News

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Saltworks and Beyond

by Justin Gerdes, Climate One, October 25, 2011

The debate over Saltworks, a proposal to build 12,000 homes on former salt ponds in Redwood City, is a harbinger of coming development fights in the age of climate change. In this October 18 Climate One debate, architect Peter Calthorpe argued that the need for housing in the San Francisco Bay Area is so great that infill development alone can’t meet demand; conservationist David Lewis countered that developing one of the region’s last unprotected wetlands is not worth the cost.
 

. . .

Calthorpe challenged David Lewis to answer how the region can reach a jobs-housing balance without employees moving to sprawling developments in Tracy or Livermore or Gilroy, if projects such as Saltworks are not built. “When you push housing farther and farther to the periphery because you don’t want to face up to the challenge in these jobs-rich areas, the environmental footprint, carbon emissions, VMT [vehicle miles traveled], energy consumption, and land consumption—because we all know it’s lower density once it gets out there – all of that, in many cases, is on pristine habitat or farmland.”

We do it by building on already developed land and re-configuring our cities, as is being done in downtown San Mateo and Redwood City, Lewis answered.

Saltworks “should have been dead on arrival in the beginning because it’s not the right place,” he said. “There are almost no other places left in the Bay Area that are undeveloped, that are restorable, and that are not already protected.”

“It’s a mistake to take the pressure off” by building Saltworks, he said.
 

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Future salt pond residents, left holding the (sand) bag

By Tyler P. Berding, a partner in the law firm of Berding-Weil (SM Daily Journal, 10/13/11)

As an attorney who has defended Redwood Shores homeowners and who has represented homeowner associations battling over responsibility for flood protection — and the resulting damages when it fails — I have watched Cargill’s proposed new city-in-a-salt-pond moving forward in Redwood City with growing alarm. Hearing the developer claim that new Bay Area sea level rise plans are somehow good for their scheme is like rubbing salt in a wound.


As they tout the “benefits” for Redwood City, proponents of this development always carefully imply no costs to “current” city taxpayers. Because the fact is that future residents of any Cargillville will be left with massive, unrecoverable costs. This is particularly true given Cargill’s plan to build a levee that will not only have to be maintained in perpetuity, but also raised significantly even to meet their optimistic estimate of sea level rise.


All of this is at homeowners’ expense, long after Cargill has taken its profits and left town.


 

. . .


Anyone concerned with the Cargill salt pond development proposal should ask the city one simple question: “Who will be responsible for keeping these massive flood control improvements working in the years to come?”


Don’t be surprised by the answer.
 

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Friday, October 7, 2011

Builders pile into Peninsula - Downtown boom draws crowd to prime Redwood City site

J.K. Dineen, San Francisco Business Times

Redwood City’s scheme to redevelop a prime corner of its downtown is picking up speed as more than 20 builders have zeroed in on the site.

While not all will end up responding to the city’s request for qualification, which is due Oct. 17, developers who attended the pre-submittal meetings include TMG Partners, Tishman Speyer, the Sobrato Organization, Carmel Partners, Graystar, the Hanover Co., HunterStorm LLC, Essex Property Trust, Raintree Partners, Sares/Regis, TRG Pacific Development, and Wilson Meany Sullivan, according to public records.

Including architects and contractors, 61 companies either attended a Sept. 30 meeting or met privately with Redwood City planners about the opportunity.

“Based on the seriousness of the questions they are asking, I would say around 10 will respond,” said planner Dan Zack, the author of Redwood City’s downtown plan and designated planner in charge of implementing it.

The RFQ deadline comes at a time when Redwood City is seeking to spark phase two of a downtown revival that started to take shape between 2002 and 2007 with the $10 million restoration of the Fox Theater, the opening of the 20-screen Century 20 Downtown Redwood City, and the $52 million Courthouse Square project. The trio of entertainment developments has turned downtown Redwood City into a place that is vibrant on weekend nights, but doesn’t have enough office workers or residents to support retail the rest of the time. About 25 percent of downtown retail space is vacant.

The RFQ seeks developers interesting in buying and developing two parcels next to the downtown Caltrain station. Block 2 is a 2½-acre surface parking lot bordered by Jefferson Avenue, Middlefield Road and the Caltrain tracks. The plan allows for 12-story buildings, but does not dictate specific uses. Housing, office, retail and entertainment will all be considered. A second smaller parcel is available on Windsor Street, and the city is hoping a boutique hotel will be built there. Whatever is built on Block 2 must replace the 211 parking spaces currently on the site.

Over time, interest in Block 2 has changed. At first, nearly all the developers were interested in developing office buildings. Late in the game, the site has increasingly drawn apartment developers like the Hanover Co., Raintree Partners, Essex Property Trust, Carmel Partners and Graystar.

...

