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In The News

Redwood City considers course change on Saltworks plan

Council may seek voter advice on project in Nov. Ballot measure could determine whether city goes forward with environmental review

By Bonnie Eslinger
Daily News, 4/12/12

After insisting for more than a year that an environmental review of the controversial Redwood City Saltworks project should run its course before any decisions are made, Redwood City council members may put a measure on the November ballot seeking voters' advice on whether to proceed after all.

The stunning turn of events was triggered by Council Member Rosanne Foust, who near the end of the council's meeting Monday night delivered an impassioned nine-minute speech on the project, which envisions as many as 12,000 homes, several office buildings, schools, play fields and restored wetlands on the Cargill salt flats along San Francisco Bay.

Noting that the council was being "dinged" by the public at every step, Foust said the project is dividing the community and overshadowing every other city effort. A vote to show whether the public is "supportive of any development on that property or whether they're not" would help the council determine whether it's worth the time and money to continue, she said.

In a phone interview Wednesday night, Foust said council members have been either accused of not having the backbone to ignore public criticism and stay the course or ripped by those "who say we're crooks and in the pockets of the developers."

"All of that is so far from the truth," said Foust, who has been advised against voting on the Saltworks project by the California Fair Political Practices Commission because she is president of the San Mateo County Economic Development Association, which has endorsed it.

One potential snag to placing an advisory measure on the ballot is the city's lack of an updated description of what the developer DMB Pacific Ventures proposes to build on the 1,400-acre site. In November, the company withdrew its initial proposal so it can make revisions based in part on public feedback.

DMB spokesman Jay Reed said the company doesn't have a timeline for releasing a reworked proposal. He declined to speculate on the implications of voters advising the council to proceed with the project or drop it.

Amy Ricard, a spokeswoman for Save The Bay, which has long opposed the Saltworks project, said it is "premature" for the organization to comment on the possibility of an advisory vote.

Redwood City Manager Robert Bell said he expects the council to decide next month whether to place a Saltworks measure on the November election ballot.

In a written statement released by the city Wednesday, Mayor Alicia Aguirre called Saltworks an "unprecendented project" for Redwood City.

"Prior to re-engaging in that process, the city council may want to consider whether the revised project is of interest to the community and worthy of further exploration and analysis," Aguirre said.

 

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