Fallen Leaf Lane Residents Sound Off on Stevens Creek Trail Proposal

Stevens Creek Trail: Most of the Los Altos residents who spoke at the packed meeting were residents of Fallen Leaf Lane or nearby, which was the route planners wanted to hear feedback about June 18, 2013
Stevens Creek Trail: Most of the Los Altos residents who spoke at the packed meeting were residents of Fallen Leaf Lane or nearby, which was the route planners wanted to hear feedback about June 18, 2013
Written by L.A. Chung 

Raising the spectre of "packs of bicyclists" swarming down Fallen Leaf Lane, residents jammed a meeting Tuesday night that was held to get input on the Los Altos portion the Stevens Creek Trail.

More than 140 people turned out for the session at Grant Park, apparently  spurred by visions of loss of street parking and 2,700 users a day on the street portion of a recreational trail that begins at San Francisco Bay in Mountain View and would extend to Cupertino.

"I am worried that Fallen Leaf Lane would lose the rural ambience that we have now," said David Horine, a longtime resident who lives adjacent to the street. "I would rather see it on Grant Road."

His comments were similar to most of the residents, who ran the gamut of 30-plus years in the neighborhood to a woman who purchased her home two months ago.

Los Altos officials had purposely been focused on only one of a half-dozen routes proposed for the extension of the Stevens Creek Trail that would bring it from Dale and Heatherstone streets in Mountain View to Cupertino, passing through either Los Altos or Sunnyvale. Public meetings have been held over the past year over different aspects of the trail, for Cupertino, Los Altos and Sunnyvale.

Residents of Fallen Leaf Lane, and anyone within 500 feet of that route had received mailed notification of the meeting, which was intended to get feedback from Los Altos residents specifically.

In a version of the classic "Not in My Backyard" refrain, some suggested that the path be built along the steep banks of the creek, which in Los Altos, literally fall inside private property owners' boundaries. Property lines run to the middle of the creek on both sides (Sunnyvale and Los Altos) along that portion.

"I've lived along the creek for 19 years," said Sara Johnson. "You're talking about my backyard."

Some residents spoke in favor of keeping the route in the mix of those being considered. One person suggested several official north-south routes along the stretch between Fremont Avenue and Homestead Road—Grant Road, Fallen Leaf Lane and Newcastle Drive in Los Altos and Belleville Way and Bernardo Avenue in Sunnyvale—because it would spread out the usage.

Connie Marrioti, who said her property runs along the creek, urged creativity.
"My vision for Fallen Leaf Lane is to imagine a miniature version of Fremont Avenue," she said. It wasn't an accident that it had a verdant median of trees and  pathways on either side for bikes and pedestrians, she said. She suggested to the city in 1978.

The proposed routes will be included in a feasibility study designed to sort out which route would best serve the community and neighborhoods involved. 

Kevin Jackson, a Sunnyvale resident asked residents to be open to that study and not pass judgment before it had been done.

The next steps include an Aug. 1 meeting of the Citizens Working Group and and Aug. 12 meeting of the Joint Cities group. Comments made during the meeting will be integrated into the discussions.

