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In The News

Cargill plan develops more opposition

By Michelle Durand

The Daily Journal, 4/30/10

A state environmental lobbying group is urging the Redwood City Council to scrap development on the Cargill Saltworks site, joining other councils, leaders and groups who’ve lined up against the idea before the city even finishes its environmental review.

The Planning and Conservation League sent a letter to the council and Mayor Jeff Ira Thursday. PCL, which advocates on behalf of California environmental organizations, understands the city’s desire to follow through the California Environmental Quality Act process but it should nonetheless say no to the so-called 50-50 plan put forth by DMB Associates, according to Legislative Director Tina Andolina.

“Instead of filling restorable wetlands, PCL urges Redwood City to reject the Saltworks proposal. New housing should be focused near existing transit corridors and services, like in downtown Redwood City — not within Cargill’s former salt ponds complex,” Andolina wrote.

Ira said the letter has not changed the council’s position, much as formal opposition by the cities of Menlo Park, Atherton and Belmont didn’t convince the leaders not to continue.

“There is no question there are serious issues and I look forward to seeing the [environmental impact review]. We are interviewing EIR consultants right now and feel we will end up with the best possible scientific information,” Ira said.

The proposed plan calls for 50 percent of the 1,436-acre site to be preserved for permanent open space, public recreation and tidal marsh restoration and the remaining half be developed into housing, schools, parks and retail and transit facilities. The site could house up to 12,000 housing units.

Although the city has yet to even begin the EIR process, formal opposition is already lining up. In addition to a few Peninsula cities, in February, 92 current and former elected Bay Area officials sent a letter to the council asking the city oppose development and support wetland restoration.

The PCL letter echoes the same concerns, arguing that restoring rather than filling the salt ponds can provide natural flood protection against rising sea levels.

Andolina also said the project will strain Redwood City’s limited water supplies and that DMB’s purchase of water rights in Kern County are not a fix because there is no existing infrastructure to pipe it in.

“Such a solution should not be considered sound water policy,” Andolina wrote.

But DMB representatives said PCL’s stance, “betrays a foundational misunderstanding of the facts underlying both the existing site and the future use proposed.”

Although opponents argue against the plan, claiming the area’s future has impacts beyond Redwood City’s borders, Ira said they aren’t seeing the final proposal.

“In all likelihood, it will change three or four times at least as things are discovered. It will not be the 50-50 plan. I have no idea what exactly it will be, but I’m certain it will be different,” he said.


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