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In The News

Lobbyists hired for Saltworks plan
DMB Associates spends $230K to ease way for Redwood City project

BY BONNIE ESLINGER, Daily News, 6/11/11

The developer that wants to build a mixed- use community in Redwood City’s salt flats paid lobbyists about $ 230,000 to promote its interests, including efforts to influence the shaping of a plan that could restrict development along San Francisco Bay.

David Smith, executive vice president of DMB Associates, emphasized this week that not all of the money was spent on behalf of the company’s controversial Redwood City Saltworks project but said he couldn’t say exactly how much.

“We’re looking at investments and opportunities throughout the Bay,” Smith said. “Saltworks is the big public one right now.”

The document that DMB Associates is concerned about — along with other developers, property owners, businesses and cities— is known as the Bay Plan Amendment.

Since 2009, the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission has been trying to put together a plan that factors in the potential danger of rising seas from global warming when determining which projects to allow along the Bay. According to scientific research, California faces a projected sea level rise of 55 inches within the next 100 years.

The commission is revising the Bay Plan Amendment for a fourth time in response to the opposition that has dogged it.

Smith said earlier versions “included some very proscriptive language talking about discouraging development,” which is why DMB Associates wants its lobbyist involved in the process.

Along with several other regulatory agencies and Redwood City, the Bay Conservation and Development Commission will have a say on whether DMB’s project proceeds. DMB intends to build up to 12,000 houses, parks and commercial buildings on 1,437 acres east of Highway 101 that Cargill has been harvesting salt from for decades.

“DMB’s interest in the Bay Plan Amendment is not limited to Saltworks,” said Smith, referring to the $230,000 the company paid lobbyists in the first six months of 2010.

He said the lobbyists’ work included promoting DMB’s interests in legislation and state regulations not necessarily related to the Saltworks project.

How effective have DMB and other opponents of earlier versions of the plan been? Smith said the latest draft offers more flexibility to ensure shoreline developments can be approved case-by-case if they clear certain hurdles.

Will Travis, director of the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, acknowledged that changes made to the plan will allow certain development in existing infill areas while also seeking to maintain and expand the Bay’s natural environment in “high-habitat areas with potential for restoration.” If such developments also offer increased protection of inland areas, that would be a consideration for approval, he said.

Though some opponents of the Bay Plan Amendment still contend it’s written in such a way to put roadblocks in front of waterfront development, Travis said the new guidelines do not expand the commission’s authority or create any concrete rules, Travis said.

“There’s nothing in the language that pre-approves or pre-denies anything,” Travis said.

Opponents also have expressed concern that the new guidelines could be used to support lawsuits against developments, trigger a need for extensive environmental impact reports and increase the regulatory and compliance costs of shoreline projects.

After the latest draft of the Bay Plan Amendment is released on July 29, a 34-day review period will follow. The commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the document Sept. 1.


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