/Town Crier Fallen Leaf Lane neighborhood resident Ross Lappin points out the public land where many homeowners have built out their properties over several decades. Residents oppose an encroaching trail alignment.
A group of Fallen Leaf Lane residents say no thanks to the possibility that the regional Stevens Creek Trail would connect through their neighborhood.
Seven Fallen Leaf Lane Neighborhood Association (FLLNA) members asked the Los Altos City Council in March to oppose a proposal to connect the trail through their street – one of several options under consideration in the Stevens Creek Trail Joint Cities Feasibility Study.
The ongoing study is a collaborative effort between residents and city staffers from Los Altos, Mountain View, Cupertino and Sunnyvale, which serves as the lead agency. Since November, the four-city group has hosted public input meetings to gather suggestions for trail alignments along the creek’s corridor to connect the trail between Mountain View and Cupertino. Each of the city’s councils will vote on the final draft of the feasibility study, expected in January.
A seat at the table
The FLLNA argued that connecting the trail through Fallen Leaf Lane would dramatically change the neighborhood’s characteristics, according to its statement. The group also presented a petition to the city council, signed by more than 280 neighborhood residents, opposing the Fallen Leaf trail alignment option.
Contacted by the Town Crier, FLLNA President Michael Eiger said that while the group isn’t against the idea of a trail connection through Los Altos in general, placing it on Fallen Leaf Lane would require “a major reconfiguration of the street.”
“We’re not opposed to a trail,” said Eiger, who along with his neighbors formed the neighborhood association in February. “Our position and platform is to promote the vibrant, semi-rural neighborhood we have. … We’re really focused for now on people directly impacted by (a potential) trail.”
Eiger noted that one option through Fallen Leaf Lane would call on the city to reclaim 18 feet of public right-of-way (9 feet on each side) of the current 42-foot-wide, 1.1-mile stretch of road. Over the course of several decades, Eiger noted, those areas have been built up with landscaping, retaining walls, residential fences, numerous driveways and more.
Should the decision ultimately be made to construct a multiuse trail on Fallen Leaf Lane, he added, a worst-case scenario could negatively affect property values and result in the loss of on-street parking, shortening up to 97 driveways and removing as many as 200 trees.
“If they take out 18 feet, it’ll dramatically change our street,” Eiger said.
He referenced a 2008 trail feasibility study commissioned by Los Altos, which suggested a preferred Class I trail alignment that connects to Cupertino by winding along Fremont Avenue, Grant Road and Foothill Expressway. The current study, he noted, is being conducted with the constraint of restricting alignment options close to the Stevens Creek Corridor, making a trail connection through residential streets like Fallen Leaf necessary.
“That constraint throws out the 2008 study and that concerns us,” said Eiger, who added that the options under consideration would directly conflict with the city’s general plan. “What we’re saying is, let’s look at all options and let’s not throw out good decisions we’ve already made.”
Eiger added that he simply wants the group to “have a seat at the table” in the feasibility study’s process.
“We’re looking for dialogue and we don’t feel we’ve gotten that,” he said. “We want rational, logical, deliverable choices. … What we want is a transparent process.”
City official pleads patience
Los Altos City Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins told the Town Crier that while she understands the group’s position, any concerns about trail alignments affecting their neighborhood might be premature.
“We’re not even close,” she said. “I do sympathize (with FLLNA), but I also say, there’s a process we bought into. You have to work through that process.”
According to Bruins, the city’s representative on a four-member policy working group for the feasibility study, there are “no preconceived notions at all” that a connecting trail would end up along Fallen Leaf Lane. Bruins added that she’s met with association members on the matter and the idea of removing trees and altering residents’ driveways – if Fallen Leaf were ultimately chosen as a trail connection route – wouldn’t be a desirable one for city officials or members of the policy working group.
“They would be hard-pressed to find anyone to support that,” she said. “We’re in a due-diligence process (with the feasibility study). That’s all this is.”
Bruins, a south Los Altos resident who lives near Fallen Leaf Lane, noted that this month is pivotal for the study. A consultant hired by the four-city group was slated to present a report Monday (past the Town Crier’s press deadline) outlining which trail connections the public would support. Those results, the outcome of work at previous public input meetings, could serve as a driver for the study’s future steps, she said.
“We’re at a critical juncture as to whether the current options we’ve been examining are viable or whether it’s time to look at a next set of alternatives,” Bruins said.
She concluded that the group’s concerns – as well as those of other residents potentially affected by a future trail – are being factored into the study’s big picture.
“Right now, patience is what’s in order,” Bruins said. “But I do empathize with them. They deserve to be heard and they are being heard.”