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In The News

Saltworks project passes initial review

By Bill Silverfarb

The Daily Journal, 2/2/10

After reviewing an application to build thousands of homes on salt ponds in Redwood City, staff has determined there will be enough water and sufficient traffic circulation within the project area to make it feasible.

The DMB Cargill plan to build up to 12,000 units of mixed-use housing will now face California Environmental Quality Act review after undergoing the city’s tier-1 review.

Redwood City hired a consulting firm, Hart/Howerton, back in September to review Cargill’s plan to see if the city had jurisdiction over the Bay property, whether enough water could be secured for the project and how well traffic will flow in and out of the 1,436-acre Bayside property.

DMB Cargill paid for the consultants.

Up to 20 federal, state and local agencies have some sort of permitting oversight over the land but it was determined by the consulting firm that the agencies should not be an obstacle for the city to build on the land.

Environmental groups, determined to convert the land back to wetlands, had challenged whether it would be legal to fill and build on the property since salt ponds are considered property of the United States.

The land also comes under the jurisdiction of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission which states, “if the owner of any salt ponds withdraws any of the ponds from their present uses, the public should make every effort to buy these lands and restore, enhance or convert these areas to subtidal or wetland habitat.”

Last night’s study session required no action by the Redwood City Council but did allow for public comment.

Thirty speakers presented varying views on the impact of the project to the city, both good and bad, including Cynthia Denny, wetlands chair for the Loma Prieta branch of the Sierra Club.

“The city has not taken a leadership role. Cargill is directing the conversation on what to do with this land, not the public,” Denny said. “It’s the wrong site for this development considering sea-level rise.”

But restaurant owner Diane Cusimano pressed the council to move forward with the plan to bring more people downtown. The city needs more housing and jobs, said Cusimano, who owns Deseo Tequila Lounge Restaurant.

Save the Bay’s Steven Knight urged the council to continue its “smart” growth downtown and to restore the property to wetlands.

Both councilmembers Barbara Pierce and Jeff Gee were concerned about the traffic impacts to neighboring cities since the development is expected to house 25,000 new residents.

While the tier-1 report indicates there are no fundamentally insurmountable issues, getting traffic in and out of the project area has yet to be sufficiently determined, said traffic consultant Robert Eckols.

Councilman Ian Bain noted that interchanges at Marsh and Whipple roads at Highway 101 are already at capacity. The developer intends to shuttle some of its residents to Oracle or Sun Microsystems, for instance, and wants to provide some sort of trolley or light-rail system to reduce traffic impacts.

Members of both Menlo Park and Belmont city councils have come out against DMB Cargill’s plans

 

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