News

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Revision to Saltworks plan renews traffic concerns

by Bonnie Eslinger, Palo Alto Daily News, Sept 1, 2011

When a developer applied in May 2009 to build a mini-city on 1,400 acres of Cargill salt flats in Redwood City, one of the first things city officials did was check whether the project would create a traffic nightmare.

In January 2010, they released a report that concluded DMB Associates' proposed Redwood City Saltworks plan should be processed because on first brush it appeared to adequately address traffic and other environmental issues.

That assessment was based in part on the company's transportation plan, which envisioned traffic flowing in and out of the development on three roads that would connect to Bayfront Expressway/Marsh Road, Blomquist Street/Seaport Boulevard and a new Highway 101 bridge to Broadway in the Midpoint Technology Park area.

But eight months later, Arizona-based DMB Associates modified its application to remove the word "vehicle" from the description of the new Highway 101 bridge.

As a result, the bridge would only carry pedestrians, bicycle traffic and a streetcar that shuttles people through the development.

Redwood City Senior Planner Blake Lyon, who is overseeing the Saltworks application process, wouldn't speculate this week whether the revision may turn out to be a project killer, but he confirmed that additional traffic studies will have to be done to determine "what the existing roadways can hold."

The city's January 2010 report allowing the environmental review to proceed sounded rather conclusive, however.

"If any one of these major connections is found to be infeasible, it is unlikely that the full project could be developed since it would be difficult to provide sufficient roadway capacity in the remaining connections as currently presented," states the report, noting that Saltworks could add up to 7,000 vehicles to city roadways during peak commute times.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Water agency leaders oppose deal for proposed Cargill Redwood City development

by Paul Rogers, San Jose Mercury News - August 24, 2011

An Arizona company's plan to build the largest housing development on the shores of San Francisco Bay since the birth of Foster City more than 50 years ago is hitting a potentially significant new hurdle: lack of water.

DMB Associates of Scottsdale, Ariz., has proposed to build 12,000 homes in Redwood City east of Highway 101 on vacant lands once used by Cargill Salt.

On Tuesday, however, leaders at two prominent Silicon Valley water districts said they are opposed to helping the project acquire water through a complex transfer involving farming interests near Bakersfield.

"I'm not going to support something like that," said Don Gage, chairman of the Santa Clara Valley Water District's board. "It entangles you in a situation where you don't want to be. It doesn't do any good for the water district to be put in that position."

Similarly, Walt Wadlow, general manager of the Alameda County Water District, said his agency isn't interested in partnering with DMB to shift the Bakersfield water through its system to Redwood City.

"Alameda County Water District is not participating and has no intention of participating in providing a water supply for the DMB-Cargill Project," Wadlow said. "Numerous environmental issues have been raised with regard to this project and we have no interest in contributing to the ongoing controversy."

Environmentalists called the news a major setback. They have raised concerns about traffic, sea level rise, and other issues, and say they want the whole property converted back to wetlands for fish and wildlife.

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Monday, December 6, 2010

SF Chronicle Editorial: A Risky Development

San Francisco Chronicle, December 6, 2010

When DMB Associates, a developer from Scottsdale, Ariz., began talking to the city of Redwood City about building an enormous housing project on a sprawl of salt ponds near Highway 101, company officials were told that they had to find their own water solution.

"One of the first things we learned from Redwood City was that they're already upside-down on water," said DMB Associates Vice President David Smith.

So DMB put together a complex water transfer with a family from Bakersfield to buy enough water for their development - and, if needs be, to kick back a little water to Redwood City in tough times. The water agreement is precedent-setting, just like the development itself. But both of the precedents being set here are the wrong ones.

DMB struck a deal with Nickel Family LLC, a Bakersfield agriculture company that's made a fortune by marketing its water rights to developers in the Bakersfield area. For an undisclosed sum (that probably ran into the tens of millions of dollars), DMB will have 8,393 acre-feet of guaranteed water from the family - about 2.7 billion gallons, for as long as 70 years.

Because there's no way to move that water from Bakersfield up to Redwood City, the water exists only on paper. The Nickel family is supposed to now receive 8,393 acre-feet less water, while a water agency up north is supposed to increase its share from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Then, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission would move the extra water to Redwood City.

Confused yet? So are a number of observers in the Bay Area, who see everything about this water deal - and about this development - as something that California needs to avoid.

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

SJ Mercury News Editorial: Redwood City salt ponds not the right place for massive development

San Jose Mercury News, May 22, 2010

The Redwood City Council will likely approve a contract Monday for an environmental impact report on a proposal to build a small city on 1,400 acres of salt ponds bordering San Francisco Bay. The project is so controversial that more than 100 elected officials and several environmental groups, led by Save the Bay, are demanding it be killed now.

That's unlikely. Developer DMB Associates is determined to forge on — the project would be extremely lucrative — and council members have said they want a full analysis. DMB is footing the bill, so it's not outrageous for Redwood City to proceed. But our question is: Why bother?

The opposition from environmentalists is not just aesthetic. Concerns include the sea-level rising, liquefaction in the case of an earthquake and the viability of a controversial deal for a future water supply. We need housing, but this isn't the place for it.

This region has long been committed to restoring the fragile bay ecosystem. Despite DMB's pledge to restore about 400 acres to wetlands as part of the project, putting up to 12,000 houses and 25,000 people on this site would represent a stark reversal of that commitment. Redwood City's own General Plan puts it best: "Due to the sensitive nature of these open-space areas, it should be assumed that they will remain as open space forever."

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