Does Saltworks work?

April 22, 2010

Despite what appears to be overwhelming opposition from Woodside residents, the Town COWncil adopted a very cautious “wait and see” attitude towards a massive new development in San Francisco Bay. The project, the DMB Redwood City Saltworks plan, proposes to build housing, offices, schools, and up to a million square feet of commercial buildings. Opponents call it a “new city” on 1,436 acres of former Cargill Salt ponds. The developer calls it the “50/50 Balanced Plan” because approximately half of the land is set aside for open space, though only half of that would be wetlands or “habitat.” See it here.

Between 8000 and 12,000 residential units are slated to be built, and more than 30,000 residents are anticipated which is comparable to the number of residents in San Carlos, or Burlingame, or Menlo Park. While this project is in a neighboring COWmunity, Woodside residents have expressed concern about this project. Not only would building the “new city” forever destroy the ability to return the salt ponds to wetlands, thus continuing to harm the health of the Bay, but one of the two major traffic outlets for the massive project is smack-dab at the end of Woodside Road. The traffic impacts on 101, Woodside Road, and the surrounding area are sure to be huge. Anyone driving on Woodside Road now during lunch or cowmute times already knows how bad the traffic is, adding this development’s traffic seems like a very bad idea. This is not transit oriented development as the project isn’t anywhere near the Caltrain corridor. Additionally, the project would use a huge amount of water in a time of increasing water restrictions on all of us. See our recent article here.

According to Save the Bay, since the Gold Rush more than 90% of the Bay’s wetlands have been destroyed, and almost a third of the Bay has been physically filled. Wetlands not only provide habitat for birds and other species, but actually work to make the Bay cleaner and healthier by filtering the water of pollutants.

Opponents of the plan have circulated a letter objecting to the entire project, with more than 100 local government leaders having signed (not necessarily on behalf of their COWmunities). One of those signers is COWncil member Ron Romines, who spoke passionately against the proposal and urged his colleagues to join him in opposition. His pleas fell on deaf ears, however. While other members of the COWncil, expressed their strong reservations about the project, the COWncil was not prepared to formally oppose the project yet because they felt that the development process / government process should go forward for now, at least through environmental review. Of course, as Peter Mason pointed out, environmental reviews provide some mitigation, they do not prevent approval even if there are significant impacts which cannot be mitigated. Moreover, consistent with CEQA, Redwood City can deny the project without undertaking environmental review. It is fairer to a developer to send the project back to the drawing board if the project on its face is not what the community wants, before all of the time and money is spent on a futile EIR.

In the end, the COWncil voted 6-1, with only Romines objecting, to the half-measure of adopting a Resolution conveying Woodside’s “serious concerns” over the project. We are disappointed. The COWncil should not be indecisive in protecting COWs from an overly large project which will unavoidably negatively impact all of us and eliminate restorable wetlands.

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