Almanac

News - May 25, 2011

Opponents release poll on Saltworks

• Developer questions credibility of poll.

by Dave Boyce

If the decision were up to the participants in a recent survey of 350 residents of Redwood City, they would reject a proposal now under consideration to build some 12,000 new homes on what are now off-shore salt flats in their city. The project would include substantial open space, recreational space, and 1 million square feet of commercial space.

The telephone poll was paid for by Save the Bay, an Oakland-based nonprofit environmental group that opposes the development proposed by Minneapolis-based Cargill Salt Corp. and an Arizona developer. Sacramento-based J. Moore Methods conducted the poll from May 11 to 15 and noted a margin of error of 5.3 percentage points.

According to the poll results reported by Save the Bay, 57 percent of those surveyed said they oppose the project.

The opposition dropped to 51 percent after being read a description of the plan from Cargill's proposal. But after participants were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with a series of statements — such as, "Traffic from 12,000 new homes will make congestion on local streets and freeways much worse" — the overall opposition rose to 64 percent.

A whopping 83 percent of participants said the matter should be decided by voters and not the City Council in Redwood City, and 54 percent said they would weigh a candidate's position on this project in the next City Council election.

Developer responds

The developer — DMB Associates Inc. in Scottsdale, Arizona — challenged the credibility of the poll and its sponsors.

"Redwood City voters have already spoken about this," said DMB spokesman Jay Reed, "and they kicked (Save the Bay Executive Director) David Lewis back to Oakland."

Mr. Reed was referring to Measure W, a November 2008 initiative that would have required a two-thirds majority of voters to approve City Council decisions on uses of unimproved land. A Save the Bay poll at that time said the measure had 71 percent support, Mr. Reed said, but it lost to a 63 percent majority.

"This is David Lewis grasping at straws trying to stop the (environmental review) process," Mr. Reed said. "David Lewis has as much credibility about public opinion in Redwood City as Tiger Woods does talking about marital fidelity."

"First of all," Mr. Lewis said when asked to comment, "the numbers don't lie. This poll's been released in its entirety. All the information is there. Anyone can look at it and see what it says. Basically, there's no good news for DMB in this poll."

Sixty-five percent of poll participants described themselves as environmentalists, while a plurality of 43 percent labeled themselves "pro-growth."

As to which was the greater priority, 61 percent favored jobs and the economy over civil rights and the environment.

Asked to describe themselves on a political spectrum, results showed 54 percent of the participants chose moderate, 24 percent conservative and 21 percent liberal. As for their voter registration status, a 52 percent majority registered as Democrats, with 26 percent Republican and 22 percent Independent.

Go to tinyurl.com/SaltFlats to examine the poll and its results.

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