Thursday, January 24, 2013

Representative Anna Eshoo Responds to RCNU Supporters’ Letters Opposing the Saltworks Project

Redwood City Neighbors United's membership continues to engage with elected leadership on the local, state, and national level. Representative Anna Eshoo recently responded to RCNU members' letters opposing the Saltworks project and urging oversight of Cargill's recent jurisdictional determination request:

Thank you for contacting me about potential uses for, as well as federal jurisdiction over, Cargill 's Redwood City salt production land. I welcome your input on this very important issue.

Because of the unique location of this property near San Francisco Bay, any decisions regarding its future use should respect the community 's environmental concerns . As you might know, I was successful in securing funding to purchase Bair Island (which also was used for salt production) and  made it part of the Don Edwards San Francisco National Wildlife Refuge.  I've monitored this issue very closely for several years and continue to do so.

I was especially interested to hear your concern about the Army Corps of Engineers' and  the  Environmental Protection Agency's jurisdictional review processes. You can rest assured I will keep your views in mind.

If you have any other questions or comments, let me hear from you.  I value what my constituents say to me, and I always need your thoughts and benefit from your ideas.


Most gratefully,

Anna G. Eshoo
Member of Congress

Sunday, January 20, 2013

LTE: City rightly says ‘no’ to building on the bay

Published in the Palo Alto Daily News

As a resident of Redwood City, I am pleased to see that it is implementing its award-winning and community-driven general plan in a way consistent with the plan's mandates -- making our downtown a higher-density, pedestrian-friendly one that is attractive to new residents, local businesses, and longtime community members. A revitalized downtown with housing near public transport hubs and within existing infrastructure is where Redwood City should continue to focus its efforts. Building out on the salt ponds stands in direct opposition to this and does not represent the community's new vision for responsible growth. Redwood City's message is loud and clear -- any new plan Cargill and DMB might propose for building on the bay will be a nonstarter.

Nancy Arbuckle
Redwood City


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Redwood City Neighbors United 2012 Review

2012 was a busy year for Redwood City Neighbors United and our first full year of working together as Redwood City residents to oppose the Saltworks project. As 2013 begins, let’s take a look back at a few of the important news stories from 2012.

  • In March, RCNU’s first membership meeting of the year featured Blake Lyon, Acting Planning Manager for the City of Redwood City, who discussed Redwood City’s general plan with residents. The Saltworks plan falls outside of the general plan and is a distraction to the improvement of the rest of Redwood City. RCNU and its supporters remain committed to supporting the general plan and opposing the Saltworks.
  • Faced with significant community opposition, Cargill and its developer, DMB, pulled its plan for the Saltworks in early May after three years of controversy
  • While withdrawing the plan, Cargill and DMB promised to submit a revised plan. Since then, they have gone straight to federal agencies in an attempt to circumvent the local opposition and controversy, requesting a jurisdictional determination from the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers. To help educate our members about why this jurisdictional determination matters, we held a second membership meeting in November featuring Calvin Fong, the former regulatory division chief for the San Francisco district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who explained the jurisdictional determination process to a large crowd of concerned residents.  Read about our meeting here.
  • If you missed our meeting, check out this Op-Ed on why jurisdictional determination matters to you

For a complete look back at the news of 2012, check out the RCNU website, visit our Facebook timeline, or our Twitter feed.

Heading into 2013, we await the jurisdictional determination from the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers and remain ready to oppose a revised Saltworks plan if and when it is presented by Cargill and DMB. We continue to work to educate our local, state, and federal representatives about this ill-conceived development and we are already planning community meetings on this issue for 2013. Most importantly, we look forward to working with our neighbors to promote responsible growth, not Saltworks in 2013.

Happy New Year!


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Redwood City Saltworks project waits in limbo while feds mull next course

By Bonnie Eslinger, Palo Alto Daily News

Back in May, DMB Pacific Ventures withdrew its controversial plan to develop 1,400 acres of Cargill's salt ponds in Redwood City until two federal agencies could clarify -- hopefully by the end of the year -- whether they have jurisdiction over the project.

DMB is still waiting for an answer, company Senior Vice President David Smith said Friday.

"We had hoped by the end of the year, but now we're hoping for the first quarter (of 2013)," Smith said in a phone interview. "We're anxious to see what they say."

The company has had several sit-down discussions with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency, but so far the agencies have not indicated where they stand, Smith said.

