OP-ED: Whatever federal agencies decide, any Saltworks plan for Redwood City is still a bad idea

More than two years have passed since Cargill/DMB’s Saltworks plan was defeated in Redwood City, but they are still working behind the scenes with plans to build on the Bay. Redwood City residents are staying vigilant in their strong stand against this reckless development. Dan Ponti, president of Redwood City Neighbors United recently published this OP-ED in the Daily News

The Aug. 16 Daily News story, “Report favoring Saltworks plan stalled,” strongly suggests that DMB/Cargill is hoping that some media attention will short-circuit a formal review process that would determine whether their controversial plan to develop the salt ponds in Redwood City is subject to federal government oversight.

More than two years have passed since DMB/Cargill withdrew their initial plan to build a city in the bay, but the bitter controversy that pitted Cargill and its developer DMB against the residents of Redwood City, neighboring communities, and environmental groups has not gone away. They still intend to develop the site and are hoping that if they can get federal agencies to bow out, it will be smoother sailing for their project.
The findings in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers documents that DMB showed the press, if adopted, would reverse long-standing policy regarding salt ponds in San Francisco Bay. As an example, crystallizer ponds located near Napa (and very similar to the Redwood City salt ponds) were deemed “waters of the United States” subject to the Clean Water Act and permitting requirements. Those ponds are now being restored.

Doesn’t it seem odd that the Corps would claim jurisdiction and require permits for salt pond restoration projects, yet now claim no oversight role over a huge development on similar ponds? And there are other oddities — for example, the Corps attorney’s bizarre use of the term “liquid” to describe water in the salt ponds. Apparently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) thinks something is amiss too, and is reviewing the Corps’ decision, in part because of “issues raised by the Corps’ proposed approach.” What would this reversal on the federal jurisdiction mean for other salt ponds and former salt ponds throughout San Francisco Bay? Both the Corps and EPA oversee implementation and enforcement of the Clean Water Act. Review by both agencies is a required part of the process in making these determinations — and it should be allowed to play out.
However, all of this is just a distraction because a jurisdictional determination does not address the real issue here: that growing Redwood City on the salt ponds is a really bad idea.

In the two years since the Redwood City City Council turned its back on Saltworks, things have changed. Fueled by a new General Plan and an ambitious Downtown Precise Plan, housing is being built at an astonishing pace, focused in the downtown area where infrastructure and transit already exist. This is true smart growth that limits traffic impacts, makes efficient use of resources and preserves our open spaces.

In contrast, any new Saltworks project would contradict both the letter and spirit of our General Plan. Instead of growing Redwood City within our core, developing the ponds means more traffic gridlock on our freeways and city streets, needless destruction of restorable wetlands, and threats to the jobs and viability of our port and nearby industries. Add concerns about our water supply, liquefaction and seiche hazards, and the risk of placing thousands of additional residents in the path of rising seas to the list and you have to wonder why anyone would consider building out there. Simply put, Redwood City has neither the need, nor the capacity, to build in the bay.

So what part of “no” does Cargill/DMB not understand? Redwood City is moving on. Developing on the salt ponds never made sense to our community, and scaling back a bad idea doesn’t make it a good one. And that’s something you might think about while sitting in traffic on 101.

Dan Ponti is a Redwood City resident and president of the local advocacy group Redwood City Neighbors United: Responsible Growth — Not Saltworks (www.rcnu.org)

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The Intern in a Shark Onesie

As many of us know, last week was Shark Week, a highly publicized event originally created by the Discovery Channel to promote shark conservation. Recently, it has been adopted by the environmental community as a platform to discuss the various issues of sharks and their habitat. Here at Save The Bay, we took advantage of this media-crazed event to promote awareness of Bay Area sharks with a series of rather quirky “shark spottings” as well as a blog featuring the importance of shark species in the Bay.

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Rochelle dressed as a Shark in honor of Shark Week. Photo Credit: Nathaniel Downes, SF Examiner

Save The Bay is lucky enough to have a shark mascot, so our communications team conjured up a Shark Week stunt. We decided to send our shark out in public to promote sharks in San Francisco Bay. We pitched some local media and planned to post on our social media platforms. As the Outreach Volunteer, I volunteered to be the shark for our shark outing day. Little did I know, it would turn into somewhat of a publicity stunt for not only Save The Bay, but for me as well.

Overall, the entire media stunt turned out to be a huge success. Six different print media outlets came to take pictures and interview me and our Staff Scientist, Hayley Zemel. Within 24 hours, we were on the cover of the Bay Area section of the SF Chronicle and featured on San Francisco Magazine’s blog. As an intern, representing an organization I care so deeply about is a truly rewarding experience that every intern deserves to experience.

Interning at Save The Bay has provided me with invaluable experience in a non-profit, but I must admit, this Shark Week stunt gave me unexpected professional experiences. To start, I learned how to effectively articulate a story to various print media outlets, which I have not experienced before. By effectively communicating our key messages about sharks in the Bay Area, news outlets were able to share that information with the public, thus bringing more awareness to our cause.

