Almanac

Viewpoint - May 4, 2011

Guest opinion: Wide opposition to Cargill's 'Saltworks' project

by Nancy Arbuckle and Alice Kaufman

Cargill's effort to persuade Redwood City, the Peninsula and the region of the supposed benefits of their city in a salt pond is not working.

How can you tell? One sign is the fact that Cargill's developer, Arizona-based DMB Associates, and their supporters are suddenly launching attacks on Save the Bay. As Redwood City residents and members of community and environmental groups, we stand along with Save the Bay in strong opposition to Cargill's plans.

In the recent debate between Save the Bay and Cargill's architect, Peter Calthorpe, we saw the kind of civil discussion and debate that this important issue deserves. Cargill's proposal to build a new city in a sea level salt pond behind a massive new levee must float, or sink, on its merits. Cargill/DMB's intimidation has no place in our democratic process.

Despite DMB's large staff working full-time for years and many high-paid PR and legal consultants in San Francisco, Sacramento and Washington, D.C., the opposition to Cargill's salt pond development, which they call "Saltworks," is deep and wide, and it has been for years. If they had persuasive facts on their side, wouldn't we be hearing them, instead of these attacks?

The developer is only making opponents stronger. There is a coalition of over 200 organizations and prominent individuals formally opposed to the project, and 10,000 Bay Area residents, including hundreds of Redwood City residents, who have signed Save the Bay's petition at DontPaveMyBay.org.

Our organizations stand with Friends of Redwood City, Acterra, Clean Water Action, and other key environmental and community organizations. Labor and industry groups representing workers and business at the threatened Port of Redwood City are opposed to this development. Sport and commercial fishermen are opposed. California water rights organizations are opposed. Virtually all of Redwood City's neighboring cities are opposed. The Planning and Conservation League is opposed.

Other groups that have raised concerns about the project range from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which identified these salt ponds as having "important conservation value," to the California Highway Patrol, which projects that a dozen additional officers would be needed to handle the tens of thousands of new car trips on U.S. 101.

In addition, 160 elected officials representing millions of people from all nine Bay Area counties have made their opposition clear, stating: "Salt ponds are not land to be paved — they are part of San Francisco Bay to be restored to tidal marsh for wildlife habitat, natural flood protection for our communities, cleaner water, and recreation areas for everyone to enjoy."

And the San Francisco Chronicle and San Jose Mercury News are opposed. "Salt ponds are the wrong place for 12,000 homes," the Merc stated last year. "This is an unacceptable site for housing," the Chronicle wrote in 2007. "Housing doesn't belong on a tidal plain."

Why isn't the developer attacking all of us? Presumably, trying to attack the entire Bay Area is beyond even their deep pockets.

It is not going to work.

Nancy Arbuckle and Alice Kaufman are Redwood City residents and are members of the Sequoia Audubon Society and the Committee for Green Foothills, respectively.

Comments

Posted by Hank Lawrence, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 5, 2011 at 9:01 am

I have very good friends who live in Brunswick Georgia with the back of their home set at the edge of the Marshes of Glynn. When I sit on their deck I take in the awesome beauty, the wonderful smell of the salt marsh and the feeling of serenity. What is interesting is that the Georgia legislature had the foresight in 1970 to protect the marsh land.

Please refer to this web link:
Web Link

Here are some excerpts from the New Georgia Encyclopedia:

"In 1970 Georgia legislators, fearing that the state's coastal salt marshes would be irrevocably damaged by a proposed phosphate mining operation and other industrial activities, passed the Coastal Marshlands Protection Act. The jurisdiction of the act includes marshlands, intertidal areas, mudflats, tidal water bottoms, and salt marshes. They were spurred on by scientific studies showing the immense value of the marshes for storm protection, for pollution filtering, and as a nursery area for more than 70 percent of Georgia's economically important crustaceans, fish, and shellfish."

"The law provides the state government with the authority to protect tidal wetlands. The government manages certain activities and structures in marsh areas and requires permits for other activities and structures. Erecting structures, dredging, or filling marsh areas requires a permit from the Marshlands Protection Committee, administered through the Coastal Resources Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources."

