In The News
Developer: Query shows support for Cargill project
By Shaun Bishop
Daily News Staff Writer, 8/7/09
Just a few days before a city council meeting on its proposal to build as many as 12,000 homes on the Cargill salt flats in Redwood City, the developer has released partial results from a 6-month-old survey it says shows that residents support the project.
But a critic blasted the survey as outdated and misleading, especially because it asked people about a project whose details were not even revealed until May.
The survey results were unveiled Thursday by DMB Redwood City Saltworks — the joint venture of development firm DMB Associates and land owner Cargill Inc. On Monday, the Redwood City City Council will consider authorizing staff to hire consultants to help conduct in-depth studies of the ambitious development proposal.
The studies, to be financed by the developer, will help the council decide whether to amend the city’s general plan to allow development on the Cargill land — 1,436 acres of salt evaporating ponds east of Highway 101, between Seaport Boulevard and Marsh Road. The existing general plan designates the area as open space.
In contending that residents would back such a change, the developer points to the results of a February phone survey of 500 Redwood City voters conducted by consulting firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates.
The survey found 62 percent of residents support the developer’s “50/50 Balanced Plan” — a broad concept calling for half of the site to be developed and the other half to be used for wetlands restoration, parks and open space. A company spokesman said it had an error margin of plus-or-minus 3.5 percent.
DMB Redwood City Saltworks said surveyed residents also expressed support for various elements of the 50/50 plan. Asked if they support new biking and hiking trails, 82 percent of respondents said yes, according to the survey.
But the survey was done months before the developer revealed in May that the project would include between 8,000 and 12,000 homes, some commercial buildings, 450 acres of restored wetlands and 200 acres of parks and open space.
The developer released results of some survey questions but refused to release the entire survey.
David Lewis, executive director of Save the Bay, which opposes the development plans and believes the entire site should be restored to wetlands, said it “smells of desperation to release parts of a moldy poll.”
“I don’t think it’s fair to say this is a poll on what people think about the plan at all,” Lewis said. “It’s pretty obvious that, based on what they released, they’re cherry-picking answers to isolated questions from February.”
Lewis’ group led the campaign last fall for Measure W, an initiative that would have required two-thirds of voters to approve any development on land considered “open space,” including the Cargill property. The measure was defeated by 63 percent of voters.
In April 2008, Save the Bay released its own poll, showing 71 percent of city voters would support Measure W. The group similarly declined to release all of its poll questions, drawing criticism at the time. Lewis noted that his group’s poll was only two months old.
DMB spokesman Jay Reed defended the February survey, saying it shows support for the project remains strong despite criticism from opponents during the Measure W campaign.
“With the (Monday) hearing coming up, we thought it was a good time to get some information out there that there is support for the 50/50 Balanced Plan,” Reed said. “That support has continued over the years. It has not faltered.”
Mayor Rosanne Foust urged residents to give the city time to thoroughly study the project and its potential impacts on traffic, water supply and a host of other issues.
“What I’m asking folks is look to the city’s Web site, look at our information and believe us when we say that we are following a process to be able to provide answers to the community on this,” Foust said.
DMB Redwood City Saltworks on Thursday released the following questions it asked 500 Redwood City voters in February to gauge their support for its “50/50 Balanced Plan.”
1. Let me read you some information about the 50/ 50 Balanced Plan. Please tell me if this information makes you more likely to support the Plan or more likely to oppose it?
- It would give local residents significant new access to the Bay — with new harbor and Bayside parks, aquatic centers, parks and trails? (71 percent support)
2. Is the following a community feature of the 50/50 Balanced Plan that you would support or a community feature that you would oppose?
- A transit-oriented community at the Saltworks site will have transit links to downtown Redwood City, community shuttles, and links to a new commuter ferry terminal at the Port of Redwood City? (72 percent support)
- About 40,000 out-of-town employees commute into Redwood City every day. A transit-oriented community will give these workers a local place to live and help them get off the freeways? (69 percent support)
3. I am going to read you some land uses planned for the Saltworks site. Please tell me whether you support or oppose?
- New biking and hiking trails? (82 percent support)
4. Do you favor or oppose the 50/50 Balanced Plan for the Saltworks site? (62 percent support)