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In The News

Officials seek input on Saltworks project

Redwood City undertaking 9-month outreach campaign as part of environmental review

By Bonnie Eslinger
Daily News, 8/19/10

If it’s feedback about the Saltworks project they’re looking for, Redwood City officials won’t have to go very far to get it.

About 25 area residents showed up at a meeting Tuesday night, some of them to give the city kudos for standing up to environmentalists, and others opposed to the controversial proposal to develop about 12,000 homes, office buildings, parks and playing fields on 1,436 acres of salt harvesting ponds owned by Cargill. The developer, DMB Associates, also intends to restore about 400 or those acres to wetlands.

“I applaud you for resisting the bullying tactics of some and continuing this evaluation process,” longtime resident Barb Valley said, referring to a full environmental review the Redwood City City Council authorized in May, despite protests by environmental groups and scores of politicians who sought to stop the project in its tracks.

Stephen Knight, political director for Oakland- based environmental group Save the Bay, said he is confident the environmental review will confirm what many already know — that the project would be “bad for the Bay, bad for Redwood City, bad for the whole Bay Area.”

Redwood City is beginning a nine-month public outreach campaign as part of a statemandated environmental review process. During that period, area residents and public agencies potentially affected by the project can say what they think should be included in the environmental impact report and suggest alternatives.

“Examples of alternatives would be to do nothing, different development options on the property — there might be persons who want to see the entire site restored — and we’ll also be looking at alternative locations,” Andy Hauge, a consultant hired by the city to oversee the environmental review, told planning commissioners Tuesday.

But outside of the meeting, DMB Associates spokesman Peter Hillan said doing the project elsewhere or breaking it into smaller developments to be spread throughout the city isn’t feasible.

“Where else are you going to find 1,400 acres?” Hillan said.

Cargill’s Redwood City property has been a flashpoint since the company proposed a mixed-use development there several years ago that critics have decried as a mini-city along the lines of Redwood Shores and Foster City. They contend the entire site should be restored to its natural state as wetlands.

Two years ago Redwood City residents defeated a ballot measure spearheaded by Save the Bay that would have required a two-thirds vote by residents to authorize any development in open spaces.

Although the state requires cities to do just 30 days of outreach to determine what technical studies would be needed for an environmental impact report, Hauge told planning commissioners Redwood City intends to take nine months. During a break in Tuesday’s meeting, he said that the additional community feedback hopefully will stave off any legal challenges that could stall the project.

“Today, it seems like litigation is going forward no matter what you do,” Hauge said. “But by doing this process upfront we have a good foundation for the evaluation and it actually can speed the process up later.”


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