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In The News

Poll: Voters reject Cargill saltworks plan

By Bill Silverfarb
Daily Journal, 5/18/11

An environmental group’s effort to stop a massive development on Bayshore saltworks is emboldened by a recent poll that indicates a majority of Redwood City voters oppose a plan to build nearly 12,000 new homes east of Highway 101.

But officials with the developer of the Cargill saltworks site, DMB Associates, said the poll is yet another effort by Save the Bay to mischaracterize the project.

“I give no credence to the poll,” said David Smith, senior vice president with DMB Associates. “They are trying to shut down the public understanding of the project.”

The Cargill Saltworks 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, retail areas and transit facilities.

Save the Bay, however, wants all the land to be converted to tidal marshlands.

The project is now in the earliest stages of environmental review.

According to the poll, conducted between May 11 and May 15 by J. Moore Methods, 57 percent of Redwood City voters oppose the project while 28 percent support it. The poll found that 88 percent of Redwood City voters are familiar with the project.

“The poll shows that after five years of intense lobbying by Cargill in mailings, advertising and phone calls that most city voters oppose the project,” said David Lewis, executive director of Save the Bay.

The poll also found that 78 percent of respondents agree the project will create too much traffic and that 64 percent support the restoration of the salt ponds into tidal marsh for fish and wildlife.

Since Save the Bay is the source of the poll, however, DMB officials said it is just another “desperate” attempt by the nonprofit group to derail the project.

The project still has a couple of years to secure the proper approvals, Smith said, and will be built in phases over the course of 25 to 30 years.

“We are open to evolving,” Smith said. “We are not so arrogant to presume we got everything right.”

Cargill owns the saltworks site and first came to the city in 2009 for review of the project after Measure W, placed on the ballot by the groups Save the Bay and Friends of Redwood City, was rejected in 2008.

Measure W would have required two-thirds voter approval before any action taken by the City Council to change zoning or general plans for a specific property to move forward.

The Cargill project does not fit the city’s general plan, Save the Bay’s Lewis said. The city’s general plan shows future growth to be concentrated downtown, near the Sequoia Caltrain station.

Nearly 63 percent of Redwood City voters rejected Measure W in November 2008.

“They have been desperate since that measure’s failure to shut down the environmental review process,” DMB’s Smith said. “The story is the balanced future of the site and they don’t want the public to hear that story.”


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