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In The News

Development plans on controversial site released

Katie Worth
S.F. Examiner, 3/08/09

REDWOOD CITY – The oft-controversial development of the Cargill site on the waterfront is back on the map.

The vast mass of land on Redwood City’s waterfront has for decades operated as a salt manufacturing facility. In recent years, landowner Cargill Saltworks and developer DMB Saltworks have publicly vetted the idea of developing the 1,400-plus-acre site, but have yet to submit an official proposal to either Redwood City or the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, the state agency that claims ultimate oversight of the project.

A conceptual design for the 1,433-acre planned development, which the developer promised was still a work in progress, was, however, presented to the Bay Conservation and Development Commission on Thursday.

The plan proposes that the northwest half of the development be restored to wetlands, with a park-like “transition zone” between the wetlands and the development, fronting a lagoon and extending in “fingers” into the development. A large circle of sports fields and parkland would be located near a central entrance to the development.

Despite the lack of formal plans, the project has already garnered considerable opposition from community and environmental groups who say the site, which was once Bay wetlands, should be returned to the Bay.

The battle came to its first head in November’s election when voters were faced with two competing ballot measures that would have changed the city charter and required the development — when proposed — be approved by either 66 percent or 50 percent of voters.

Ultimately, both failed, but it was clear in Thursday’s meeting that the project’s opponents have not yielded. David Lewis, executive director of environmental organization Save the Bay, argued that it would not be legal to develop the site because it was once part of the Bay — and further, it’s unnecessary.

“It isn’t necessary to destroy a part of the Bay to save another part of the Bay,” he said.

This argument seemed to have traction with some commissioners.

Commissioner Eric Carruthers considered that the salt ponds were wetlands as recently as 1943, which he said was “not ancient history,” which made him “feel very uneasy about such a major” alteration of the land.

But Commissioner Colleen Jordan Hallinan, a former resident of Redwood Shores, said the development could provide a great opportunity for the community to have access to the waterfront.

She reminded the commission that its title was the “Bay Conservation and Development Commission,” not just the “Bay Conservation Commission.”

About the planned development

Location: Redwood City’s 1433-acre salt ponds, on the Bay shore north of downtown Redwood City and Highway 101, and to the southeast of Redwood Shores.

Idea: The site’s owner, Cargill Saltworks, is vetting the concept of developing the salt ponds.

Proponents: Say the development on half of the land would pay for the wetland restoration of the other half of the land.

Opponents: Say the land was originally part of the Bay and should be entirely returned to the Bay; argue that the land is at sea level and developments would be at risk of flooding.

Who decides: Both the Redwood City Council and the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission will have to approve any proposal.

What happens next: The developer plans to present a formal development concept to the Redwood City Council within months. Mayor Roseanne Foust expects environmental review to begin February of next year.

Source: DMB Saltworks, San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, City of Redwood City

 

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