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In The News

Give Saltworks project a chance to be scrutinized

By Jim Hartnett
Special to The Daily News

Guest Editorial, 2/12/10

Creating opportunity is not easy. Usually, it means there is change, uncertainty and risk. Pioneers of Silicon Valley such as David Packard, Steve Jobs and Redwood City’s own co-founder of Intel, Gordon Moore, know that, and experienced it firsthand. But they helped change the world.

In a time when creating opportunity has taken on extraordinary importance, doing so in the public arena has become even more difficult. Infill developments of even a handful of houses generate opposition and lawsuits. Increased housing density is praised, mixed use lauded and walkable communities encouraged, yet many people approach specific applications with a closed mind and cacophony of sound and fury.

In the public arena, tough questions must always be asked and public benefit must be the priority. There are many “what ifs” to consider. What if a project in Redwood City could potentially: • Protect the city against inevitable sea level rise at no taxpayer expense; • Create wetlands and improve the quality of San Francisco Bay at no taxpayer expense; • Increase the city’s water supply in such a way as to protect all of Redwood City, including hospitals, schools, homes and businesses, from drought-caused water rationing and financial penalties; • Create economic growth, including jobs, housing and offices, in a way that would not only be a national green building model, but also could actually reduce the local carbon footprint.

Wouldn’t a project like that in Redwood City at least deserve close study and consideration?

Shouldn’t interested parties at least wait to take a “final” unconditional position until full and complete studies are done of the “what ifs” and other tough, necessary questions?

The Cargill/DMB Associates proposal perhaps holds out tremendous opportunity. It would clearly represent change, and no doubt there is uncertainty and risk. Hundreds of hours of study have been done, with much, much more to come, including a transparent public process. Packard, Jobs, Moore and many others in Silicon Valley have helped change the world because they weren’t afraid of change, weren’t afraid to risk.

Let’s not be so timid as to fear even exploring the opportunity. Perhaps we will be surprised at what we find.

Jim Hartnett is a lawyer, past mayor of Redwood City, and past chairman of the San Mateo County Transit District and Caltrain Joint Powers Board.

 

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