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In The News

Town against Cargill plan
Council passes resolution Wednesday expressing disapproval

By Jessica Bernstein-Wax

Daily News, 4/22/10

The Atherton City Council on Wednesday night joined with Menlo Park and Belmont in taking a firm stand against a proposed massive development on the Cargill salt lands in Redwood City.

After more than an hour of public comment during which people from around the Peninsula spoke both for and against Cargill and DMB Associates’ plans to develop a 1,436-acre site east of Highway 101, the council voted 5-0 to formally oppose the project.

“I don’t need another study or another review to know that a city the size of Menlo Park filling in the salt ponds is ... going to be bad for Atherton,” Vice Mayor Jim Dobbie said before the vote.

After Council Member Elizabeth Lewis expressed concerns about how Redwood City would view the resolution, the council agreed to include a cover letter expressing its interest in participating in the environmental review process, should it proceed. Lewis also questioned a sentence saying the council “supports full restoration” of the salt ponds.

“There are economic drivers that are needed to do the restoration,” she said.

Redwood City is currently looking for a consultant to work on the environmental impact report for the proposal, which calls for 8,000 to 12,000 homes, playing fields, commercial development and 436 acres of restored wetlands.

Tim Frank, a consultant working for DMB on the project, pointed out that the project would be both “walkable and transit-oriented.”

“Because of the size of the property, we can actually include on the property neighborhood-serving retail, parks, schools,” Frank said.

DMB officials and some Redwood City residents who attended the meeting also questioned why Atherton would oppose the project before the environmental review even begins.

But opponents insisted the site is part of the San Francisco Bay and should not undergo development. Others expressed concern about the traffic impacts on surrounding cities.

“My concern is the impact of this development on our broader community,” Atherton resident Sally Falkenhagen said. “I still think it’s an environmental disaster.”

Two of the council’s attempts to craft a resolution failed, apparently resulting in confusion and disagreement on the dais and prompting one woman to storm out muttering, “This is a joke.”

However, all five council members ultimately voted for the third resolution proposed.

After the meeting, Cargill/DMB spokesman Pete Hillan said the council’s decision was no surprise and classified it as “based on a lot of hearsay.”


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