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In The News

City ready to oppose Cargill plan

Bill Silverfarb

The Daily Journal, 3/23/10

A resolution being considered by the Belmont City Council tonight in opposition to a massive development proposed for salt ponds in Redwood City calls the project “misguided in scope” and asks for the inclusion of the Cargill property into the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge.

If approved, Belmont would follow the city of Menlo Park in adopting a resolution in opposition to DMB Cargill’s plans to convert its salt ponds into a 12,000-unit mixed-use development on the east side of Highway 101 that could eventually house 25,000 people.

The proposed development would have regional impacts to traffic and air quality, said Belmont Councilwoman Coralin Feierbach, the author of the resolution.

“Any percentage of those 25,000 people who might drive on Ralston Avenue or El Camino Real would have a real negative impact on Belmont. Ralston is already at capacity,” Feierbach said.

Feierbach has been contacted by union representatives encouraging her to consider the number of jobs the project would create in light of the poor economy — a consideration she is not willing to take.

“Jobs should not take precedence over serious environmental destruction,” Feierbach said.

Councilman Warren Lieberman, however, is not prepared to support Feierbach’s resolution until after he hears from the public tonight and gets more specific details on the project from staff. To date, Lieberman has not seen any of DMB Cargill’s development proposal.

“Redwood City has asked other cities to give it time to evaluate the proposal. I respect that decision,” Lieberman said. “I want to work constructively with Redwood City.”

Lieberman suggested at a previous council meeting that Belmont leaders should sit down with councilmembers from Redwood City to discuss the development.

But Redwood City leaders, particularly Mayor Jeff Ira, have not responded to Belmont’s request, Feierbach said.

“It shows a lack of respect,” Feierbach said.

Cargill’s plan is to allocate about half of the 1,436-acre property to open space and wetland restoration, while the other half would be reserved for housing, schools and other various infrastructure in what the developer calls a “50-50 Balanced Plan.”

But Save the Bay’s Executive Director David Lewis says the Cargill proposal is directly at odds with the city’s own general plan.

“There’s a lot of reasons for why its not the place for a massive development including sea level rise and the city’s own general plan which calls for building transit-oriented development near downtown,” Lewis said.

While Belmont may become the second city to officially oppose the development, Save the Bay presented a letter last month to Redwood City signed by 92 current and former Bay Area elected officials in opposition to the development.

But as Save the Bay has rallied opposition, developer DMB announced endorsements from regional groups for the project such as the San Mateo County Economic Development Association, Redwood City San Mateo County Chamber of Commerce and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group which represents employers such as Bank of America and Electronic Arts.

Despite these endorsements, however, Save the Bay, a nonprofit agency, contends there is a growing regional outrage and opposition to the project.

“I haven’t seen any current elected official explicitly come out in support of it,” Lewis said.

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

In early February, Redwood City officials accepted reports finding there is enough water and traffic circulation within the project area to make it feasible. Around the same time, the Menlo Park City Council officially passed a resolution opposing the development. Redwood City officials, however, counter than the environmental review process must be followed.

But Save the Bay’s Lewis says the city does not have to allow the environmental review process to continue.

“The city does not to do an EIR (environmental impact review) before turning down a project,” Lewis said.

The Belmont City Council meets 7:30 p.m., tonight, City Hall, 1 Twin Pines Lane, Belmont.


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