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In The News

New Group Forms to Oppose Saltworks Project
Redwood City Neighbors United said it is focusing on the slew of problems the project will create, in addition to the environmental effects.

By Stacie Chan
Redwood City Patch, 10/4/11

The opposition to 1,436-acre development on the Cargill saltponds that will house approximately 30,000 people has never been quiet. But now, residents have banded together under the banner Redwood City Neighbors United (RCNU) to call attention to several concerns they have regarding the project.

Since the proposal’s inception by manufacturing company Cargill, Inc. and developer DMB, environmental groups have decried the development and fervently advocated restoring the salt ponds to wetlands instead. While environmental concerns are pressing, co-founder and Redwood City resident Dan Ponti said, RCNU members want to also focus on project issues like traffic, uncertain water supply, disruption to Port activity, and the detraction from Downtown redevelopment.

“Fundamentally, it’s simply inappropriate and unnecessary,” Ponti said of the proposal.

RCNU has been growing organically everyday, Ponti said. The group launched its website on Wednesday and has seen new subscribers daily, reaching a total of approximately hundreds of people. The majority of members are Redwood City residents, but the group also includes members from neighboring communities like unincorporated county areas.

“It’s really hit a nerve,” Ponti said. “A lot of people are really uncomfortable with this project.”

Following the Plan, Not the Developers

Ponti said that the Saltworks proposal is a complete disregard for the city’s current General Plan, created a year ago by city staff to provide a blueprint for the city’s future growth.

He admits that there are several issues that the city must address, such as a lack of housing, parks and open spaces plus spurring downtown redevelopment, but the General Plan provides the guidelines for such solutions.

“We should not be entertaining a proposal that will turn the General Plan on its head,” Ponti said. “We should make this plan a reality instead.”

While this proposal is on the table, he said, all other plans are temporarily shelved. He believes that the city and its residents should be proactively brainstorming solutions rather than letting Cargill provide solutions that come with additional clauses.

“Why should we have to build a city of 30,000 people to gain these solutions?” he said. “DMB isn’t the only one with solutions.”

A large aim of the group is to also initiate discussions on how to follow the General Plan and develop the city. He admitted that there was a dire need for housing, but in-fill housing should be a top priority.

He said if Cargill really wanted to provide solutions, things like parks—included in the current proposal—would be highly appropriate. But not housing.

“Do we really expect an international corporation and out-of-state developer to look out for our best interests?" said co-chair Ramona Ambrozic in a statement.

The Cargill proposal calls for a massive levee to protect the would-be residents from rising sea levels. Additionally, because the salt ponds are already at sea level, flood drainage would require pumps, expensive infrastructure that would require on-going maintenance costs, Ponti said.

“It’s just the wrong place to put housing,” he added.

Moving Forward with Education

RCNU plans to do grassroots outreach with one-on-one communication with businesses and residents of neighborhood communities, Ponti said.

The group intends to populate the website with information and op-eds, plus sending letters to the editor of various news publications.

The organization hopes to coordinate education meetings and continue providing more information about the proposal that doesn’t come from the developer.

Ponti said that DMB’s PR has done an excellent job of highlighting the benefits of the development without focusing on the costs.

“Yes, DMB is paying for the project, but it will require a lot of energy on our part,” he said. “That energy should be around looking for solutions without the additional 30,000 people.”


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