Two decades after a Stanford expansion was OK’d, San Mateo County gets $5.2 million

After a decades-long debate on the regional impact of Stanford University’s expansions, Santa Clara County has awarded its neighbor to the north, San Mateo County, with $5.2 million to add more trails and make recreational improvements at parks throughout the area.

The funding commitment, which stems from a Stanford General Use Permit approved in 2000, was finalized by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors this week. It will help fund seven projects across a handful of San Mateo communities, including Menlo Park, East Palo Alto, Redwood City and Atherton.

“Development is increasingly regional, and the impacts of development in our area are certainly felt on both sides of the County line,” County Supervisor Joe Simitian, whose district includes Stanford University and who led the effort to award the funding to his nearby neighboring county, said in a news release. “I’m pleased we’re able to work collaboratively with our neighbors in San Mateo County.”

A Stanford University expansion plan approved by Santa Clara County in 2000 allowed the institution to add 2 million square feet of academic space and 3,000 housing units. But since the increased development would inevitably place unforeseen demands on nearby recreational facilities, the university was required to pay for trails-related and recreational mitigation measures.

As part of an agreement between Stanford and Santa Clara County, the university offered more than $10 million in grants to San Mateo County to improve 2.1 miles of the Lower Alpine Trail, which runs along Alpine Road. That offer expired before San Mateo County put the funding to use, and by agreement, the funding then reverted to Santa Clara County with the expectation that it be used to provide recreational opportunities to Stanford campus residents and facility users.

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors put $5.5 million of that money toward Palo Alto’s Adobe Creek/Highway 101 bicycle overcrossing project and $400,000 for the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District’s Ravenswood Bay Trail Connector project in East Palo Alto.

The remaining funds, which were approved this week, will go toward the following San Mateo County projects:

  • Addition of new amenities at San Mateo County’s Reimagine Flood Park in conformance with the Park Landscape Plan, including a new baseball field and a track for mountain and dirt bikes
  • Construction of new accessible pathways at Holbrook Palmer Park in Atherton
  • Installation of lighting fixtures at East Palo Alto’s Martin Luther King Park.
  • Construction of a new pedestrian overcrossing at the US 101/University Avenue Interchange in East Palo Alto
  • Construction of a tunnel underneath the Caltrain railroad tracks at Middle Avenue in Menlo Park
  • Conversion of a closed portion of Alpine Road in the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District to a multi-use trail
  • Construction of a new public park adjacent to the Downtown Redwood City Public Library, across from Redwood City Hall by converting an existing 0.45 acre parking lot

San Mateo County Manager Mike Callagy said he was thrilled San Mateo County leaders recognized the impacts of the university’s development across the region and that he was proud to offer these projects to residents.

“I think it’s incredible of  Simitian to lead the way and realize that there were impacts and needs for San Mateo too,” Callagy said. “It’ll go to great use and serve many communities across the county.”

Longtime East Palo Alto Councilman Ruben Abrica said that he was “thrilled that the deal came through” not only for the recreational needs in his city but also for public safety improvements as well.

“When one of these large developments — like Stanford or others — happen, we need to think beyond the boundaries and address the regional impacts, and this is a great example of that,” Abrica said in an interview Thursday. “Projects with parks and bridges are local but they serve our entire region.”

Menlo Park Councilman Ray Mueller said the new source of funding will help make it feasible for the city to continue studying its plan to build a tunnel under the city’s Caltrans tracks and that he was “super grateful” that Santa Clara County remembered his city when choosing which projects to help fund.

“The great thing about that is it’s not just a recreational tunnel but hopefully will be used by people who will bike to work and school,” Mueller said. “This will open up a safe route to go east-west.”

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Author: Maggie Angst

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