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In The News

Impact review set to get under way

Opponents call on Redwood City council to dismiss project without study


Daily News, 5/22/10

Ayear after an Arizona-based developer unveiled plans to build as many as 12,000 homes on the Cargill salt ponds in Redwood City, the city council is poised to launch a multiyear study analyzing the potential impacts of a massive development that critics say has no business in that location.

The council Monday is scheduled to consider hiring a consultant to start an environmental review of the proposal submitted byDMBAssociates and Cargill, though environmental groups and other elected officials from around the Bay Area have urged the city to stop the project in its tracks.

City staff are recommending the council pick consultant Hauge Brueck Associates to examine the project’s effects on traffic, air quality, water supply and other environmental matters. The Sacramento-based firm was one of five to apply for the job.

Environmental reviews are required by state law for any large project, and the Saltworks development— which calls for 8,000 to 12,000 homes, office space, playing fields, schools and 400 acres of restored wetlands— will be among the most complex planning challenges in city history.

“We’ve consistently said that this is the best thing for all involved, to have an open, transparent process that addresses all of the issues, looks at them factually, so you can come to an informed decision,” said Saltworks spokesman Pete Hillan. “That’s what the government does.”

The contract covers only the early stage of the environmental review, or what the city calls the “project initiation” phase.

Between now and the end of August, Hague Brueck would map the project area, draft an official project description and identify technical experts that will be needed to prepare specific sections of the environmental impact report (EIR), such as a traffic planner or a wetlands ecologist. Those experts  would be added later to the contract, said Redwood City Senior Planner Blake Lyon.

Hague Brueck would hold workshops to hear from residents what factors should be considered in preparing the full report.

Initially worth up to $252,000, the contract can be increased by the city manager to $400,000 if necessary and will be paid for entirely by the developer.

The environmental studies likely will take between two and five years to complete, Lyon said.

Opponents, including the Belmont and Menlo Park city councils, say the project is in the path of rising sea levels and proposed for land that should be restored to tidal wetlands. “We’ve said we would oppose it at every stage, and that’s why we think the city shouldn’t go ahead with the environmental impact report,” said David Lewis, executive director of Save the Bay.

Lewis said a vote to start an “expensive, time-consuming and divisive” EIR process would demonstrate that the city supports building on the site.

But council members have said they simply want more data about the project so they can make an informed decision. Mayor Jeff Ira said last week that council members “owe it to the citizens of Redwood City to follow the process and get all the science.”

“That’s exactly why you do an environmental review — to replace emotion and ill-informed pre-judgments with facts and well-thought-out decisions,” Saltworks spokesman Hillan said.


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