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In The News

Council considers studies of Cargill site
Advocates on both sides speak out on large development

By Shaun Bishop
The Daily News, 8/11/09

Hiring outside consultants to study a development proposal is a common, typically non-controversial administrative step government agencies undertake for large projects.

However, the Redwood City City Council meeting on Monday night provided more evidence that the process surrounding the proposal to build a mini-city on the Cargill salt flats will be anything but typical.

Dozens of advocates on both sides of the plans spoke out at the meeting, during which the council considered approving studies of the proposal submitted in May by Cargill and development firm DMB Associates.

The council had not taken a vote by press time on whether to retain consultants and legal counsel to review the massive project, which calls for up to 12,000 housing units and a number of commercial buildings to be built on the 1,436-acre site located east of Highway 101 between Seaport Boulevard and Marsh Road.

Consultants and city staff would conduct analyses and technical studies of issues like water and traffic. The reports would be intended to help council members decide whether to give the developer one of the many approvals it will need — an amendment to the city’s general plan.

Currently, the general plan designates the land as “open space,” which does not allow for housing or commercial buildings. The developer would pay for all the studies.

Some opponents of the development plan said the project should be “dead on arrival” and urged the council to not even consider hiring consultants or changing the general plan.

Critics cited concerns about building near the Bay with sea levels rising, threats to migratory birds and building on land environmental groups say could be restored to wetlands.

“Let’s not spend time and money evaluating a proposal that makes no sense for our community,” said Peggy Bruggman, a member of the group Friends of Redwood City.

But others said the city should do the studies in order to get an independent analysis of the proposal and have more facts with which to make a decision on the project’s merits.

“For such an important issue, the citizens of Redwood City need independent information, not rhetoric,” said David Aman, a resident and business owner. “We need to know the benefits and the costs of this plan studied by impartial professionals.”

Along with housing, the proposal includes building 1 million square feet of office buildings, five schools, 20 athletic fields, 200 acres of parks and 436 acres of restored wetlands.

The council was not considering approval of the proposal, though many who spoke at the meeting took a position on the polarizing issue of whether the city should allow construction on the land.

The council heard from soccer teams who supported the project because of its playing fields and housing advocates who say any opportunity for building new homes on the Peninsula should be considered.

Several speakers representing businesses at the Port of Redwood City expressed concerns about housing and offices being built along Seaport Boulevard, only a few hundred feet from industrial operations.

“Certainly, you don’t want to make a decision without further analysis,” said Mike Jacob, the vice president of the Pacific Merchants Shipping Association, “but our communication to you is when that analysis is done, you’ll still have an incompatible use that’s based on this proposal.”


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