In The News
Saltworks withdrawal can’t quell furor
Opponents say at Redwood City council meeting they will oppose anticipated revision of development proposal
BY BONNIE ESLINGER
Daily News, 5/8/12
Even though developer DMB Pacific Ventures formally withdrew its controversial Saltworks application last week, about two dozen people showed up at the Redwood City City Council meeting Monday night to give their two cents’ worth about the project, and then some.
“We are united in our opposition to the Saltworks project no matter how it is ultimately configured,” said Nancy Arbuckle, a member of Redwood City Neighbors United, which has drawn the battle lines against any development of the former Cargill salt flats east of Highway 101, just south of Seaport Boulevard.
Council Member Jeff Ira said dropping the Saltworks application for now while awaiting a revised version to be submitted hopefully will “put an end to some of the divisiveness” and allow more focus on “the great things that are happening in Redwood City.”
Arbuckle said the divide was not between residents, but against DMB.
The council was scheduled to consider rejecting DMB’s application, but that became moot when John Bruno, the company’s senior vice president, submitted a letter to the city Friday indicating the development would be significantly scaled back and primarily centered on the side of the 1,436-acre Cargill site that runs parallel to Seaport Boulevard and has been used more than 100 years for salt harvesting and other industrial activities.
The proposal DMB submitted three years ago would have encompassed almost the entire property. The so-called “50/50” plan envisioned as many as 12,000 homes, offices, shops and schools on half the site, and parks, recreation areas and restored tidal marshes on the other half. DMB withdrew a project description of that proposal in November, saying it intended to make revisions based in part on public feedback.
“Our revised plan for the Saltworks will be focused on a much more limited footprint restricted to the area of greatest historic disturbance,” Bruno’s May 4 letter said. “Accordingly, we anticipate that the revised proposed development footprint will be approximately half the acreage of that proposed in the May 2009 50/50 Plan submittal.”
That footprint falls within 542 acres of Cargill property that Redwood City’s general plan has designated as “Urban Reserve,” defined as “Land to be preserved for future use to expand the limits of the urbanized area of the City,” according to Bruno’s letter.
Bruno told the councilMondaynight DMB remains “committed to being thoughtful and thorough in developing our revised Saltworks proposal.”
Most of the speakers who addressed the council said they oppose the project in any form.
Stephen Knight of Oakland-based Save the Bay urged the council to tell DMB to forget about returning with another proposal. “That will only reignite community outrage,” he warned.
Resident Lou Covey was among a handful of speakers who said the city should be open to an alternative proposal and advocated for an advisory vote — not on whether the Saltworks project should be considered, but to see whether residents are willing to allow anything on the Cargill site.
“Should development be prohibited altogether on the Saltworks property?” Covey suggested the question should be.
Council Member Ian Bain said now that the project has been dropped, the city should have a community discussion about what “they’d like to see on that site.” When the city drafted its general plan a few years ago, the Cargill property was excluded because it otherwise would have “hijacked” the planning process, he said.
Noting that Cargill owns the baylands property, Council Member Barbara Pierce said the city couldn’t “take away value from the property owner.” In other action Monday night, the council approved a 12 percent increase in water rates and 9 percent jump in sewer rates for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, which begins July 1. Both rates already rose by 9 percent in each of the last two years.
Due to the latest increases, residential customers will pay from $4 to $27 more per month for water, depending on their household usage. Residential sewer rates will go up by about $5 a month.
The boost in water rates is needed in part to cover projected increases in wholesale water costs from the city’s provider, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, according to city officials. They say the extra money also is needed to improve and maintain the city’s water system, sewage pipe system and the sewage plant Redwood City shares with Belmont, San Carlos and the West Bay Sanitary District.
The council also adopted an ordinance that will ban restaurants and other food vendors from using disposable polystyrene foam food ware within city limits. The new law won’t become effective until Jan. 1, although the city said it will encourage businesses to voluntarily comply before then.
Because the Redwood City ordinance is modeled after one passed by the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors in 2011, the county will help do outreach work and will enforce the ban. A first violation will bring a $100 fine, a second one $200 and a third $500.