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In The News

Occupy takes on Saltworks proposal
State Senate candidate Lieber joins protesters in call for city to drop advisory vote, restore site to wetlands

BY BONNIE ESLINGER
Daily News, 4/24/12

The Occupy Redwood City movement turned the spotlight Monday on a developer’s proposal to transform Cargill’s salt flats into a mini-city.

Thegroup organized a midafternoon protest rally outside the Redwood Shores office of DMB Pacific Ventures, the developer behind the so-called Redwood City Saltworks project.

Former Assembly member and Mountain View mayor Sally Lieber, a candidate for State Senate District 13, led the charge against the controversial development. She told the crowd of about two dozen people that Cargill’s 1,400 acres of salt mined property just north of Highway 101 should be restored to wetlands.

“I hope you’ll keep occupying the political space around this environmental treasure,” she said, while standing on the back of a truck bed that served as the group’s makeshift stage. Protesters held hand-painted signs that declared “Don’t Pave Paradise” and “Disaster Misguided Boondoggle,” among other messages.

Although he didn’t attend the rally, Assemblyman Jerry Hill said in a phone interview afterward that he would not have backed DMB’s latest plan for the salt flats, which called for 12,000 homes as well as several office buildings, schools, stores, playing fields, open space and a section of restored wetlands.

“The project that was there, I couldn’t support it,” said Hill, who also is running for State Senate District 13, which encompasses a long slice of the Peninsula, from South San Francisco to Sunnyvale.

“I had very serious concerns with it,” he added, explaining that the project as proposed was too dense.

DMB, which submitted its initial development application for Saltworks in May 2009, pulled the plan last November as the city was preparing to conduct an environmental review of it. The company said it intends to revise the plan based on public feedback received the past year.

Earlier this month, DMBs pokesman Jay Reed said the company did not have a timeline for releasing the revised proposal. Reed did not respond to requests for comment Monday.

When the new proposal is submitted, it may end up going before Redwood City voters. In an unexpected turn of events, Mayor Alicia Aguirre on April 9 directed city officials to explore the logistics of placing a measure on the November ballot seeking voters’ advice on whether to continue or kill the project. Council Member Rosanne Foust suggested the move, saying controversy over the development was overshadowing other city efforts.

Redwood City resident James Lee, 32, who attended Monday’s rally and held a sign stating, “We decide for the city, not Cargill, Not DMB,” said he would prefer that the city council just put an end to Saltworks.

Lee said he doubts an advisory vote would truly represent the majority because DMB’s deep pockets could fund a campaign to sway public opinion.

“I’d like to see the council take a stand,” Lee said.

Hill, who has received more than $12,000 in campaign contributions from DMB Associates and Cargill since 2007, said he would reserve final judgment on Saltworks until he sees a final plan. He said he would evaluate the project based on its merits, regardless of the donations.

“We’ll see what the next one looks like,” he said.

Email Bonnie Eslinger at beslinger@dailynewsgroup.com.

 

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