A Peninsula environmental group lost a bid to the California Supreme Court today to challenge a Stanford University plan to improve pedestrian and bicycle trails on and near the campus.
The high court ruled unanimously in San Francisco that the Committee for Green Foothills didn’t meet a 30-day deadline for filing a lawsuit to challenge Santa Clara County’s approval in 2005 of Stanford’s proposed contributions to a county master plan for trails.
The committee unsuccessfully argued that a sixth-month deadline should have applied.
The university’s contributions to the trails plan were required as part of the county’s 2000 approval of a large, ongoing development project in which Stanford is building 2 million square feet of academic and support facilities and 3,000 new student and faculty housing units.
Stanford spokesman Larry Horton said today’s ruling puts an end to the trails lawsuit and enables the university to go ahead with working on the trails.
Horton said, “Now that the lawsuit is resolved, we’re going to move ahead as rapidly as possible to build the trail segments that are already approved and seek approval of routes that still need approval, in order to get the trails in use by the community.”
Horton said, “When completed, these trails will be an important recreational resource for the community.”
Committee for Green Foothills spokesman Brian Schmidt said the group is disappointed with the ruling, which he said was “only about a technicality.”
He said the committee hopes that San Mateo County will continue its previous position of refusing to approve a proposed trail segment that would run on an expanded sidewalk next to Alpine Road in San Mateo County, just across the Santa Clara County border.
Schmidt said the group contends the proposed expansion of the Alpine Road sidewalk poses environmental risks to creek and riparian areas and safety dangers in areas where the sidewalk would cross private driveways.
He said that if the lawsuit had been allowed to proceed, the group would have argued that a better route would have been a trail alignment running through the campus to Arastradero Preserve, all within Santa Clara County, while avoiding Alpine Road.
Schmidt alleged, “Santa Clara County capitulated to Stanford’s intense lobbying, tossed the trail out of Santa Clara County and proposed instead to expand the existing sidewalk/trail along busy Alpine Road in San Mateo County.”
The high court ruling also clears the way for work to proceed on a second trail to the south along Page Mill Road. The foothills committee did not oppose the alignment of the second trail, but the university suspended work on both routes while the lawsuit was pending.
The 2005 plan calls for Stanford to give San Mateo County $8.4 million, the town of Portola Valley $2.8 million and the town of Los Altos Hills $1.05 million for the costs of trail construction and improvements within their jurisdictions.
If the local governments do not agree by the end of 2011 to building the trails, the money must be paid to Santa Clara County for recreational projects to mitigate the adverse impact of the Stanford development on county recreation.