Myths About the Trail
Myth: The local city streets are safe enough without a trail
Both Rodrigues and Blaney, streets that are used in place of the trail, have 30 mph speed limits. According to US Department of Transportation, at 30 mph there is a 40% chance of death or serious injury to a pedestrian or cyclist hit by a car.
Other streets, such as La Mar or Pacifica, are at a 25 mph speed limit and have enough speeding cars that local residents asked for speed monitoring signs. These have been installed in the past two years. Current routes to Eaton or the library show pedestrians walking in parking lots or cyclists turning across lanes of traffic.
Current street crossings at Blaney at at offset (low visibility) intersections, and E. Estates has no crossing at all from Creekside Park. New crossings at Blaney and E. Estates will include safety features such as high visibility flashing crosswalks. E. Estates will be a raised crosswalk, and at Blaney there will be a pedestrian refuge in the middle of the street, shortening the distance to cross.
Myth: The trail used to be open and there were crimes so it was closed
There has never been a trail in this location. Prior to 1980--almost 40 years ago--the area was unfenced including down to the creek and residents wandered through the area as they wished. The fencing was added not in response to any incidents, but was added by the Water District as part of a large program at that time to add fencing to all their creek areas.
Cupertino was certainly a very different place 40 years ago, with orchards where most of our commercial activity is now (Apple Computer was only 3 years old!). Using complaints from 40 years ago of children throwing rocks as what would be expected from our students in 2019 is not a reasonable comparison. The Saratoga Creek Trail, currently in use and only 1 mile east with homes backing to it, would be a good comparision. There has not been a complaint of any such incidents on that trail.
In 2005--almost 15 years ago--a trail was considered to be added in this location. At that time, the Cupertino City Council decided not to proceed with the project for several reasons: traffic was not as congested as it is now; there was no defined Pedestrian or Bicycle Transportation Plans for the City; there was much less interest in alternative forms of transportation and increased sustainability for our city; and other reasons which time has changed.
Myth: Local neighbors don't support this trail
The overwhelming majority of the over-1650 total Pro-trail petition signers are in the Wilson Park and City Center area, with some abutting the trail, and with many more on the adjacent streets. These supporters are very enthusiastic about the trail. Some comments were, “As a pedestrian, I have wished for this access for years”, “Creating safe bike routes to schools and parks is critical to the safety of our kids”, and “Can’t wait!”. The majority of the Wilson Park and City Center signers are parents of school children, from young elementary students up to high school. As one Cupertino High parent stated, “This is great plan. If there was a safe bike [path] to school, I don’t have to drive every morning in the crazy traffic jam near the school to drop them off.” An Eaton Elementary parent stated, “My kids and I would use this to walk to school. I think it's a great idea!” Most comments focused on safety for children, such as, “I support the trail as my kids bike to school. Biking on La Mar is dangerous.“ and “Keeping our kids safe is an utmost priority.”
This trail is also supported by many local organizations with residents on them that live in the local neighborhood: Lawson PTA, Eaton Elementary PTO, Sedgwick PTA, Hyde PTSA, Safe Routes to School, and Cupertino Bike Club.
There is a handful of neighbors, approximately 14-18, who oppose the trail and are very vocal at City Council meetings, some which who have signs up in their yards. There will always be those opposing a project which is for the good of all of the community. There are many, many more residents that are very much in support of the project.
Myth: The trail is too short to be useful or it won’t be used
It would be a safer and more direct route to schools, without car traffic. Walking and biking students, including 250 Eaton students, 250 Cupertino High students, and 100 Lawson students could use the trail for commuting. Traffic will be improved with more students traveling to school not in a car.
It will provide a more direct route to the Civic Center and Library, and connect three parks (Creekside, Wilson, and library fields). By walking or biking, residents could avoid the congested parking lot at the Civic Center.
With the Creekside Trail, it will be over a mile of an enjoyable off-road recreational path for running, walking and cycling for all residents, including those with mobility issues. It is a key component of the East-West connector between Monta Vista and Cupertino High, and the “Loop” connecting Cupertino using trails and low-volume streets. Especially in this time when so many residents are running, walking, and biking outdoors because they can't go to a gym, we need extra recreational space. A July 2020 NextDoor poll has 70% of residents walking more in their neighborhoods and parks. A trail with a wide footprint of 10-12 feet or more will help everyone to exercise more and safely distance, too.
