Water district schedules trail closure for Bike to Work Day

Update: Santa Clara Valley Water agrees to postpone trail work. San Tomas Aquino will remain open for Bike to Work Day.

Marvell and Dell

We love the Santa Clara Valley Water District and their willingness to open up their right-of-way for non-motorized travel. They can occasionally be a little bit tone-deaf, unfortunately. Take, for example, this notice of a trail closure the week of Bike to Work Day. UPDATE: The Water District has agreed to postpone this work. The trail will remain open for Bike to Work Day.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District will be conducting maintenance work along the San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail between May 12 and May 15. Sections will be temporarily closed between Highway 237 and Walsh Ave. Due to safety concerns, pedestrians and bicyclists will be rerouted as shown in the maps below.

Bike to Work Day takes place on Thursday, May 14. The Water District even approved a permit for an Energizer Station on this trail at Agnew Road. Oops!

The San Tomas Aquino Trail provides north-south off-street travel between El Camino Real and the Bay. This popular trail enables easy access from residential areas in central Santa Clara to the tens of thousands of jobs north of the Caltrain tracks, with major employers including Intel, Great America amusement park, Levi’s Stadium, Mission College, nVidia, AMD, Applied Materials, Citrix, Dell, LG, Marvell, Avaya, Abbott Diagnostics, Palo Alto Networks, Juniper Networks, GlobalFoundries, and more.

The San Tomas Aquino Trail is frequently congested with transportation and recreational bike and foot traffic during the commute and lunch hours, and this congestion becomes especially heavy on Bike to Work Day. For Bike to Work Day 2014, over 500 people on bikes passed the city of Santa Clara Energizer Station on this trail at Agnew Road.

The water district will close the trail off between Central Expressway and Agnew Road on May 14. To get past Central and Highway 101, the water district suggests detouring these hundreds of cyclists to Bowers Avenue and Great America Parkway.

Bike to Work Day 2015 Detour San Tomas Aquino Trail

Here’s what northbound Bowers looks like approaching Highway 101. This will have extremely heavy car traffic in the morning. Note the bike stencil in the disappearing bike lane to the right of the high speed merge lane.

Bike to Work Day 2015 Detour San Tomas Aquino Trail

Here’s the view of southbound Great America approaching Highway 101, which is the direction of evening commute traffic. Again, there’s a bike lane to the right of the high speed off-ramp to the highway. The speed limit for both directions is 40 MPH.

Bike to Work Day 2015 Detour San Tomas Aquino Trail

Nice, huh? The hundreds of people who will try biking to work for the first time will love this unexpected treat, I’m sure. I’m supposed to help at an Energizer Station that morning, but I might instead try to organize a bike sherpa shuttle to help guide people across the highway here. If anybody else would like to help with something like this please let me know.

For further detour information, read the trail closure announcement.


  1. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I’m told that Santa Clara is working with SCVWD to resolve this, and to stay tuned. I’ll keep you posted as I hear back from the city.

  2. Work has been rescheduled for next week, they have the dates for each segment closure which is nice::

    Environmental Programs, City of Santa Clara CITY
    The Santa Clara Valley Water District will be mowing the side slopes of the San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail as part of their annual fuel abatement and fire suppression efforts. The operation will involve the use of flail mowers, therefore sections of the trail will be closed temporarily to bike and pedestrian traffic to ensure the safety of trail users. If you are planning to use the trail for commuting or recreational purposes, please refer to the detour maps on our website:

  3. One side effect of the trimming was the uncovering of the disgusting piles of wind blown trash just down wind from the stadium:

    Like this fine example:

    I’ve been complaining to the stadium and city since April with no results. I’ve since filed a complaint with the Santa Clara Valley Water District to look into the source of the litter. Have received a reply back that they will be looking into the issue.

  4. The source of the litter are crowds on foot and on bike who leave the stadium via the trail. Those of us who pushed for opening the trail immediately post-game have since received feedback from Levi’s Stadium Authority and Santa Clara PD essentially saying “We told you so,” and they did indeed.

  5. The fans are coming from a stadium event. The stadium needs to clean up the mess left by their customers. If they can’t educate those fans to dispose of trash before leaving the stadium, then they need to go out and clean up the mess they leave. Or get SCPD out there writing littering tickets because what they are doing is creating a new garbage dump. There was no such problem before the stadium was built and I don’t think they included setting up a new garbage dump in their EIR. And I suspect that that EIR addressed cleaning up trash left by stadium attendees and its not being enforced.

