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In The News

Salt flats project OK’d to advance to next phase
Source of water for Cargill development revealed for first time

By Shaun Bishop

The Daily News, 1/27/10

An application to build up to 12,000 homes on the salt flats in Redwood City does not present any “insurmountable issues,” despite lingering questions about traffic, water supply and regulatory approvals, according to reports released Tuesday by the city.

The Redwood City City Council in September took the unusual step of ordering consultants to do initial, in-depth studies of three “significant issues” related to the proposal submitted by Cargill and developer DMB Associates before it considers launching an environmental review.

In reports released Tuesday, the consulting team concludes that the application “does not have any fundamental insurmountable issues that would preclude the continued processing of the application and initiation of the (California Environmental Quality Act) process.”

The report on the project’s water supply disclosed for the first time the proposed source of drinking water for the massive development, which developers previously refused to reveal.

DMB Associates bought rights in 2007 to about 2.7 billion gallons of water per year from the Nickel family. According to the report, the family owns more than enough water in Kern County to supply the 817 million gallons estimated to be needed per year by the proposed Cargill development.

The water, which the report says “appears to be quite reliable,” would be directed through a series of transfers to Redwood City, though questions remain about infrastructure and whether intermediaries would be involved.

DMB's water agreement lasts for 7-0 years, a limited term that the report cites as " a potential concern."

But John Bruno, vice president of D-MB, noted a 70year supply is substantially longer than the 20year supply that state water codes require developers to identify.

The city scheduled a study session for Monday so the council can discuss the documents, which total more than 1-50 pages. The developer is paying up to $ 450,000 to consultant Hart-Howerton and other sub-consultants for the studies.

The studies are the most detailed yet of the controversial proposal, which calls for 8,000 to 1-2,000 homes, 1 million square feet of office space, sports fields and other development on a 1,436 acre site east of Highway 1-01 between Marsh Road and Seaport Boulevard. About 4-00 acres would be restored to wetlands.

Redwood City Saltworks - the joint venture of D-MB Associates and Cargill - said in a statement Tuesday it is " delighted that this initial step is complete.

" We are confident that after full vetting of our proposal for the future of the site under C-EQA, under-standing of the benefits to both the residents of Redwood City and the region will resolve any concerns," Saltworks officials said in the statement.

David Lewis, executive director of Save the Bay, which has spearheaded opposition to the project, dismissed the studies' conclusion.

"The point is this project shouldn't even be up for discussion because we're not talking about land. We're talking about the Bay," said Lewis, who along with representatives of other environmental groups contend the site should be restored to wetlands. "We don't build on the Bay anymore."

The report on jurisdictional issues found six federal agencies and at least 1-2 state, regional and local agencies that would have some kind of authority over the project.

That doesn't include local agencies that may have a say over road improvements outside the site, such as any changes to Marsh Road in Menlo Park, which abuts the southeastern part of the land.

The transportation report doesn't predict impacts on the transportation system, saying a model to forecast travel demand for such a large project would need to be developed as part of the environmental review.

Instead, it points out " crucial issues" that will likely come up, such as connecting proposed roads within the Cargill site to other sur-face streets and Highway 101. The developer also will need to provide more details of its plans for bicycles and pedestrians and parking management, the report says.

The city council will not make any decisions at Monday's study session, though city staff will give it options for potential next steps, Senior Planner Blake Lyon said.

 

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