Fallen Leaf residents seek new trail policy

Representatives of a south Los Altos neighborhood association have asked the city to change the rules when it comes to the Stevens Creek Trail Feasibility Study.

A handful of Fallen Leaf Lane Neighborhood Association (FLLNA) members asked the Los Altos City Council Oct. 8 to adopt a policy that calls for a 75 percent approval rate from affected residents before constructing new trail alignments on city residential streets. As part of its request, the group asked the council to halt the trail study and adopt the policy before resuming. The neighbors also presented the council with a petition signed by 550 nearby neighbors supporting adoption of the policy.

“I come here today requesting the city adopt a policy to improve communications and require a dialogue with the residents prior to commencing work on neighborhood-changing projects,” said Michael Eiger, an FLLNA member who lives on Fallen Leaf Lane. “The community of south Los Altos does not feel the council has heard our outcries regarding the Stevens Creek Trail process.”

The request comes at a time when the four-city study – which also includes Mountain View, Cupertino and Sunnyvale – considers potential alignments in Los Altos, Sunnyvale or along the creek corridor itself to connect the trail between Mountain View and Cupertino. Fallen Leaf Lane is among the streets under consideration for an alignment – a source of contention for the neighborhood group.

Reached by the Town Crier, Eiger said the group chose to present the petition to councilmembers before this week’s council meeting – held Tuesday, after the Town Crier’s press deadline – because the agenda included an item to update councilmembers on the study’s progress. Eiger noted that the group “wanted to let (the council) know where our heads are at.”

Eiger added that FLLNA began gathering petition signatures shortly after a June 18 public meeting at Grant Park during which consultants and city staffers updated residents on the study and sought local feedback. Several residents at the meeting expressed reservations that a trail of any kind along Fallen Leaf would increase vehicle and bicycle traffic and negatively impact the values of their homes. Others said the feasibility study process lacked transparency, among other things.

“We want to make sure impacted residents have a vote (with the new policy requested). Unfortunately, you can have a good dialogue but still have a project where only 30 percent of the population is OK with it,” said Eiger, who accused those involved of having a “blatant disregard” for trail alignment options beyond Fallen Leaf.

Official’s reaction

Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins, however, told the Town Crier that while she “can appreciate” the group’s ongoing concerns, any assumptions about a trail coming to Fallen Leaf are premature.

Bruins, the city’s representative for the study, noted that the study continues to examine several trail options, including one favored by the group itself. That option, originally highlighted in a 2008 feasibility study commissioned by Los Altos, calls for a trail connection using Fremont Avenue, Grant Road and Foothill Expressway.

“We don’t know if (a trail connection) will even be considered in Los Altos,” Bruins said. “We have nothing before us with which to render a final decision.”

As for the group’s policy request, Bruins noted that the idea would require a higher approval threshold than voter-supported bond measures (which require a two-thirds approval rate).

“Even if something were to be considered – even if (the policy) said it had to have a majority (approval) – it still may not be in the best interest of the community at large,” she added.

Bruins said she’s pleading patience with the study’s process, noting that those involved “want to allow this thing to come to a conclusion.” She said the effort continues to be an open process, adding that a final decision on a trail in Los Altos ultimately rests with the city council.

“At no point are we abdicating any land-use decisions,” she said. “There are no backroom deals going on – nothing. It’s all being done in the public eye.”

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