In The News
Battle lines drawn over Cargill plan
By Andrew Herndon
The Daily Journal, 11/27/09
A proposed plan to build on the Cargill Saltworks site has already drawn opposition from one neighboring city and an environmental group before any kind of development has been approved by the Redwood City Council.
Some members of the Menlo Park City Council, as well as environmental nonprofit Save the Bay, are against developer DMB Associates, Inc.’s interest in building on the 1,436-acre property, despite the company’s “50-50 Balanced Plan” that it offered for review to the Redwood City Council.
The plan was to allocate about half the property to open space and wetland restoration, while the other half would be reserved for housing, schools and other various infrastructure. Redwood City voted last August to examine and question the plan at a later date.
However, David Lewis, executive director of Save the Bay, said he believed that the Redwood City Council was wrong in approving to study the project in the first place.
“This is not a place to build,” Lewis said. “We have our priorities for where we’re going to redevelop in Redwood City where it makes sense and that’s downtown, near transit.”
But views from all sides need to be heard, including those who are for the project, Redwood City Councilwoman Barbara Pierce said.
“In this process, everyone’s opinions will be taken into consideration,” Pierce said, “and in the environmental process, we’ll actually get information and facts about what the impacts are. So, at this point it’s a little premature to speculate.”
Some in Menlo Park are also against the Cargill project, and Councilman Andy Cohen said he feels that this may not be the right time to build. And he thinks he has the answer as to why DMB wishes to move forward.
“In a down economy, the bargains are to be had,” Cohen said. “At the same time, we’ve got a wave of commercial foreclosures on the horizon — the residential foreclosure problem has not been solved.”
Despite the outcry over the land, many Redwood City citizens have asked the city to consider some kind of development on the property other than for salt production, Redwood City Councilman Jim Hartnett said.
But no decision by Redwood City regarding any kind of development has been made and will not be made for months until the proposition weaves its way through the legal process, Hartnett said.
“In my opinion, it’s very premature for (Menlo Park) to state an opinion on the project when there is no project yet under review by the Planning Commission or City Council. It’s still at the application stage,” Hartnett said. “I don’t know if there will be any project approved.”
Even though the proposal is in the early stages, it did not stop some Menlo Park councilmembers from expressing disagreement with the proposed development.
A draft proclamation listing concerns regarding the project was written and submitted by councilmembers Andy Cohen and Kelly Fergusson in hopes for the item to be agendized for later discussion.
After an October vote, the council agreed to hold a conversation about the proposal on a future agenda. It will likely be an information session, but it was unaware if Redwood City had been invited to participate in the talks, Fergusson said.
Regardless of what happens with the Menlo Park City Council, Redwood City plans to listen to the adjacent city’s opinions as if it were anyone else when that step arrives, Pierce said.
“There will be lots and lots of public hearings for people to share their thoughts and then for us to respond to them,” Pierce said. “I look forward to learning and listening and hearing what people’s concerns are and learning more about it, but we’re just not there yet.”