    I think what the StadiumCo should do is to adopt that entire stretch of the creek from Mission down to 237. They can sign up with the Water District and then periodically clean up the mess their fans are generating.

  6. From the EIR:

    [quote]49ers Santa Clara Stadium
    Final EIR
    City of Santa Clara
    November 2009
    Comment NN-1: This letter is in response to the Draft Environmental Impact Report for the 49ers
    Santa Clara Stadium Project. The report claims there will be a less than significant impact to the immediately adjacent San Tomas Aquino Creek or San Francisco Bay from increased pollution runoff or trash. Proposed post-construction BMP’s include sweeping, maintaining vegetative swales, litter control, stenciling storm water catch basins to discourage illegal dumping, and installing trash racks. However, I don’t believe this DEIR is taking into account the trash that will be discarded 1) on surface streets as people are driving to the stadium including over the Tasman Drive bridge crossing the creek and 2) by people walking over the creek on the two newly proposed pedestrian bridges. A pilot study done in San Mateo County to identify trash sources found littering at parks and dumping from bridges were the most likely sources of trash to the creek at the study site (“Pilot Study to Identify Trash Sources and Management Measures” http://www.flowstobay.org/documents/community/watershed/studies/gateway park trash pilot study
    2005 report.pdf). How will littering directly into the creek be prevented and how will impacts to the creek be assessed after stadium events?
    Response NN-1:
    The proposed stadium and all parking areas will have sufficient numbers of
    trash receptacles to accommodate the volume of trash and recyclables estimated to be generated during stadium events. In addition, parking areas will be cleaned after each event. For these reasons, the City believes that operation of the stadium will not result in a significant increase in debris in San Tomas Aquino Creek.
    Comment NN-2:
    Firstly, the pedestrian bridges should be enclosed by fencing with small enough
    mesh to discourage all trash from being discarded over the bridge, including cigarette butts. Secondly, trash receptacles should be installed at both ends of each pedestrian bridge and positive signage should be posted encouraging people to use the receptacles in order to keep the creek clean for fish and wildlife. Thirdly, monitoring of the stream at the pedestrian bridges and the Tasman Drive bridge crossing using the Regional Water Quality Control Board’s or the Santa Clara Valley Urban Runoff Program’s ‘Urban Rapid Trash Assessment’ protocols should be done both the day before and the day after events to document trash accumulation information. This should be done several times before and after different event types. If trash is increased after an event, pre-determined mitigation measures should be implemented. [/quote]

    Looks like they are not doing what was promised in the NN-2 comment. “If trash is increased after an event, pre-determined mitigation measures should be implemented.”

    Trash has increased after event(s), lets implement those pre-determined mitigation measures!!!

  7. Looks like the SC Valley Water District is making some headway on this, a reply from the case I opened with them:

    “we are in communication with the stadium management to address this issue of trash escaping to the trail and creek banks. thanks for keeping an eye on this.”

    Trash increases after each event and I’ve seen loose trash blowing out of the concession stand area (next to the trail) on non-event days. That trash blows down the trail and if it happens to hit the opening in the chain link fence, it keeps going.

    The stadium is required to clean up parking lots they make use of during events after each event. Why aren’t they also required to clean up the trail that their guests use to access and egress the stadium area.

    Reading the wording of the EIR it seems that even in 2009, there was no intention of having the trail open during events. And with no traffic, there would be no trash. Seems that whoever did the negotiations for opening the trail for stadium access forgot to consider human behavior and account for the litter removal, even though “pre-determined mitigation measures” were promised in the EIR.

    Question I’ve wondered is who is responsible for enforcing these aspects of the EIR. It seems one can say all the right things in the EIR to get the project approved. Then after the project is done, turn around and not actually do those things that were promised.

  8. In 2009 I moved (back) to Santa Clara and started attending BPAC meetings and that’s when I learned a stadium was in planning. Both creek litter and trail closures were discussed ad naseum and Jim Mercurio repeatedly assured that the trail impacts would be negligible and the trash would be managed. In the EIR wording you’ll see a numeric estimate of events (37?) large enough to warrant trail closures (for safety reasons). The end result of public pressure to address the issue simply resulted in the ballot measure, which was terrible because passing with a 66% (IIRC?) vote meant the city council and 49’ers could move ahead with the justification that the public fully backed all decisions.