"Georgia's salt marshes are some of the most biologically productive natural systems on Earth. They produce nearly twenty tons of biomass to the acre—which makes them four times more productive than the most carefully cultivated cornfields, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. The enormous productivity helps to make the salt marshes primary nursery areas for blue crabs, oysters, shrimp, and other economically important fish and shellfish. Young shrimp and other marine organisms also use salt marshes as shelters and hiding places from predators. In addition, salt marshes help filter pollutants from the water and act as buffers against offshore storms. The potential damage from large storm-spawned waves and tides is greatly reduced when they pass over the marshes."

If Georgia has the common sense to protect its wetlands why can't California?


Posted by Ed, a resident of Atherton: other
on May 5, 2011 at 9:53 am

because Hank--a few aggressive people want to make money for themselves by wrecking them, and dressing it all up as progress.


Posted by Earl, a resident of Atherton: other
on May 5, 2011 at 12:20 pm

The state/county should have Cargill build the new jail as part of the inevitable development plan. There could be a high speed rail station spur out to it as well.


Posted by Will, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on May 5, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Ed is so right...It's a matter of a few people wanting to make the bucks. What makes me so mad is what one of the DMB guys said in a letter to the public a couple of weeks ago. He said that the salt ponds haven't been a "part of the bay" since early in the 1900's. Well duh, yeah, because they TOOK that part of bay away to make the wetlands! So his reasoning (to me) was that since we already wrecked that part of the bay, we may as well "pave paradise, make it a parking lot". Judy Collins was right!


Posted by Will, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 5, 2011 at 4:50 pm

I left out in my post that they took the wetlands away in the 1930's or whenever to make the saltponds. Give us our baylands back!


Posted by For the record, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 5, 2011 at 5:19 pm

Will, Agree with your sentiments 100 percent. But for the record: Joni Mitchell (The Queen).


Posted by sadfsf, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on May 6, 2011 at 12:37 am

I support Saltworks. It will look much better than salt ponds.


Posted by Reality Check, a resident of another community
on May 6, 2011 at 1:54 pm

@sadsf: The good news is we don't have to pave the Bay with a luxury home subdivision in order to get something that "looks much better than salt ponds." Cargill has already long ago said that they plan to end salt-making on this site. That's the reason why they're trying to make a quick (and totally unjustified by the zoning on that property) buck off of covering it over with roads, cars and housing (it's cut-off from Redwood City's downtown, shopping and transit by Hwy 101). The site -- like other former salt ponds around the Bay and elsewhere -- can be easily restored to its natural pre-saltmaking state for the benefit and enjoyment of everyone. It's really a dumb place to plop the equivalent of a new Foster City or Redwood Shores.


Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on May 6, 2011 at 8:41 pm

I totally support the Saltworks plan.

-- As a former planner, I believe it strikes a decent balance between developed space and open space and it improves a blighted area. Hard to believe that the cement works and other industrial land uses are great for the plant and animal life in the area.

--The Saltworks development will do wonders for Redwood City, just as the downtown redevelopment has. It now competes with MP and PA -- or is that what those folks fear, under the mantle of environmental concern?

-- As a resident of RWC, I applaud the latest Saltworks plan and would enjoy living there if Palo Alto and Menlo Park will not use their megabucks to prevent it.


Posted by Jack Hickey, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on May 9, 2011 at 10:07 am

MS's Arbuckle and Kaufman state: "There is a coalition of over 200 organizations and prominent individuals formally opposed to the project, and 10,000 Bay Area residents, including hundreds of Redwood City residents, who have signed Save the Bay's petition at DontPaveMyBay.org." Perhaps they can raise enough private capital to buy the land from Cargille at a fair price.
Methinks they want taxpayers to foot the bill for their pet project.
As I understand it, landowner Cargille is footing the bill for it's development which will provide much needed revenue for a cash strapped local economy. And, they have made many concessions which address legitimate concerns of the citizenry.
Menlo Park could contribute to the success of this masterful project by offering developers a long term land lease of Bedwell Park (former Marsh Road dumpsite) for creation of a much needed public golf course. And, perhaps Redwood City could persuade the developers to include a 40 lane Bowling Alley in their project to replace Mel's Bowl which closed its doors yesterday.


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