Opposition to Cargill erupts in Redwood City

Cargill & DMB developed a very big headache at the Planning Commission meeting in Redwood City last Tuesday night. Redwood City asked for their residents’ input on the proposed salt pond development, and that is exactly what they got – over three hours of it. The overflow crowd lined the walls, sat on the floors and spilled into the hallway, where a TV and portable speakers had to be set up to accommodate everyone. Not swayed by the developers’ slick and expensive presentation, the podium was packed with opponents to the project throughout the night – vastly outnumbering development supporters.

From the neighborhood associations to the mobile home parks and the garden clubs, Redwood City residents made it clear that they’re deeply concerned about this destructive development and will be fighting it at every step of the way.

You can watch the meeting here; public comments start with Joel Jensen’s great statement at 01:10 here.

Sadly, despite a September presentation by consultants emphasizing that CEQA was democracy in action, Redwood City actually suggested that “advocacy” would not be tolerated, and that “there shall be no debating the merits of the project.” Residents protested, their city attorney corrected them, and they put out edited slides crossing out the offending provisions.

What the slide seems to suggest is that unless you favor the project, Redwood City doesn’t want to hear from you.

That is unfortunately consistent with the 99-page “Notice of Preparation of Environmental Impact Report for proposed Saltworks Project” released by Redwood City which is reminiscent of the project that it purports to describe: fundamentally evasive about core environmental issues, numbingly large, and preferring to distract attention by emphasizing irrelevant details.

The NOP makes no mention of:

— the SF Bay Water Board’s recent letter to Redwood City stating the salt ponds to be “an important biological resource” providing “foraging and nesting habitat for a variety of birds.” (June 2010)

— the US EPA’s recent statement that Cargill’s Redwood City salt ponds are “critically important aquatic resources that warrant special attention and protection.” (Jan. 2010)

The NOP is clearly trying to advance the developers’ interest, not the public interest. City Councilmembers insisted in 2009 that the salt ponds be removed from Redwood City’s General Plan process at the explicit request of DMB, and their promise that this EIR would evaluate a broad range of visions for the property is now clearly broken.

— Stephen Knight, Political Director