    Ultimately, CEQA can enforce these aspects of the EIR. A court may order an injunction, just as was done to San Francisco to halt the building of bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure there. Santa Clara City Council has immediate authority to address the issue, but with all this continued pressure we’ve only gotten to the stage of “we’ll have the city manager look into it.” In my opinion, nothing whatsoever will be done until a) CEQA’s legal representatives are made aware of this, and/or b) a lawsuit is funded by those passionate, brave, and wealthy enough to challenge the city. Option a may have a tricky outcome – there are powerful politics in play here, and it may just be that “you can’t fight city hall.” I simply don’t see many levers that the city has, and any councilor with the courage to attempt to would likely commit political suicide.

    Alas, I just don’t think the public is aware, engaged, and/or concerned enough about this abuse of our public funds to mount a challenge this size. That was likely known in 2009.

    Incidentally, I bike-commuted daily and year-round (mud allowing) on the STACT up until the time it closed for construction (which timed with my company departure). The construction company did an exceptional job of safety and cleanliness, IMO, and was intentionally respectful of trail users. They stationed people at the crossing through long (often hot) hours – I’d sometimes grab a cold soda on the way from the office to drop on the way by as a thank-you. Looking back, I wouldn’t be surprised if this wasn’t an intentional sleight-of-hand by their employers to avoid “rocking the boat”… some say the impact was underestimated; I’ve come to believe it was ignored.

  9. Also, the vegetation overgrowth was brought up in June’s BPAC meeting (not sure where it stands now as I’m away).

  10. From the CEQA web page:

    “Who enforces CEQA? What role does the Resources Agency have in enforcement of CEQA?

    CEQA is a self-executing statute. Public agencies are entrusted with compliance with CEQA and its provisions are enforced, as necessary, by the public through litigation and the threat thereof. While the Resources Agency is charged with the adoption of CEQA Guidelines, and may often assist public agencies in the interpretation of CEQA, it is each public agency’s duty to determine what is and is not subject to CEQA. As such, the Resources Agency does not review the facts and exercise of discretion by public agencies in individual situations. In sum, the Agency does not enforce CEQA, nor does it review for compliance with CEQA the many state and local agency actions which are subject to CEQA.”

    So I guess a project can just ignore what was promised in the EIR under the assumption that it would be unlikely for a well funded enough public litigation to force them to abide by the EIR. Seems like quite a pathetic regulation in that respect. So which public agency’s “duty” is it to enforce something like litter removal?

    Right in the EIR they say “If trash is increased after an event, pre-determined mitigation measures should be implemented.” Sounds pretty cut and dried, unless the pre-determined mitigation measures are to
    A. Deny the existence of the litter
    B. Blame someone else for the litter

    Hopefully the Santa Clara Valley Water District will make some headway, it’s their waterway that is being polluted. I’ve not heard back from the Bay Area Regional Water Quality Control Board, so apparently they don’t care. Next big rain and all that trash is going to end up in the Bay.

  11. Well, if this reply is to be believed, my persistence has paid off:

    “Your complaint regarding trash in the creek channel along the San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail was forwarded to me. The Levi’s Stadium operations team was advised of the channel condition yesterday and had a crew pick up litter along the creek channel embankments earlier today in response. Please let me know if you have any additional questions or see elevated trash conditions along this section of the trail in the future.

    Thank you for bringing this matter to the City’s attention.

    DAVE STAUB | Deputy Director of Public Works
    1700 Walsh Avenue | Santa Clara, CA 95050
    D: (408) 615-3086 | dstaub@santaclaraca.gov

    Now this was after dozens of e-mails and phone calls over 4 months to the stadium, close to a dozen agencies, the city council, mayor, city manager, parks department and some media contacts.

    All to get the stadium operating co.to pick up their trash. What a pathetic operation if it takes that level of effort on the part of the public to get these clowns to clean up their act.

    I think it was probably contacting the SV Water District that had the most impact here, they seemed to be the only ones concerned with the water pollution aspect.

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