that location.

Stanford positions

In 1995, Stanford was asked by the County to comment on the Countywide Trail Master Plan. (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 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.

We have informally heard from Charles Carter of Stanford Planning that Stanford would like to avoid building trail C1, arguing that the Alpine Road trail in San Mateo County is sufficient. This would clearly be noncompliance with the General Use Permit.

Parties involved

Santa Clara County Parks and Recreation is the lead agency on this effort. Jane Mark there is currently staffing it.

On the Stanford side, Charles Carter in Stanford's planning office is currently staffing the issue.

Neighboring jurisdictions (definitely Palo Alto, Portola Valley, and Los Altos Hills, and possibly San Mateo County and Menlo Park) have some involvement because trail connections to their trail systems are involved. Palo Alto's lead is Greg Betts, the Open Space director. Portola Valley's lead is Mary Hufty, chair of the Portola Valley Trail Commission.

Various community groups are involved as well, including the College Terrace Association, the Committee for Green Foothills, and a number of trail-using organizations listed separately. At the political level, there has been some involvement by Supervisor Liz Kniss' office, and former Supervisor (now Assemblyman) Joe Simitian was instrumental in getting this requirement into the GUP.

Links to detailed plan sections

Dish area trails The existing Dish-area trail system
San Francisquito / Los Trancos trail County Trail C1, in the Alpine Road area
Matadero Creek trail County Trail S-1, in the Page Mill Road area
Missing links Gaps in the system
Trail uses and standards County trail standards
Environmental impact Bypassing endangered habitats
Comments Feedback and updates

Comments on this plan are welcomed and should be sent to

This site is operated by a group of Stanford-area people, many of whom are Stanford alumni.
It is not an official site of Stanford University.
Last update November 16, 2001.