December 13, 2005
Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors
County Government Center
70 W. Hedding Street, 10th Floor, East Wing
San Jose, CA 95110
Re: Agenda Item #57 – Stanford GUP relating to trails
Dear Members of the Board of Supervisors;
The Committee for Green Foothills opposes the recommendation of the County staff as completely unacceptable regarding the C1 Trail, although we have no objection to the S1 alignment. While the recommendation of County Supervisor Liz Kniss is not our preferred option, it is something we can live with. Our preference is that Stanford University simply do what it promised to do five years ago in developing a new trail on Stanford lands in Santa Clara County. Given the long delay that Santa Clara County has tolerated, Supervisor Kniss' suggestion that the recreational mitigation be constructed elsewhere appears to be a viable way to move forward.
We believe that the recommendation by County staff violates the Stanford General Use Permit and violates CEQA. The County Wide Trails Master Plan Map clearly shows the trail to be in Santa Clara County, as does multiple other pieces of evidence from the trails Master plan. There is a single checkmark box elsewhere in the Master Plan supporting Stanford's position, but since the two parts of the document are in conflict, we think the map shows a much better indication of what was actually intended.
County staff's recommended action would exercise County discretion by excluding the trail from Santa Clara County and by setting up a contingency where no trail could occur. These decisions have environmental ramifications and legally cannot be taken without prior environmental analysis.
We expressly reserve the right to litigate if the County follows the recommendation of County staff. We note that the recommendation by Supervisor Kniss would need limited environmental review and a General Use Permit amendment, but because this is a superior option to what County staff is recommending, we are not reserving the right to litigate if Supervisor Kniss’ proposal is followed today.
A significant improvement in the Supervisor Kniss proposal is that it would eliminate the possibility of no mitigation inherent in the County staff proposal. Inserting an amendment to the staff proposal with some type of monetary reversion to the County, should the Alpine Road sidewalk not be constructed, is inadequate for three reasons. First, the Alpine Road sidewalk expansion is a terrible “trail” that provides no significant recreational value – it should be rejected, not prioritized. Second, adding a reversion clause would mean adding seven years to the years of delay we have already faced. Third, Stanford will use community opposition to the Alpine Road sidewalk to reduce the changes to token modifications and thereby make only a token monetary contribution. A reversion clause will not fix the “token contribution” loophole.
While we believe it fits the intent of Supervisor Kniss’ proposal, we seek clarification that recreational facilities could include purchasing trail easements, and that the monies could be shared with other land use agencies within the geographic limit.
If Stanford opposes Supervisor Kniss’ proposal, we recommend the following:1. Reject the County Executive’s recommendation.
2. Do not yet certify the Supplemental EIR for the S1 Trail, but prepare documents certifying the SEIR conditional upon Stanford’s written and unconditional proffer of the S1-C alignment.
3. If Stanford attempts to withdraw the S1-C offer, direct County Counsel to examine whether the County’s detrimental reliance on the S1-C offer means:
a. Stanford legally cannot withdraw the S1-C offer; and
b. Whether Stanford’s withdrawn offer puts it in non-compliance with the GUP.
4. If County Counsel determines that Stanford can withdraw the S1-C offer, direct staff to reinitiate the SEIR for the S1 trail to consider alternative alignments.
5. Begin the SEIR process for the C1 Trail. If Stanford refuses to pay for this process, find them in non-compliance with the GUP. Stanford must pay in advance, and has no control over the contents of the SEIR, including over alternatives to be considered.
6. If the Supervisors think they may want to accept the County Executive’s recommendation, defer any decision pending a written response from San Mateo County and Portola Valley regarding whether they are interested in the proposal.
Finally, regardless of any other action taken today by the Board of Supervisors, we are gravely concerned by Stanford’s placing additional conditions on the S1-C alignment that it did not make previously. The County relied on Stanford’s unconditioned S1-C offer when the County rejected alternative alignments supported by community groups. We urge the Supervisors to refer to County Counsel/staff the question of whether Stanford partially withdrew or otherwise added conditions to the S1-C offer that Stanford had not included originally, and recommend whether to develop a standard “firm offer” form for negotiating with Stanford, where Stanford acknowledges it is legally bound by the offer it has made.
Please contact us if you have any questions.
Brian A. Schmidt
Legislative Advocate, Santa Clara County