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In The News

Council Moves Forward with Saltworks Project

Residents, both for and against the project, support council's decision.
By Austin Walsh, Redwood City Patch, 5/23/11

Residents of Redwood City and the greater Bay Area turned out by the dozens to give their perspective to the City Council last night regarding the future of the Cargill Saltworks housing development.

Residents hailing from across San Mateo County provided opinions ranging in variety from support to disdain for the project, much like the many other contentious discussions of the project since its proposal.

In all, most of the 25 speakers who made comments to the council supported an extensive and thorough public process, which allowed for a transparent and public dialogue between city staff, elected officials and the community.

Advocates for an extensive public process went home happy last night after an hour of discussion led to the council members approving to receive updated information from the planning department about the project.

Many of those who addressed the council requested an updated timeline on the project, as progress through the public process has fallen behind what was initially expected.

Councilman John Seybert said the progress has lagged because the city staff and elected leadership is doing everything possible to inspect and discuss each development in the process.

The many residents who requested seeing an updated timeline may have been dissatisfied with the outcome of Monday's meeting though, because no update was provided by Senior Planner Blake Lyon.

Lyon said that the highly anticipated release of the Environmental Impact Report, which is slated to analyze the project's potential effects on surrounding areas, has been postponed due to the developer changing its description of the project.

According to Lyon, the project's progress is on hold until the developer's redefinition is complete. Once that new description is submitted, the city will have a more clear vision of how the project will proceed, and what the timeline may be.

Lyons estimated that the second scoping report, which will include a summarization of the over 900 pages worth of submitted public comment, will be released in the summer.

Councilman Jeff Gee advocated for a deliberate pace in progressing through the project, and went so far as calling himself an "info junkie," in regards to his willingness to accept a slower process in exchange for the opportunity to accept more input on the project.

He also said that the city falling behind the projected timeline is "typical" when making decisions on a project of the nature of the Saltworks development.

Longtime Redwood City resident Keith Bautista encouraged the council members to maintain the progess through the public process, in an effort to allow elected officials, city staff and residents to learn as much about the project as possible before making a decision regarding its future.

"I commend courage of the council to allow the applicant to have their project go through the normal project review," said Bautista, who later advocated for the development being built.

But opponents of the development also advocated for the project's deliberate pace, despite having hopes that the location of the project would be used for park land and space to access the bay rather than as a housing development.

Redwood City Resident Foster Kinney told council members they should continue to move forward with the public process, and hoped that one day he would be able to vote on whether the development should be built.

"I look forward to voting on the project eventually, but I can't vote until the process of review and amendment is completed," he said. "At that time I will be happy to vote on the final project."

Councilwoman Barbara Pierce said it is likely the council will stay the course as it has currently laid out.

"It is the intent of all of us to make this an open process and ensure that everyone will have chance to share thoughts," she said.

Some speakers commented on recent polls released by both the development group, as well as environmental advocate group Save The Bay that opposes the project, which attempted to characterize the public's opinion for or against the development.

But Seybert said the attempts to sway his vote through political spin were ineffective.

"I never promised to lead Redwood City by following polls," said Seybert.

The council also approved reimbursements to the city by DMB Saltworks for the city’s time in researching and analyzing the project for the fiscal year July 2011 to June 2012.

 

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