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In The News

Saltworks plan moves forward

By Michelle Durand
The Daily Journal, 8/12/09

Those who endorse the idea of building on the former Cargill Saltworks site and those who find the idea unacceptable should both be glad the Redwood City Council unanimously agreed to evaluate the submitted proposal, Mayor Rosanne Foust said yesterday.

“Even people who do not want it developed have questions, and in order to answer them, we have to study it,” Foust said.

The City Council agreed just after 11 p.m. Monday to study the proposal and use the information to later consider a general plan amendment. The evaluation will provide answers to lingering questions over issues like jurisdictional rights, water, transportation, traffic and open space tax benefits, Foust said.

If the council had not approved the impartial study and a legal agreement with developers to cover the costs, it would need to use taxpayer funds, Foust said.

“The council felt this is in the public’s interest,” Foust said.

The decision is far from a green light for development but is a key step forward. And while the issue before the council was largely administrative, it didn’t stop supporters and opponents of developer DMB Associates from taking another turn at the podium during public comment. The latest round of debate pushed the vote late into the evening during which dozens of speakers voiced their thoughts, Foust said.
 
John Bruno of DMB praised the council’s eventual vote to review and study the so-named “50-50 Balanced Plan” which calls for 50 percent of the site to be preserved for permanent open space, public recreation and tidal marsh restoration and the remaining half be development into housing, schools, parks and retail and transit facilities.

“After three years working with the community of Redwood City, the review process — which Redwood City residents overwhelmingly support — is underway,” Bruno said.

David Lewis, executive director of vocal opponent group Save the Bay, said the more developers praise the council, the less likely it appears the process is objective.

“I think the council’s actions show they are not hearing what the community is saying,” Lewis said. “There is no need for a new city built in the Bay.”

The Saltworks site is a 1,436-acre parcel of land — the largest untouched area in the Bay Area outside the Presidio in San Francisco — whose potential development has long been debated in the community. Last year, the dispute erupted into a full-out war between organizations like Save the Bay, Redwood City and a smattering of grassroots groups who took no side other than opposing a ballot measure that would have significantly changed the city charter. Both ballot measures failed.

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.

With the city having agreed to evaluate the Cargill proposal, Foust said she expects the matter to quiet until the city begins its process early next year.
Lewis, though, said opponents will take every opportunity to oppose the project and it is “growing without us doing anything” since DMB released the proposal in May. He also said the council needs to realize it is a regional, rather than Redwood City only, issue.

For example, he said, the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association submitted a letter Aug. 6 to the City Council opposing “residential and other uses ... that are non-compatible with port operations.” The development will ultimately threaten “the long-term operation of one of our most-successful and viable regional niche ports, disrupt the regional economy and likely subject maritime operations to years of unreasonable legal and political challenges,” PMSA Vice President Michael Jacob wrote in the letter.

Foust, however, said the current goal is not for the city to take a stand but to become educated and dispel misinformation.

“The council is not the enemy,” Foust said. “I’m telling people we just need to know like you do.”
 

 

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