Patch will update this story later Wednesday.
Bill Sheppard June 20, 2013 at 04:33 PM
Aspects of this meeting were truly sad. While the consultant Jana presented a very thorough and cogent review of the process and some feasible plans, neighborhood residents were unwilling to abide by Jeanne Bruins' (Los Altos city council member) request that the meeting be run under the rules of decorum of other city meetings, such as no applause or catcalls for various speakers. As a result those who spoke against the Fallen Leaf routing were often interrupted with shouted out comments. For instance, one speaker who spoke warmly of the cycling opportunities the trail provides was heckled with "get a treadmill", which is not only disrespectful but starkly illustrates selfish, small-minded thinking. Fallen Leaf Lane has a 60' city right-of-way, among the widest in Los Altos. Many residents have illegally extended their yards 9' into this right-of-way with landscaping, essentially claiming this area as their own (I'm not sure how this has missed our typically diligent city inspectors). Working with the de facto 42' right-of-way (neighborhood outcry has already resulted in the Task Force taking off the table options which use the full 60' legally available) leaves fewer options for how bicycle/pedestrian passage can be protected, but several very attractive options were shown at the meeting, which would have the additional benefit of calming traffic with attractively landscaped bulb-outs and other measures. Claims were made that "packs of cyclists" will terrorize the neighborhood, and that Fallen Leaf will become exclusively a parking lot for those who wish to drive to the trail and then cycle from there. Both are preposterous - hard-core cyclists find trails unsuitable, as maximum speeds are lower than they often choose to ride and the heavy pedestrian and casual cycle traffic is inconvenient to navigate. Foothill Expressway will remain the route of choice for expert cyclists. And there is no evidence whatsoever that Fallen Leaf would become the designated parking spot for the few who drive to the trail - it's not a logical spot to begin a ride, and there are many schools and parks along the trail which provide far more attractive starting points. If, against all odds, parking became a problem, a permit system could be implemented to resolve the issue. In community after community, trails which were initially opposed by nearby residents have become prized assets. Proximity to trails lowers crime (due to increased visibility) and raises property values. Google for "recreational trails property values" for some background on this. Fallen Leaf residents claimed the Fremont to Grant to Foothill Expressway route is the logical choice, pointing to the 2008 Los Altos study which recommended this route. That study was done in isolation from the other cities and had nowhere near the level of technical diligence and community review which the task force is undertaking. Further, Fremont/Grant/Foothill is a far less appealing choice - vehicular traffic is exceptionally heavy (Grant in particular is well over capacity at commute times), this would require multiple left turns at very busy intersections, and travel along Foothill mixes 60mph traffic with beginning bikers, a very bad combination. (continued)
Bill Sheppard June 20, 2013 at 04:33 PM
(from previous post) Further, regardless of whether Fallen Leaf is designated as part of the trail, cyclists will still use it if it's the most logical route bridging the trail from Cupertino to Fremont Ave. Better to have the street designed to handle this well then to have it become a de facto portion of the trail without any measures in place to accommodate this usage. I'm hopeful residents from beyond the immediate Fallen Leaf area will speak out in support of allowing the Task Force to do its job, and should Fallen Leaf Lane be determined as the most attractive solution for the Los Altos portion of the trail, to encourage our elected officials to look out for the greater good of our community and not just appease the residents of this neighborhood who are taking NIMBY to a new artform. I have no doubt a decade from now this trail will be viewed as an essential benefit of this neighborhood.
Christopher Hansen June 20, 2013 at 08:45 PM
I agree that a there were a few rude people at the meeting and that is sad. However, they were a very small minority. Most were merely angry that their city government is not doing their job in overseeing the out of control Steven's Creek Trail process. There was nearly universal agreement among speakers that the process is broken and there is no good reason to make Fallen Leaf Lane part of the Steven's Creek Trail.
David Gustavson June 21, 2013 at 05:07 AM
Many of us chose rural Fallen Leaf Lane and bought long before Los Altos annexed it. What would it have been like if we left the 9 feet barren since the 50's or 60's? Los Altos certainly wasn't going to landscape county land. Of course Los Altos has the power to do whatever it likes, make new roads or parks or schools, whatever. But isn't life better if mostly reasonable and sensible things are done? Of course there is far more profit (for developers) in doing massive changes on Fallen Leaf compared to using more suitable roads that are nearly ready as-is, which may not even need new $12,000,000 bridges. It's nice to hear the 9' each side is now off the table, but not one of the proposals we have been given takes less than 6' on one side. And none of the drawings actually added up to quite 9 feet anyway, so in reality nothing has changed that can assure us that sanity has arrived at last. See the drawings at FallenLeafLane.org and judge for yourself.
Patrick Rush June 25, 2013 at 08:07 PM
While I was somewhat uncomfortable with the behavior of a small number of people attending the meeting, their frustration is understandable: Residents of Fallen Leaf have been treated shabbily by the City of Los Altos on this issue, and opportunities for residents to be heard have been few. And for the record, this was not a formal City Council meeting in which normal rules of decorum were meant to be applicable. While I'm sure Ms. Bruins would have greatly preferred a supine audience, passively accepting the findings of her consultant, the lack of transparency on her part, and indeed the City's part, on the matter of the Stevens Creek Trail has encouraged suspicion, ill-will and ultimately vocal opposition to the plan. The latest proposal pitched would have a yellow pedestrian path painted on the eastern side of Fallen Leaf. Any assertion that such a configuration of the proposed trail would enhance property values defies credibility. (How a large, hideous painted median can be construed as a "recreational trail" is beyond me.) And crime rates aside, it would seem logical to assume that increased numbers of bicycles mingling with fast-moving automobile traffic would result in an ongoing threat to the safety of bicyclist, motorists, pedestrians, and residents. Advocates of the Stevens Creek Trail should push for a configuration that utilizes the expansive rights of way and existing paths along Grant Road and Fremont Avenue or, alternatively a configuration that makes use of the $14M pedestrian bridge near Mary Ave. built with this purpose in mind.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »