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In The News

Cargill opposition grows

By Bill Silverfarb

The Daily Journal, 1/12/10

A massive development being considered for the Cargill salt flats in Redwood City has drawn sharp criticism from leaders in neighboring cities who say the project will be an environmental disaster.

Menlo Park drafted a resolution in opposition to the 12,000-unit mixed-use development and Belmont is set to discuss whether it should oppose it at its City Council meeting tonight.

The growing opposition to the project before it has been subject to environmental review, however, disappoints Redwood City Mayor Jeff Ira.

“These cities are jumping the gun. It is extremely early in the process. There will be a significant number of alternatives that come out of the EIR progress, including not building at all,” Ira said.

The proposed size of the project has Belmont Councilwoman Coralin Feierbach concerned about traffic impacts to Highway 101 and ultimately Ralston Avenue.

In addition to 12,000 homes, 1 million square feet of office space is also proposed for the 1,436-acre Bay property.

“Belmont is being squeezed in by urbanization on both sides,” Feierbach said. Belmont also came out in opposition to development San Mateo has planned for Bay Meadows Phase II.

“That’s why we moved here, to live in suburbia,” Feierbach said.

Belmont Councilman Dave Warden thinks city opposition is worth looking at considering the project could bring an additional 25,000 more people to the area.

“In order of magnitude, it is 10 times bigger than Bay Meadows,” Warden said. “There will be significantly more cars.”

Warden has yet to take a stand himself on the development.

Cargill announced in December it purchased enough potable water to supply its preferred development plan but will not say where exactly it is or how the city will transport it to the site. Still, Feierbach is concerned the development will create a greater demand for water.

“Water rates could go up for everyone with increased demand and limited supplies,” she said, adding another concern is air quality.

Belmont Mayor Christine Wozniak said taking a stand on the issue is important.

“The Cargill development in Redwood City will have a definite impact on the surrounding area. We are close enough to this massive proposed development for it to affect our infrastructure, water, traffic, educational system (we are in the same high school and junior college districts) and other quality-of-life factors,” Wozniak said in an e-mail.

In October, Menlo Park councilmembers Kelly Fergusson and Andrew Cohen introduced a resolution denouncing the development on the grounds that the Bay is a natural treasure and that development should be done closer to transit corridors, among other reasons.

Fergusson is opposed to filling the Bay to accommodate the development and hopes her council will vote to oppose it at an upcoming meeting.

“There is no room for more Bay fill development in our society,” Fergusson said. “It is detrimental to fill the Bay. It is not the way to solve our problems.”

Redwood City’s mayor understands that a certain percentage of the population will oppose the development no matter what.

“Some will be determined to keep the land open or preserved as wetlands,” Ira said. “We can’t even do an infill project in the middle of the city without people getting upset.”

Developer DMB Associates has plans to allocate about half the property to open space and wetland restoration, while the other half would be reserved for housing, schools and other various infrastructure.

Save the Bay, an environmental nonprofit agency, opposes even considering building on the land and contends housing should be built downtown, near the Caltrain station.

“I think clearly this is part of a trend of cities on the Peninsula increasingly raising concerns,” said Save the Bay Executive Director David Lewis. “Maybe together they can knock some sense into Redwood City.”

 

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