Myth: The City Staff has not asked for input from the local residents
There has been a very large amount of outreach to the community. Four public meetings were held prior to the Feasibility Study City council vote to solicit both oral and written feedback from residents, including one held while walking the trail and a focused meeting with the Lozano Lane residents. Since the approval of the study in August 2018, an additional public outreach meeting was held in December 2018, and another community meeting was held March 30, 2019 on the actual trail path. There was another public meeting on April 24, 2019.
At all times during the planning process, residents have discussed their concerns in one-on-one discussions with City Staff, at Bicycle-Pedestrian Commission Meetings, in independent conversations and at Oral Communications at City Council. The Trail Concepts and the Feasibility Study include this feedback. During March and April of this year, one-on-one individual meetings with each neighbor adjacent to the trail and City Staff were held to influence design direction. Anti-trail residents have had multiple meetings with our City Manager, Deb Feng, as well as with the Cupertino Transportation Manager and Director Public Works. They have also met with our Water District Board member representing our area on the trail, as well as attended Valley Water District Board meetings (speaking at many of them) and have also spoken at many Valley Water District Watershed meetings which have jurisdiction over trails.
Residents opposing the trail met with each Councilmember individually; exchanged many long email conversations with staff to clarify issues, question the project (including its necessity) and its parameters and had individual meetings with City Staff to review drawings as the vote drew closer in September 2019. After the vote, opposing residents continued with the same emails and meetings with staff, but more focused on fencing, desire for yet still more additional funding for fencing (which was granted by the Council in May 2020 for a total of an extra $550,000 plus standard fencing costs), and environmental issues. Of course, during all points in the process they spoke at many City Council meetings to the Council, spoke at the Environmental Review Committee and Planning Commission meeting review (May 2020), spoke to our Water District (Valley Water) board member, and others. Through the summer of 2020, residents have continued with personal meetings with Councilmember Jon Willey and with staff, with a focus on getting more money from the city for concrete walls--their request is now $24,000 per home, for a total of $1.5 -2 million dollars additional project cost for specialty concrete walls in addition to the costs of standard fencing.
The sum total of public input and outreach has been incredibly large, an extremely significant amount larger than a typical city project.
Myth: The trail will be unfenced against a steep slope of the creek bed
The feasibility plan for the trail includes a fence that will run along the edge of the creek along the length of the trail behind La Mar, the portion with a 12 foot width. Residents, including children, will not be able to fall accidentally into the creek.
Myth: It will be too narrow to for cyclists and walkers to pass
The trail will be 10 feet wide, with a 2 foot shoulder in most locations. This will allow pedestrians and cyclists to easily pass each other. In the area between E. Estates and Blaney, it will be 8 feet wide with two- 2 foot shoulders. This is wider than the current Creekside Park trail, and includes an extra 2 foot shoulder (the trail near the Creekside Bridge has only one shoulder).
Myth: Seventeen trees will be cut down and/or the creek will be harmed
The feasibility plan does not include cutting down any trees, including the portion of the trail that extends along the south side of the library field. There will also not be any trees cut down at Wilson Park or along the portion abutting the Lar Mar Drive homes. The arborist retained by the City has confirmed that the existing trees in library field will be unaffected by widening the sidewalk to create a trail along the south side of the field.
The creek will be unaffected by building a trail, as it is currently paved as a run-off ditch. With the trail, the area will be enhanced with landscaping, so it is less likely to attract litter and refuse. The Water District is very supportive of creekside trails--they even have a grant program for them. They do not have concerns about any harm to the creek bed.
Myth: The trail isn’t safe
The opinion of Captain Rich Urena, the West Valley Division Head for the Santa Clara County Sheriff Department, is that “it does it appear that [The Regnart Trail] is a safe place to walk, a safe place to have a trail.” Similar trails in Cupertino and studies across California and the US show no increased crime, with some areas showing decreased crime.