Elsewhere downtown, Raintree Partners in August filed an application to build 116 units at 201 Marshall St., the first project submitted under the new downtown plan rezoning. Jason Check, development director at Raintree Partners, told the Business Times in August that he hopes to be under construction by the end of the year. The project would appeal to young professionals who want to commute by train to San Jose or San Francisco.

“Downtown Redwood City certainly seems to be coming of age,” said Check. “There have been a lot of challenges to the (downtown plan) and it seems like now the city has the wind at its back.”

(The above article segment was published in the Friday, Oct. 7, 2011 edition of the San Francisco Business Times. Subscribers can read the full article at the link below.)

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

New Group Forms to Oppose Saltworks Project

by Stacie Chan, Redwood City Patch, 10/04/11

The opposition to 1,436-acre development on the Cargill saltponds that will house approximately 30,000 people has never been quiet. But now, residents have banded together under the banner Redwood City Neighbors United (RCNU) to call attention to several concerns they have regarding the project.

Since the proposal’s inception by manufacturing company Cargill, Inc. and developer DMB, environmental groups have decried the development and fervently advocated restoring the salt ponds to wetlands instead. While environmental concerns are pressing, co-founder and Redwood City resident Dan Ponti said, RCNU members want to also focus on project issues like traffic, uncertain water supply, disruption to Port activity, and the detraction from Downtown redevelopment.

“Fundamentally, it’s simply inappropriate and unnecessary,” Ponti said of the proposal.

RCNU has been growing organically everyday, Ponti said. The group launched its website on Wednesday and has seen new subscribers daily, reaching a total of approximately hundreds of people. The majority of members are Redwood City residents, but the group also includes members from neighboring communities like unincorporated county areas.

“It’s really hit a nerve,” Ponti said. “A lot of people are really uncomfortable with this project.”

Following the Plan, Not the Developers

Ponti said that the Saltworks proposal is a complete disregard for the city’s current General Plan, created a year ago by city staff to provide a blueprint for the city’s future growth.

He admits that there are several issues that the city must address, such as a lack of housing, parks and open spaces plus spurring downtown redevelopment, but the General Plan provides the guidelines for such solutions.

“We should not be entertaining a proposal that will turn the General Plan on its head,” Ponti said. “We should make this plan a reality instead.”

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Monday, October 3, 2011

New watchdog for Saltworks - Neighbor group forms to keep eye on salt ponds development

by Michelle Durand, San Mateo Daily Journal, 10/03/11

A new group opposing up to 12,000 homes on the former Cargill Saltworks site in Redwood City says it wants to reframe the debate as not just being between developers and environmentalists.

“There is a whole slew of quality of life issues if this project if approved that we just didn’t feel that was out there,” said Dan Ponti, co-chair of the newly formed Redwood City Neighbors United.

Ponti said he and other members were concerned developer DMB Associates was painting the opposition to its 50-50 Balanced Plan as only being fringe environmental groups from outside Redwood City.

“The implication is that nobody else minds except for these folks, but it’s a lot broader,” Ponti said.

David Lewis, executive director of nonprofit Save the Bay, said the environmental organization is pleased to welcome another opposing group.

“It’s one more demonstration of the Redwood City community’s deep opposition to this destructive development proposal,” Lewis said by e-mail.

Another residents group, Sustainable Redwood City, has been keeping an eye on the development process. Lou Covey, co-founder of Sustainable Redwood City, had yet to hear of the new group and said more discussion is always a good thing. He wondered, however, why there was a need.

“It seems like this is going to take resources and time and funding away from other groups that are already involved unless of course they are planning to get additional funds,” Covey said.

Representatives from Friends of Redwood City, another grassroots group that fought previous Bayfront developments, could not be reached for comment.

Ponti ballparked membership at an initial 100 but growing. The group has established a website and is currently funded by in-kind donations but will hopefully be able in the future to accept more so the effort is sustainable, he said.

The group plans to raise awareness of the plan and its impacts through attendance at community events, one-on-one outreach to the business community and other communication, Ponti said.

The group does not have a uniform opinion on what, if anything, should go on the site but Ponti said the effort is to take the project off the table completely so that conversation can take place.

The community helped craft a general plan that wants to handle growth by putting residents on the transit corridor and downtown but the Cargill plan flies in its face, he said.

“You’re completely turning that general plan on its head,” he said.

The proposed development plan calls for 50 percent of the 1,436-acre site to be preserved for permanent open space, public recreation and tidal marsh restoration and the remaining half be developed into housing, schools, parks and retail and transit facilities. The site could house up to 12,000 housing units.

RCNU argues the development’s impacts include traffic gridlock, uncertain water supplies, loss of wetlands and infrastructure maintenance costs.

“How is it smart growth to put 30,000 people out on an isolated salt pond, behind a massive flood levee when we’re facing rising sea levels? And how does building a whole new commercial district help to revive Redwood City’s downtown?,” co-chair Ramona Ambrozic said in a prepared statement.

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