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In The News

City officially opposes Cargill development

by Bill Silverfarb,

The Daily Journal, 3/24/10

After making disparaging remarks about the state’s environmental review process, Belmont Mayor Christine Wozniak led her council in a 3-2 vote of opposition to a planned 12,000-unit development on salt ponds in Redwood City.

The council, however, was not unanimous last night in its adoption of a resolution opposing the DMB Cargill project. Both Councilmen David Braunstein and Warren Lieberman called such a move “premature,” as did DMB representatives.

Lieberman expressed hesitancy in adopting a resolution that called the project “misguided in scope.” The development is expected to accommodate up to 25,000 new residents.

“If this project is this misguided. I’d like to think an EIR (environmental impact review) would reveal that,” Lieberman said.

But Wozniak disagreed.

“Waiting for an EIR is too late. This is not a new idea,” Wozniak said. “We don’t need an EIR to figure it out. What comes with an EIR is concessions. It’s a Band-Aid.”

The mayor also said requests by her to Redwood City Mayor Jeff Ira to sit down and discuss the issue were ignored, a fact that did not sit well with Councilman Dave Warden.

“We’ve basically been ignored by Redwood City. I don’t think they care if we pass the resolution since they won’t even talk to us,” Warden said.

Before voting no on the resolution, Braunstein suggested the city once again try to reach out to Redwood City leaders for a sit-down on the subject and said he needed to do more research on the topic.

“I don’t see a need to rush this. The priority for me is our own budget,” Braunstein said. The city faces an ongoing $1.3 million structural deficit.

Belmont followed the city of Menlo Park in adopting a similar resolution against the development. The resolution passed 3-2 with Wozniak, Warden and Councilwoman Coralin Feierbach voting yes. Feierbach authored the resolution.

The council took public comments from 12 people on the issue, most supporting the developer’s right to build housing on the east side of Highway 101. Many of the supporters, however, were Redwood City residents.

Tim Frank, an environmental consultant for DMB Cargill, said building much needed housing at the saltworks site will help turn “commuters” into “residents.”

“Commuters put pressure on the environment. This is a proposal to build housing in a transit-rich community. It will reduce traffic,” Frank said.

He urged the council to wait to pass judgment on the project until the California Environmental Quality Act review is completed.

Wozniak, however, challenged Frank’s assertion the development somehow reduce traffic.

“The notion this development will reduce our traffic is a real stretch to me,” Wozniak said. “It’s a bad idea to build on the Bay any more.”

Victor Torreano, who spoke to the council on behalf of the San Mateo Labor and Construction Trades Council, urged the council not to interfere with the CEQA process.

“Our support is for the project,” Torreano said. “This is an opportunity for jobs and for saving wetlands.”

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.”


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