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In The News

BCDC Receives Final Input On New Bay Protection Rules
Amended regulations regarding Bay rise will go to vote next month and likely affect the proposed 1,426 acre Cargill development project.

By Austin Walsh,
Redwood City Patch, 9/2/11    

Local residents, environmentalists, development advocates, government officials and others took advantage Thursday of their final opportunity to provide input to the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) on proposed amendments to the agency's policy regulating bay lands.

The regulatory agency is considering changes to its policy which would take into consideration expected rising water levels in the San Francisco Bay. The proposed amendments would add a new section of rules that requires protections for low lying areas and communities on or near the bay shores.

Today's meeting in San Francisco offered concerned parties an opportunity to publicly opine on the proposed amendments in front of the 27 members of the commission.

The meeting culminated nearly 30 months worth of public outreach by the commission regarding variations of its regulations for Bay lands. Will Travis, the executive director of BCDC, said he expects the board to vote on the proposed amendments at an October 6 meeting.

Travis said that today's meeting featured support by members of the business community for the plan, concerns brought forth by environmentalists, and local government officials requesting clarification on language in the policy.

Louis Blumberg, Director of the California Climate Change Program at the Nature Conservancy, said he found the proposed amendment disappointing.

Blumberg, who spoke publicly at the meeting Thursday, said he believe the proposed policy changes weaken the regulations regarding allowing development near Bay lands, which may endanger open natural spaces.

He said that his organization and fellow environmental advocacy groups gave stronger support to previously proposed amendments of the plan.

Ultimately though, Blumberg said he supported the amendments being approved by the board.

"This is weaker than the plan a year ago," said Blumberg. "But it is still an important first step. We are hopeful the board approves the plan."

In order to approve the plan, at least 18 of the 27 commissioners must vote in favor of implementing the new policy.

The Commission is comprised of nine members from the board of supervisors in counties with property on the Bay, representatives appointed by the Association of Bay Area Governments from four cities on the Bay, two federally appointed representatives from the Army Corp of Engineers, five representatives from various state environmental agencies, five appointed residents from cities on the Bay, one member of the Senate Rules Committee and one member appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly.

Travis would not venture to say whether he expected the board to approve the proposed amendments, but said that he did not hear any opposition of them at Thursday's meeting.

"A number of commissioners spoke in favor of the current draft, and none spoke in opposition," he said.

If approved by vote, the new amendments would likely go into effect around January 2012.

The amendments, if approved, would likely have an impact on the 1,426 acre housing project proposed to be built in the Cargill saltworks in Redwood City.

David Smith, Senior Vice President at DMB Associates, said his company opposed the amendments until the most recent version was released.

DMB Associates is spearheading the effort to develop the saltworks into a housing development.

Smith said he did not advocate for approval of the proposal, but felt that the current draft was more fair in its flexibility to evaluate projects based on the benefits and demerits involved, rather than the one-size-fits-all approach featured in previous versions.

Redwood City Councilman Jeff Gee said he believed that the proposed amendments have created a compromise in which neither side of the issue is left completely satisfied.

"I think the good thing that has happened is that the latest draft of the amendments has evolved from where it was last year, when it was an advocacy piece for one position. Now it has something for everyone. But it probably does not make everyone happy," said Gee.

But Gee, who did not attend Thursday's meeting, expressed concerns of his own concerns regarding whether the will of the Commission would ultimately override local government decisions regarding projects on or near Bay lands.

"I'm still concerned about a regulatory agency like BCDC usurping local control," said Gee.

He said that local governing boards, such as city councils, must work together to ensure they have the last word over the jurisdictions they represent.

"I think the only answer is for local government to remain vigilant, stay aware, and speak as one voice" said Gee.

 

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