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In The News

Saltworks project on Monday docket
Council to weigh several options for development

BY BONNIE ESLINGER
Daily News, 5/2/12

At its meeting Monday night, the Redwood City City Council will consider options that range from asking voters to weigh in on the massive development in the November election to doing a citywide survey to just waiting for a revised proposal to be submitted.

Or the council could resume the environmental review of the polarizing plan, first pitched three years ago by Arizona-based developer DMB Associates for the 1,400-acre Cargill salt flats east of Highway 101, just south of Seaport Boulevard.

Last year, the city embarked on a comprehensive study of the proposed development, which then included as many as 12,000 homes, office space, retail shops and schools. Half of the site was to be transformed into parks, recreation areas and restored tidal marshes under the socalled “50/50” plan.

But in November, DMB withdrew its proposal so it could make revisions, purportedly in response to public feedback.

The feedback may be continuing. Last week, several Redwood City residents told The Daily News they were called and asked to participate in a telephone survey weighed heavily with questions about Saltworks. One question asked whether a “40/60” plan with more open space and less housing sounded like it would be worth supporting.

DMB spokesman Jay Reed would not confirm the company is behind the survey, saying in an email that “DMB frequently does polling on its projects to make sure our proposals are consistent with what the public wants. But we do not comment on the timing or the details of those polls.”

With a revised proposal pending, the council will discuss the city’s options Monday, including putting a non-binding advisory measure on the ballot.

Or the council may choose to do some sort of public survey, City Manager Bob Bell said in a telephone interview.

“The other options are to do polling, independent of what DMB is currently doing,” Bell said. “Then there’s the advisory vote option, and there’s the do-nothing option, which is to let this thing continue and wait for a new proposal to be submitted.”

Asked whether the city might end its evaluation of the project, Bell said that also is an option, then referred additional questions to City Attorney Pamela Thompson. The city could deny the project, even at this stage, for a number of reasons, Thompson said.

“One would be, at this juncture the application is languishing and in light of the inaction in the part of the developer, the city could simply deny it, on the basis it’s creating a lot of controversy and not moving forward,” she said.

Thompson also confirmed that the city has long held the option to deny the application based on the fact it would require a general plan amendment because the Cargill property is not zoned for housing. Asked whether the council might discuss flatly denying the project, Thompson said: “I can’t speak to that,” she said.

Reed, likewise, wouldn’t speculate on what the council might discuss, saying it would be “premature to comment on any hypothetical.”

No date has been set to submit the revised plan, he said.

“It’s more important that we get a revised plan right than get it done fast,” Reed wrote.

David Lewis, executive director of the Oakland-based Save The Bay, a nonprofit that has long fought against the Saltworks plan, said even with more open space the development is not a good fit for the salt ponds site. The council shouldn’t waste any more time on evaluating the plan, he said.

“What they’re asking in the poll is really not a big change,” Lewis said. “They’re still trying to do massive development.”

The council decided to review its options after Council Member Rosanne Foust made an impassioned plea in favor of an advisory ballot measure last month.

 

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