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In The News

Developer back with new Marina plan
Planning commissioners approve zoning for project, praise persistence

Daily News, 7/23/10

His plans were shot down once by voters, then blocked a second time by state water regulators. But developer Paul Powers is finally close to breaking ground on a pared-down version of the Redwood City housing project he started working on 10 years ago.

The 231-unit waterfront development, now known as One Marina in its third iteration, is a far cry from the original so-called Marina Shores Village, a 1,900-unit project with 240-foot towers that won city council approval but was overturned by a voter initiative in 2004.

It’s smaller than the revised 796-unit version called Peninsula Park, which Powers’ company, Colorado-based Pauls Corp., resurrected a few years later with 120-foot building heights. That $1 billion project also won city approval but was stymied by the state’s Regional Water Quality Control Board, which would not allow the developer to fill in part of a 14-acre marina on open water that flows into San Francisco Bay.

This time around, Powers ditched the tall towers and the marina fill and submitted a proposal to build townhomes as high as three stories on dry land.

Before planning commissioners voted 7-0 Tuesday to approve zoning for the 33-acre, $110 million project along Bair Island Road, they praised Powers for not giving up.

“You could have walked away a long time ago, and we’ve got a great project,” said commission Chairwoman Nancy Radcliffe. “(It’s) not the project we started with, but thank you for staying here and seeing us through, and we are very excited to see a shovel go into the ground.”

Assuming no one appeals the commission’s approval within seven days, Powers will only need to secure building permits to begin construction on the site of a rough parking lot and partially occupied offices his firm bought in 2000.

Parallels with Saltworks

Powers’ development and the opposition it faced is a microcosm of a higher-profile project less than a mile away — Cargill and DMB Associates’ proposal to build up to 12,000 homes on 1,436 acres of salt flats.

Opponents of the Redwood City Saltworks project, including environmental groups and about 100 Bay Area elected officials, want that site restored to wetlands and not developed at all.

“I just think there’s a message in the Paul Powers multi-year saga for the city — that the city can achieve its purposes, and encourage and allow private development that achieves the city’s purposes, without filling in the Bay or salt ponds,” said David Lewis, executive director of Save the Bay, which opposes the Saltworks plan. “And it should.”

But Saltworks developer DMB Associates says its site is an industrial salt production facility cut off from tidal action and not part of the Bay. The developer has pledged to restore 400 acres of the site to wetlands and will eventually need approval from a battery of regulatory agencies for its project.

“There is no filling in the Bay with the Saltworks project,” said spokesman Pete Hillan. “In fact, we’ll be creating more than 400 acres of new Bay at no cost to taxpayers.

“If there’s anything similar about the two projects it’s that Redwood City is perfectly capable of making good, smart decisions by itself,” Hillan added.

Work to begin soon

Construction could begin as soon as this fall on the first 56-home phase of One Marina. The plans also call for up to 40 marina slips, a hotel with as many as 200 rooms, 10,000 square feet of retail space, and a three-acre public park.

The planning commission vote Tuesday accepted the updated 231-unit version of the project under earlier environmental and zoning approvals.

Powers acknowledges he was frustrated by the delays. He says his company offered to create 15 acres of tidal wetlands to replace the six acres of the marina it wanted to fill in, but the water board wouldn’t budge.

“We’re disappointed that it’s not what it originally could have been and we’re disappointed that we weren’t given the opportunity to create 15 acres of fully tidally influenced wetlands and give them to the public,” Powers said in an interview Thursday. “But we’re going to build a very high-quality project and it simply will be smaller.”


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