2020 City Council Candidate Responses to RCNU Questionnaire

Candidate Responses - District 1 (Gee, Radcliffe)
Candidate Responses - District 3 (Borgens, Espinoza-Garnica, Chu)
Candidate Responses - District 4 (Smith)
Candidate Responses - District 7 (Aguirre, Wolohan, Rasmussen)

Please note: Shortly following release of the candidate responses, we received the following statement from District 7 candidate Chris Rasmussen. In the interest of full transparency RCNU feels it important for the public to be aware of this statement when reviewing the candidate responses.

Good Afternoon,

I wanted to touch-base regarding question two on the RCNU Questionnaire.

I was advised that if I were to make a definitive statement on the Cargill site, I would have to recuse myself from voting on the project if or when it was ever to come before Council. This is why I took great care to answer the questions the way I did. Above all else, I wanted to protect my ability to vote on an issue of this magnitude. However, after reading the other candidates' answers, it appears I was very, unfortunately, misadvised.

The restoration of the Cargill Salt ponds site is one of the most critical environmental decisions Redwood City may ever face. The community has spoken loud and clear on this issue repeatedly for over a decade; they want the Salt Ponds restored. As the father of two young children, I can assure you I will do everything I can to protect our community from sea-level rise and support the restoration of our wetlands.

All my best-

Chris Rasmussen


The 2020 election season is upon us, and your mail-in ballots are arriving. This year,  City Council members will no longer be elected city-wide, but by geographical district, with four districts being contested in 2020. If you are not sure what District you live in, you can find out here.

While city council candidates only need to campaign in their district, they will still  be making decisions as council members that will affect all of Redwood City - not the least of which will involve overall development within Redwood City and along Redwood City’s bayfront, including the Cargill salt ponds. Over the last few election cycles, the composition of the Council has evolved to the point where the majority has expressed opposition to amending the General Plan to allow for development of the salt ponds. This year, because of district elections, there will be at least two new members elected to the Council, and just one year ago,DMB Pacific Ventures announced that they still intend to develop the salt ponds site. Therefore, given DMB Pacific Ventures’ stated intentions, it appears likely that the future of the Redwood City salt ponds is on this November’s ballot in terms of who we elect to the City Council.

As we have done in the past, RCNU has sent all nine 2020 Redwood City Council candidates – Alicia Aguirre, Janet Borgens, Isabella Chu, Lisette Espinoza-Garnica,  Jeff Gee, Nancy Radcliffe, Chris Rasmussen, Michael Smith, and Mark Wolohan – a Candidate Questionnaire that requested their positions on issues related to development in Redwood City and along Redwood City's bayfront. The candidate survey covered several broad topics, asking for the opinions of candidates on the City’s General Plan vision and its obligation to consider development projects not consistent with the General Plan, development on the Cargill site and sites east of 101, climate change adaptation, and addressing the jobs/housing imbalance.  We’re delighted to announce that all nine candidates provided responses to our Candidate Questionnaire, and RCNU really appreciates their participation.

As election day approaches, we hope this information helps inform Redwood City voters about the candidates’ views on several vital issues affecting our city.  Each candidate had two weeks to prepare responses to our questionnaire, thus providing them the time to research and thoughtfully respond to the questions - something that candidate forums don't always provide. Our goal is to offer insights into each candidate's perspective and potential for leadership on these important bayfront planning and environmental stewardship issues.

While RCNU is not endorsing any candidate, these survey responses empower voters to pursue their own questions and follow-up as opportunities arise during the remaining few weeks before the election.

The collated results of the questionnaire are listed below, organized by Council District. All responses are verbatim as submitted by the candidate, with only minor editing for format and to correct any typographical errors. We also provide a short summary with highlights from the candidates' answers; however, we caution that in order to get the full perspective of each candidate's positions, you should read their answers in full.

Candidate Responses - District 1 (Gee, Radcliffe)
Candidate Responses - District 3 (Borgens, Espinoza-Garnica, Chu)
Candidate Responses - District 4 (Smith)
Candidate Responses - District 7 (Aguirre, Wolohan, Rasmussen)


All of the candidates agreed on several basic principles: that future development should be focused on the downtown and the City's core area, that wetland restoration is an important tool to defend against sea level rise, that we need to build more housing at all affordability levels, and that Redwood City should strive to do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

All of the candidates agree that the city has no obligation to process an application that is not consistent with the General Plan and that it has the right to uphold its General Plan in the face of development proposals asking to change it. There were some differences of opinion, however, as to how the City should, or should not, consider non-conforming projects. Several candidates indicated that the City should do more to encourage beneficial projects including a more efficient application review/approval process that prioritizes good projects (akin to the current Gatekeeper process).  Key questions focused on the subject of whether development is appropriate on the Cargill salt ponds or east of Highway 101 in areas vulnerable to flooding from sea level rise. The candidates indicated various concerns with development in these areas. Some examples are:

  • Alicia Aguirre (District 7 candidate) stated, with regard to a proposed development on the Cargill site, "No. I have no plans to subject our community to that battle again. The salt ponds need to be preserved for wetlands restoration." She also stated that she would not at this time support amending the General Plan to change the "life science lab" use currently allowed east of 101 as requested by a developer who prefers to build a project with a different use.
  • Janet Borgens (District 3 candidate) stated that she "would have serious concerns" with a proposal to develop on the Cargill salt ponds, and mentioned that the General Plan currently discourages development "on land vulnerable to flooding from sea level rise where potential impacts cannot be adequately addressed." She also stated that "any development that requires a General Plan change would need to truly benefit our community."
  • Isabella Chu (District 3 candidate) stated "I am 100% for limiting the development of areas likely to see both sea level rise and fire. However, if we declare that exurbs and coastlines at risk of fire and flood are not appropriate places for people, then we need to build enough housing in our cities so that people are not forced out." With regard to the Cargill salt ponds, she stated "I would make it crystal clear that they will never, ever develop the salt ponds but then offer a land swap."
  • Lisette Espinoza-Garnica (District 3 candidate) stated "I oppose any initiation or allowing an opportunity for developers to propose development on the wetlands."  She also suggested that we look to the example of indigenous stewardship for land management that works with nature.
  • Jeff Gee (District 1 candidate) stated that "If the salt ponds were an integral component of protecting the shoreline in San Mateo County from sea level rise," the City could lose local control if it opposed  "exploring potential solutions that might include some development". He also stated that he believes there needs to be "an alternative to accepting an application to publicly consider a project in this area" and suggested that the "gatekeeper" process might be an appropriate mechanism to use.
  • Nancy Radcliffe (District 1 candidate) stated that she would have "grave concerns about losing potential wetlands that would help protect from sea level rise" if a development proposal came forward for the Cargill site. She also stated that any development east of 101 would need to be compatible with the Port-related industrial uses that are already there, and that she would love to see a waterfront park in that area.
  • Chris Rasmussen (District 7 candidate) stated “I can convey my intention and commitment to represent the views and interests of my fellow community members, above all others.” with regard to the Cargill salt ponds. He also proposed creating a Citizens Commission on Conservation and Sustainability to work on the issue of climate adaptation.
  • Michael Smith (District 4 candidate) stated that "there are few development scenarios that would move me to approve a development project east of 101." With regard to the Cargill site, he stated "It seems clear to me that the will of the Redwood City community is not in favor of this project at this time."
  • Mark Wolohan (District 7 candidate) stated "I do not see any circumstances that would justify building on the salt ponds." He also stated, “I strongly prioritize the environment and protecting local ecosysytems.”