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In The News

Environmental group's poll shows majority of Redwood City residents oppose Saltworks project

By Bonnie Eslinger
Daily News, 5/18/11

Twice as many Redwood City residents oppose the Saltworks project than support it, according to a survey commissioned by an environmental group fighting to stop the controversial mixed-use development from springing up next to the Bay.

The poll of 350 registered city voters conducted earlier this month found that of the 88 percent who are familiar with the Redwood City Saltworks project, 57 percent oppose it, 28 percent support it and 15 percent had no opinion.

David Lewis, executive director of Oakland-based Save the Bay, said the results support his group's belief that the project should be stopped in its tracks even before an environmental review is completed.

"I think that the city council should halt the project because their constituents don't want the project," Lewis said. "The more voters know about the project, the less they like it. I think the poll shows they know enough."

But David Smith, senior vice president for developer DMB Associates, pounced on the results by stating that a survey backed by Save the Bay shouldn't be considered credible.

"This is a group whose No. 1 objective is to shut down a public and transparent process," Smith said.

DMB Associates wants to construct up to 12,000 homes, several office buildings and schools on roughly half of the 14,000 acres of salt ponds owned by Cargill and has offered to designate the other half for open space, recreation fields and tidal marsh restoration.

Redwood City last year initiated a state-mandated environmental review of the Saltworks project but is still at the stage of determining what the report should encompass.

Mayor Jeff Ira said he believes the environmental review should proceed, not only because it will help the council ultimately reach a decision but also because it could shape how the plans are drawn as the development's potential impacts are revealed.

"I think there's a lot of people opposed to the plan as it currently exists," Ira said. "(But) I have no doubt there will be changes as a result of this environmental review process."

Of the 14 questions in the survey conducted by Sacramento-based J. Moore Methods, none asked residents directly whether they want the environmental review stopped.

"It didn't occur to me to ask the question," Lewis said.

The study also did not ask residents whether the privately owned property should be purchased in order to restore the entire site to natural habitat.

The survey shows that 64 percent of respondents agreed with Save The Bay's assertion that the salt ponds should be "restored to tidal marsh for fish and wildlife."

Last August, DMB released its own poll results, which among other things showed that, faced with alternatives, 69 percent of respondents preferred to "conduct a full environmental review and obtain public input before making a decision." Eighteen percent wanted to "reject any development and allow salt harvesting to continue," 7 percent wanted to "raise taxes and restore the site" and 6 percent had other responses.

At the time, Lewis criticized that survey, saying it offered "false choices" because no one has proposed raising taxes and Cargill announced four years earlier it was winding down salt-harvesting operations on the site.


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