Dressing up in a shark onesie gave me the opportunity to go out of my comfort zone and do something I normally wouldn’t do. Being challenged in the workplace can seem daunting, but thanks to this office volunteer program at Save The Bay, I felt I had enough support to carry out my mission as Spike, the Save The Bay shark mascot!

If you are looking for an amazing experience at a local environmental non-profit, you’re in luck! We are hiring now for our Fall 2014 Office Volunteer positions. As a current Office Volunteer, I can testify and say this program gives you the professional experience you wouldn’t find in a typical internship program. Aside from dressing in a shark onesie and talking to strangers, I have gained technical skills in project management practices, social media metrics, and audience engagement strategies. Plus, I’ve gained an even deeper love for this region I call home.

For more info on applying for the Office Volunteer program, click here. Priority application deadline is August 29 and positions begin in mid-September.

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Plastic Bags Aren’t Banned Until They’re Really Banned

Next month, the Alameda County Waste Management Authority – Stopwaste – will assess the effectiveness of the county’s plastic bag ban and consider whether or not to expand it to all types of stores. Save The Bay is encouraging Stopwaste to close the gaps in their current policy and ban plastic bags at all retailers, just as Richmond, El Cerrito, Walnut Creek, and many other Bay Area cities have done.

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Photo credit: Dave Bleasdale

Since going into effect on January 1, 2013, Alameda County’s Reusable Bag Ordinance has banned the use of plastic bags at check-out and instead encourages shoppers to bring their own reusable bag or purchase paper bags for a minimum of 10 cents. But, the ordinance only applies to stores that sell food – grocery stores, large pharmacies, convenience stores – which means that over 5,000 of the county’s 7,000 retailers are still handing out plastic bags.

Alameda County, like many municipalities around the Bay Area, understands the environmental and fiscal benefits that single-use plastic bag bans can bring. Plastic bags are one of the most ubiquitous litter items found in our urban and natural areas and pose a deadly threat to wildlife that become entangled in or mistakenly ingest them.

The Regional Water Quality Control Board requires 76 Bay Area cities to eliminate trash from their storm drains and creeks by 2022. Bag bans are one of the ways that cities can tackle their trash problem, reducing trash at the source and saving tax-payer money spent on extensive litter clean-ups.

We reviewed four years of trash cleanup data from all over the county and found that although the ban went into effect at the beginning of 2013, plastic bag litter was still present at more than half of the county’s trash “hot spot” sites throughout the year. While the number of bags littered may be decreasing, getting to zero trash will require stronger policies.

Alameda County has come a long way on their journey to tackle plastic bag litter – it’s time to finish the job. Please join us in urging the Stopwaste Board to implement a comprehensive bag ban that covers all retail stores and restaurants, and protect the Bay and its watershed from plastic pollution.

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Volunteer Spotlight | Meet Alexander Mustille

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Alex Mustille has been volunteering with Save The Bay for 5 years!

Meet Alexander Mustille, a Data Consultant for Kaiser Permanente from Pacifica, CA!

How many years have you volunteered with Save The Bay?

5 years!

Do you have a favorite site or experience?

Favorite site is MLK Shoreline. I was able to eradicate many blackberry bushes on site 3 or 4 years ago.

How did you get involved with Save The Bay?

I first heard about Save The Bay through a friend, many years ago.

What is the best thing about volunteering with Save The Bay?

Meeting people who are passionate about ecological restoration!

What is your favorite thing about the San Francisco Bay Area?

The beach! Specifically, Linda Mar Beach for surfing. It’s great for beginners!

What is one thing you do each day to protect the environment?

Not watering my lawn! And regularly planting in my front yard.

Volunteer opportunities are available throughout the Bay Area. Sign up here.

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Escape in Your Own Backyard

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Marin Headlands in the summer. Photo by Jackie Richardson.

With summer coming to an end, take these moments to enjoy what the Bay Area has to offer without the hustle and bustle of the city. As a Bay Area native, I am extremely fortunate to have so many open spaces and hiking trails nearby, but with that easy access comes the usual crowd of fellow adventure-seekers.

Here are just a few of my favorite local hiking spots:

Redwood Regional Park is a hidden redwood forest that covers over 1,000 acres of land in the Oakland Hills. This park contains the largest remaining natural stand of coastal redwood trees found in the East Bay, many of which are over 100 years old. Enjoy the numerous hiking, biking and horseback riding trails in the comfort of the well-shaded forest.

Briones Regional Park in Contra Costa County is a treasure chest of rolling hills and abundant wildlife. Hike to Briones Peak, the highest point in the park and enjoy breathtaking, panoramic views from Mt. Diablo all the way to Mt. Tam.

Marin Headlands is one of my favorite places to hike in the Bay Area. Located in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, this area has some of the most beautiful views of the coast, Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco. Put on your hiking boots and trek out to 150 year-old Point Bonita Lighthouse, which is still actively being used today. Miles of trails, wild flowers and sharp sea cliffs will have you coming back for more.

During these last few weeks of summer take advantage of the adventures that surround you. For more awe-inspiring Bay Area hikes read dedicated outdoorswoman, Ann Marie Brown’s 101 Great Hikes of the San Francisco Bay Area.

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