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In The News

City sorting through a mountain of concerns about Saltworks

BY BONNIE ESLINGER
Daily News, 4/22/11

Questions about air and water quality and the possiblity of downsizing the Saltwork development are among the piles of comment letters Redwood City is sorting through about the project.

City staffers and consultants are looking through about 900 pages of documents from government agencies, environmental groups, advocacy organizations and residents.

The city solicited comments to help shape the study of the development’s expected impacts and environmental issues as well as proposed alternatives and mitigation measures. The scoping process sets the stage for a more intensive, state required environmental impact report needed for the Saltworks project.

The 1,436-acre development would be built on the Cargill salt ponds east of Highway 101. About 12,000 new homes, five schools, offices, commercial shops, athletic fields, and a 200-acre Bayside park would be built there.

Many letters had concerns about environmental issues, such as the development’s impact on air and water quality and on endangered and threatened species and their habitats.

Other letter-writers wanted the city to investigate how the project would affect wastewater systems and utilities, transit and traffic, and the local port economy.

Some inquired about how the project would be affected by an expected rise in sea levels and future flooding.

A signficiant number of respondents said the project should be downscaled — or turned down.

A law firm writing on behalf of Oakland based environmental group Save the Bay, which has long opposed the development and advocated for the entire tidal marsh to be restored, suggested in its letter that all the development proposed for the Saltworks site could fit in downtown Redwood City.

Government agencies that submitted comments included the California Highway Patrol, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, and the California Department of Transportation.

Neighboring cities also wrote letters of opposition or concern, including Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Portola Valley and Woodside.

Jay Reed, a Saltworks spokesperson, said the developers were eager to see and respond to the gathered comments. Some changes to the project would likely happen, he said. However, Reed said he wouldn’t comment on the question of downsizing the development.

“It’s too early at this point,” he said. “We’ll see what’s been submitted.”

Redwood City has spent almost $3.5 million on city staff, environmental consultants, outside planning assistance and legal help to vet the Saltworks project, according to Senior Planner Blake Lyon. The developer, Arizona-based DMB Associates, Inc., is legally obligated to reimburse the city for the costs, Lyon said.

A summary report of the comments should be ready by summer, Lyon said. City officials will then meet with Saltworks representatives to see if they want to make any project revisions before going forward with the environmental review process. Lyon said that timeline would be determined by DMB.

“The timing and responsibility will be related back to the applicant, since they will need to determine if they want to revise their project description,” Lyon said.

 

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