Wednesday, December 14, 2005

"Disappointing, bad policy, and illegal"

Those are the words that I would use to describe the actions by Santa Clara County yesterday that have the effect of approving a sidewalk along Alpine Road. The article by the Mercury News is a good summary of what happened.

The County's action is disappointing for all the reasons we specified in the letter that we sent to the County that is copied in our previous blog post here. Supervisor Liz Kniss had proposed an alternative that would take the money that Stanford had said it is willing to spend on mitigation and use it for real mitigation somewhere within Santa Clara County in the vicinity of Stanford. Instead, money will be spent on a trail that is nothing more than an expansion of a sidewalk along a road that provides virtually no mitigation value for all the impacts Stanford's expansion has on recreational facilities.

Besides the core issue of prioritizing the building of an expanded sidewalk that is a bad option for the community, there are additional aspects of the deal that are bad policy. There is a "poison pill" in the agreement that effectively prohibits San Mateo County from considering an alignment outside of San Mateo County as part of the environmental review process. This handing of an environmental review control away from San Mateo County and to Stanford is something that could prevent the process from moving forward.

Finally, for the reasons we noted in our letter, this action is illegal. It violates the General Use Permit and makes the environmental decision to exclude the trail from Santa Clara County without any environmental review, as well as setting up a situation where virtually nothing could be done in terms of trail improvements for the C1 Trail, also without any environmental review.

The Committee for Green Foothills, other community groups, and the neighbors will have to decide what steps we may need to take next.


UPDATE: There's a potential additional problem -
the agreement may set up a scenario whereby if Stanford reaches an agreement with the different jurisdictions to do no more than token improvements on the Alpine Road sidewalk, then Stanford is free of all obligations, and the vast majority of the $11 million Stanford promised to spend would instead return to the university. Supposedly it's been fixed, but I'm not sure it has. The agreement says that if there's no agreement:

Stanford shall instead pay $8.4 million (as increased annually pursuant to the indexing mechanism in Section 4.e) or any portion of that amount that either was not paid to San Mateo by Stanford or was reimbursed by San Mateo to Stanford, to the County of Santa Clara

This is at least poorly written - what does the "any portion" mean if there IS an agreement? The possibility of losing the vast majority of the funding still seems present.

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