If they side with DMB's argument that the vast majority of the Cargill site does not include "waters of the United States" and therefore should not fall under federal oversight, Saltworks won't have to comply with the Clean Water Act or the Rivers and Harbors Act, both of which tightly restrict the kind of development allowed on bayfront property.

Depending on the federal ruling, DMB is prepared to submit a scaled-back plan that proposes to build on about half of the original acreage and restore more wetlands than first envisioned, Smith said.

"We won't re-file with the city until we know their (the federal agencies') perspective," he said. "And until we get the clarity from the feds, we're not doing any elaborate planning."

Redwood City Senior Planner Blake Lyon said when DMB withdrew its application the city took time to archive its files but otherwise hasn't done any work on Saltworks.

The lull does not mean the project isn't alive, Smith said.

Meanwhile, Redwood City residents and environmental activists who want the Saltworks project stopped are not just waiting around to see what happens next. After years of fighting against the development, they're using the down time to gear up for the next round.

"We're going to be ready to roll and engage with the city, as we were before the project went dormant," said Gail Raabe, an organizer with Redwood City Neighbors United, which hosted a talk about Saltworks last month with a former Army Corps of Engineers official as the featured speaker. The group has about 400 members, she said.

The Saltworks project that DMB unveiled in 2009 included up to 12,000 homes, several office buildings, shops and schools on half of Cargill's property, with parks, open space and restored tidal marshes on the other half. At the time, company officials said they hoped to break ground in 2013.

David Lewis, executive director of Save the Bay, which has led the battle against Saltworks, said even though things have been quiet in recent months, arguments against building in areas at risk of flooding were underscored by the devastation wrought in New York and New Jersey by Hurricane Sandy.

"Building below sea level was always a bad idea," Lewis said. "I think people are now beginning to realize that."


Friday, December 7, 2012

Op-Ed: Why federal jurisdiction over Redwood City’s salt ponds matters

By Gail Raabe. Published in the Palo Alto Daily News

It's been more than six months since Cargill and developer DMB withdrew the initial Redwood City Saltworks development proposal and shifted their attention to federal permitting agencies. The companies have asked the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to determine whether they have regulatory jurisdiction over the salt ponds. Even though there is no sign yet of a new Saltworks plan, the public's interest and concern surrounding this development continue to grow.

How else do you explain the packed house at a recent community meeting sponsored by Redwood City Neighbors United, where more than 90 people came to the downtown library to learn about "jurisdictional determinations" and the finer points of the Clean Water Act?

An evening with Calvin Fong, the former regulatory division chief for the San Francisco district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was time well spent for residents who now realize there is a lot at stake for Redwood City with this pending decision on federal jurisdiction.

There were several key "take away" messages that all residents of Redwood City and others concerned about developing the salt ponds should know:

1) The Clean Water Act and Rivers and Harbors Act protect against inappropriate fill and mismanagement of waterways, wetlands and other "waters of the United States," ensuring that any fill of San Francisco Bay is avoided or mitigated. The Army Corps and EPA enforce these federal laws.

2) If the agencies determine they do have jurisdiction, the National Environmental Policy Act is triggered, requiring the Army Corps to complete an analysis of the impacts of development and seek public comment. As an agency that is charged with protecting public resources, the Army Corps would conduct an objective analysis of all project alternatives and require either avoidance or mitigation of environmental impacts. Without federal jurisdiction, environmental review and analysis of a revised Saltworks development plan would be limited to only the California Environmental Quality Act, and the process would be under the direction of Redwood City.

3) There is clear precedent for San Francisco Bay salt ponds falling under the jurisdiction of the Army Corps and EPA. Cargill's former salt ponds near Napa are similar to ours in Redwood City and the Army Corps required permits for the restoration work that is currently underway there. The Army Corps also asserted jurisdiction over the Redwood City salt pond site where Westpoint Marina was recently constructed.

While we wait for the final decision on jurisdiction, there is growing concern that Cargill and DMB are asking the federal agencies to reverse long-standing regulatory policies for their benefit. If it is appropriate to have federal oversight of restoration projects in salt ponds, isn't it even more important for the Army Corps to have permitting authority over permanent development that could forever alter our Bay? Local residents expect that EPA and Army Corps actions related to Redwood City's salt ponds will be consistent with the regulatory oversight they have provided in other parts of the Bay.

Redwood City Neighbors United will continue to keep the community informed as this important process moves forward. Visit to sign up to receive Saltworks updates and information on future educational events.

Gail Raabe is on the Steering Committee of the local advocacy group Redwood City Neighbors United: Responsible Growth -- Not Saltworks.


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