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In The News

Saltworks plan begins review

By Michelle Durand, The Daily Journal, 8/10/09

The controversial plan to build on the former Redwood City Saltworks site is back before the City Council, less than year after voters shot down a charter change proposal which would have given them final say on open space uses.

As with the dueling ballot measures offered last fall, the matter facing the Redwood City Council Monday night is not directly a question of whether developer DMB’s plan for the land is acceptable. Rather, it is if city staff should study the project proposal and later consider a general plan amendment.

Signing off on the evaluation lets the city enter into a legal services reimbursement contract with Redwood City Industrial Saltworks, LLC and begin looking at the proposal.

City spokesman Malcolm Smith emphasized that starting the process is neither an approval or denial of the project and that the full evaluation and Environmental Impact Report won’t even begin until next year.

David Lewis, executive director of Save the Bay, which opposes development, agreed Monday night’s meeting is largely administrative but expects opponents to use the public hearing as another opportunity to lodge their displeasure.

“People will come and tell the city it is a lousy plan but the mayor made it clear she wants to start this process so I’m sure that will happen,” Lewis said.

The city considered including the 1,436-acre Cargill property in the ongoing revamp of its general plan but in January decided that should happen afterward. The general plan acts as a blueprint for the city, laying out rules for zoning and land use.

Like Lewis, Jay Reed of DMB agrees now is not too early for supporters to remind the council of their backing for the so-called 50/50 balanced plan and anticipates opponents appearing Monday.

On Thursday, Saltworks released the results of a February 2009 poll showing more than 62 percent of residents back the plan. Specifically, 69 percent support the plan with a transit-oriented community, 71 percent support the plan if it gave residents significant new access to San Francisco Bay and 82 percent support the new biking and hiking trails features.

“The survey shows support hasn’t really changed in the years we’ve been out there and despite David Lewis and the election last year, support didn’t falter,” Reed said, referencing the two measures on last November’s ballot.

Save the Bay dismissed the data as old and nothing on which to gauge support.

The Saltworks land has generated hours of debate before any ground is broken or projects even approved. The issue came to a head last year with measures V and W.  Measure V would have required majority voter approval of any action by the council permitting development of the Cargill lands, 1,450 acres of land east of Highway 101 and south of Seaport Boulevard. The City Council placed the measure on the ballot to give voters a less restrictive alternative to competing Measure W, placed on the ballot by the groups Save the Bay and Friends of Redwood City, which 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.

With both measures defeated, the city moved back to beginning the development evaluation process.

DMB is pushing what it calls a 50-50 plan, providing 50 percent for wetlands restoration, recreation and open space uses and 50 percent for mixed uses including housing. DMB accompanied its plan with a list of 10 commitments to the community, including flood control issues, creating a transit-friendly development and ensuring the project is self-sufficient.

The Saltworks site is the largest untouched area in the Bay Area outside the Presidio in San Francisco and development opponents like Lewis want it to stay that way.

“The era of filling the Bay is over,” Lewis said. “A fair number of people feel like the council is not hearing their concerns about why there should not be a new city in the Bay.”

The Redwood City Council meets 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 10 at City Hall, 1017 Middlefield Road, Redwood City.


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