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In The News

Saltworks Development Fueling Uproar over Bay Climate-Change Plan

Firm spent $350,000 to lobby against rules that would restrict shoreline project

By: John Upton, The Bay Citizen, 6/4/11

Plans to build 12,000 homes in Redwood City are at the heart of an escalating spat between developers and environmentalists about proposed shoreline building guidelines to prepare the region for climate change.

The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, a state agency, is drafting guidelines that would limit construction along undeveloped waterfronts and promote shoreline habitat restoration projects. Last month, after more than two years of public hearings, the business community sharply criticized the guidelines as anti-development.

Those complaints prompted minor revisions that would explicitly promote infill development, but business representatives said Thursday at a commission hearing in San Francisco that the changes did not go far enough.

Environmentalists, meanwhile, fervently support the new guidelines, saying they are needed to protect residences and help nature adapt as the climate changes.

DMB Associates, the firm behind the ambitious Redwood City Saltworks development, spent more than $350,000 on lobbyists over the past year to influence and monitor the proposal and other state regulations and legislation, records show.

The developer has criticized the vague nature of the draft guidelines, saying they create uncertainty for the 1,437-acre project that has been the subject of five years of planning efforts. The company is looking at other Bay Area development opportunities that could also be affected.

“It talks generally about protection of areas,” said David Smith, a DMB Associates vice president. “We think it needs specificity on what’s going to be protected and how.”

The Redwood City Saltworks development would create a dense residential community with homes, schools and retail outlets amid a chain of shoreline habitat restoration projects on the Cargill salt ponds on the edge of San Francisco Bay.

The draft guidelines allow for construction in some shoreline areas that are already developed because levees or other flood-control measures will most likely be put in place as seas rise. But the guidelines would require the protection of undeveloped areas if they could flood or provide refuge for wildlife.

According to Will Travis, executive director of the development commission, the guidelines are not hard-and-fast rules.

“We don’t think the policies that we adopt should either pre-approve or pre-deny a permit anywhere,” Travis said. “If you’re dealing with areas that have high potential for restoration, we would discourage development there. If you’re trying to do a project that concentrates housing near transportation and jobs, that ought to be given high priority.”

Development plans for former Navy bases at Hunters Point and Treasure Island would not be affected, since these high profile projects already meet or exceed many of the proposed guidelines, said Tiffany Bohee, a San Francisco economic development official.

The guidelines could be completed and adopted this fall.

This article also appears in the Bay Area edition of The New York Times


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