Bike patrols are planned by the SCC Sheriff and hours will be adjusted to maximize safety. There are no "hidden" or "secluded" areas--as have been stated by trail opponents--and the maximum length which is behind homes is a total of 700 feet, or (at a very casual walking pace, 2.5 min).
Myth: The Feasibility Study wasn't done right (or the company doing it is incompetent)
The Feasibility Study is a document that is created to answer the question as to whether building the trail is feasible. It does not answer questions such as final cost, design of features, or address the resolution to specific areas of concern in the design, though it may make recommendations. Those types of issues are resolved during the design phase. Input from concerned parties (such as the Santa Clara Water District) are included as reference material but are meant to be addressed fully in the design phase. The Regnart Creek Feasbility Study answered the question about whether the trail is feasible--it is.
HMH Engineers, who completed the Feasiblity Study and who have now received the contract for the design, are a very well-respected civil engineering firm in business since 1976. They have completed a wide variety of projects in the Bay Area. Their Parks and Trails section of their Streets/Roads/Infrastructure division have recently completed McClellan Road sidewalk updates (here in Cupertino); the Willow Glen Spur Trail; the Coyote Creek Trail in San Jose; the Blossom Hill Park renovation; and many more.
Myth: Trails hurt housing prices
According to an intensive study by Headwaters Economics, "Trails, like good schools or low crime, create an amenity that commands a higher price for nearby homes. Trails are valued by those who live nearby as places to recreate, convenient opportunities for physical activity and improving health, and safe corridors for walking or cycling to work or school."
This has been shown in studies across the United States, including Texas, Delaware, Indiana, Washington and many other places. Premiums for homes near or with direct access to a trail varied by locale, but ranged from 2% to 32%. For more information, see this link: http://bit.ly/trailsandhomepremiums.
Myth: It's not useful because you can't get on or off at convenient locations, or it is a "trail to nowhere"
There are multiple entrances and exits, including at E. Estates, Wilson Park, Blaney, a small connector to Rodrigues (halfway between Blaney and City Hall), Rodrigues at City Hall, at the Cupertino Library, and at Library Field. The trail will not only connect all these destinations, but will also provide a safe, enjoyable way to get between them. The Library connection is particularly useful, as it will be a very short marked crosswalk to the sidewalk in front of the library, which is very useful for patrons going to the library, and which will be much more convenient and safer for students going to and from Eaton Elementary.
Myth: It will be dangerous when there is a lot of rain
Maintaining a free flow of water, which the Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD) does, means that this storm water drainage creek will continue to run much lower than its banks. If something unusual should occur and the water gets close the the banks, the trail will be closed at the direction of the SCVWD or Cupertino Public Works. The SCVWD closes other trails already today in Santa Clara County when there are any issues.
Myth: The Water District doesn't want/like this trail
The Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD) is greatly in support of trails along creekbeds and even fund grants to encourage them. They have as “Priority D” to restore wildlife habit and provide open space. The grant program (D3) states, “The purpose of the grant is to provide new access to trails and open space, “ and on their informational page, “[the] project also funds work that provides access to creekside trails…” In all ways, the SCVWD is a partner on this project. In June 2019, the SCVWD had as an agenda item to decide whether to start studying standards for trails that are on their property. At that meeting, their committment to creekside trails was reaffirmed.
The SCVWD has been a great partner in the design process for this particular trail. They have participated in monthly meetings with the Cupertino City Staff, making sure that the District's maintenance needs are satisfied in the final design. At the end of the process, the Water District Staff and Cupertino City Staff will write a Joint Use Agreement (JUA) outlining all the particulars, which will need to be approved by both the Water District Board and by Cupertino's City Council.
Since the City Council vote meeting in September 2019, Valley Water has worked closely with the Cupertino City Staff on a land swap agreement, whereby the trail would only need one crossing to Wilson Park and the trail would be a straight pathway along the current maintenance road instead of routing to Wilson Park and back again. This is benefical to both Cupertino (for the straight trail, with one fewer bridge), and for Valley Water, as it allows them to move their maintenance access ramp near the parking lot off Hall Ct. to allow easier access for their trucks. These changes are part of the design and will be brought forward for final approval before construction in October 2020.