In The News
Council race not a Saltworks litmus test
Only one candidate — longtime resident Brett Garrett — has emerged to fight plan
BY BONNIE ESLINGER
Daily News, 7/22/11
The day may come when environmentalists marshal their forces for a slate of city council candidates who oppose Redwood City’s controversial Saltworks project, but don’t expect that to happen in the Nov. 8 election.
Even the lone candidate who has drawn papers on a promise to fight the mixed- use development on 1,400 acres of Cargill salt ponds acknowledges that his battle will be a lonely one.
For starters, the four council incumbents whose terms will be up this year told The Daily News they intend to seek re- election. And like their council colleagues, Alicia Aguirre, Ian Bain, Rosanne Foust and Barbara Pierce are willing to let an environmental review process run its course before weighing in on the project.
Longtime Redwood City resident Brett Garrett, 48, plans to run a single- issue campaign: stop the Saltworks project, which envisions construction of 12,000 houses, office buildings, schools and playing fields, along with restoration of some wetlands.
“ I don’t see myself as a politician,” he said. “ I just have aspirations to bring awareness to this project and do anything I can to preserve what’s there and possibly restore it to its natural state of wetlands.”
Even if he succeeds in winning a seat on the council, Garrett acknowledged he wouldn’t have that much clout as the sole crusader against the project and its developer, Arizonabased DMB Associates.
“ It’s probably not going to work if I’m the only one,” said Garrett, who owns a small business that offers website hosting services. “ I’d like to see a majority of the city council opposed to the project. That would be a way to defeat it.”
In 2008, Redwood City voters soundly defeated Measure W, a ballot measure pushed by Oakland- based Save the Bay and other environmentalists that would have required twothirds of voters to authorize any development of lands considered open space. Save the Bay, which has long opposed the Saltworks project, spent nearly $ 360,000 to support Measure W and defeat a rival measure that had the city council’s blessing, according to campaign finance documents.
Garrett said he’s a supporter of Save the Bay and has given it money but isn’t backed by it.
Nor should he expect any support, said Stephen Knight, the group’s political director.
“ Save The Bay is a non- partisan organization and we don’t take positions on electoral races,” Knight wrote in an email. He noted that the advocacy group had created a separate legal entity for the purpose of supporting Measure W.
Longtime resident Ralph Nobles, a founder of the environmental group Friends of Redwood City, which also opposes the project, said he hasn’t heard of any movement to challenge incumbents with environmental heavyweights.
Nobles said he’s counting on voters to reject any Saltworks proposal that’s eventually approved by the council.
The project is currently wending its way through a state- mandated environmental review process. Mayor Jeff Ira and other council members have said they will wait for that study to be completed before taking a position on the project and have rejected requests to stop the proposal in its tracks.
Gail Raabe, another Redwood City resident, said there might be a bigger push from environmentalists if the project had already received the council’s blessing, but that’s a long way from happening.
“ If this election was happening shortly after the council made an approval on the project, we’d be having a totally different conversation,” she said.
Email Bonnie Eslinger at email@example.com.
“It’s probably not going to work if I’m the only one. I’d like to see a majority of the city council opposed to the project.
That would be a way to defeat it.”
Brett Garrett, is a candidate for Redwood City city council and a Saltworks opponent.