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In The News

City hires firm to help with Cargill application
Some concerned about conflict of interest with project

The Daily News - Shaun Bishop, 09/17/09

A large planning and architectural firm has been hired to help Redwood City review plans for a massive development on the Cargill Salt land, despite concerns about the firm’s past ties to the project’s developer.

The Redwood City City Council on Monday unanimously approved a contract with Hart Howerton, which will assist city staff in ensuring the project application is complete and verify assumptions developer DMB Associates made in preparing plans for up to 12,000 homes on the 1,436-acre site near the Bay.

Hart Howerton, which has an office in San Francisco, will hire subconsultants to analyze issues like water supply, transportation and other technical issues. Those reports will help city staff determine whether the application is complete, which must happen before the city begins studying the project’s environmental impacts.

“While we’re darned good at what we do, we are a small staff and we have lots of other things we are responsible for,” City Manager Peter Ingram said at Monday’s council meeting. “We need people who know how this works at that level of scale, of complexity and of sensitivity.”

At least one person expressed concern at a disclosure in a city staff report that DMB was a client of Hart Howerton on a project in Arizona.

Nancy Arbuckle, a representative for the Sequoia Audobon Society, which opposes development on the Cargill site, told the council that choosing Hart Howerton would leave one of its first decisions on the Cargill project “riddled with the taint of conflict of interest.”

But Ingram said none of the people from the firm’s New York office that previously worked for DMB would be involved in the Redwood City project. Ingram also said the firm’s experience in dealing with large projects made it an ideal choice, and council members agreed.

“I wanted to make sure the city, the residents of Redwood City, really had the best representation,” Council Member Barbara Pierce said.

DMB and Cargill will pay for the cost of the contract, which is worth $334,264 but could be increased up to $450,000.

Along with thousands of homes, the plans submitted by DMB in May call for 1 million square feet of commercial development, 50 sports fields, a 200-acre park and 436 acres of restored wetlands on the site, which has historically been used for salt harvesting.


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