Polling Firm Calls Residents about Saltworks Development

A resident supplied Patch with the survey questions.

Got an opinion? A polling firm wants to hear it.

Resident Judy Kirk told Redwood City Patch that a polling firm has called her home several times asking questions about the proposed Cargill Saltworks development.

Though she personally declined to participate, she said neighbors shared with her the questions that were asked.

Jay Reed, a spokesperson from DMB, said that the company has conducted polls over the past six to seven years to make sure that the "proposals are consistent with what the public wants," but could not comment on the timing or details of the polls, including the current one.

On the Occupy Saltworks Facebook page, resident Karen Zamel also confirmed that she received a call from survey company, FMA, at 9 p.m. on Tuesday.

“The questions and implications [were] quite disconcerting,” she wrote.  “Given how the questions were worded, the survey seemed to be funded by Cargill/DMB or the subsidiary company handling the development... We found questions to be purposefully vague and misleading -- like they were trying to trick us into saying we approve of this development when we don't.”

Questions from the polling firm:

How do you feel things are going in Redwood City?

  • right direction or wrong track


I’m going to read you a list of possible priorities for Redwood City ‐ which is the most important

  • Expand park and recreation facilities
  • Provide affordable housing
  • Reduce crime and gang‐related violence
  • Improve public schools
  • Reduce traffic congestion
  • Control growth and development
  • Attract new jobs and businesses

What would be your first priority and what would be your second choice?

Names of elected officials and groups. Please tell me if you believe each one is doing an excellent job, a good job, a fair job or a poor job.

  • The RWC Council
  • U.S. Congresswoman Anna Eshoo
  • RWC Councilmember Rosanne Foust
  • Jeff Ira
  • San Mateo County Board of Supervisors
  • Jackie Speier
  • Ian Bain
  • Barbara Pierce
  • Jeff Gee
  • John Seybert
  • Mayor Alicia Aguirre


Local taxes and fees in RWC taxes ‐ too high, too low or just right?


Do you support or oppose more growth and development in the city?

Names of organizations active in RWC: favorable or unfavorable ‐

  • Redwood City Industrial Saltworks
  • Save the Bay
  • Google
  • RWC Chamber of Commerce
  • Cargill Salt Company
  • Redwood City Neighbors United
  • Oracle
  • Sustainable Redwood City
  • Facebook
  • Occupy RWC
  • Silicon Valley Leadership Group


Facebook recently moved its headquarters to Menlo Park, planning to expand to 9000 employees. Is this a great idea, good idea, only a fair idea or a poor idea? How concerned are you about the traffic impact?


I’m going to read to you some different types of housing that are being discussed for RWC. Tell me whether you support or oppose.

  • Affordable housing for seniors on fixed incomes
  • Housing for working families
  • High density housing with connections to transit trains, busses and commuter ferries
  • Townhomes and condominiums
  • Housing for current and future employees of local technology companies
  • Affordable housing for teachers, nurses, police and firefighters


Have you seen or heard any information about the public outreach and planning effort to determine future uses for the RWC Industrial Saltworks? Where did you see or hear the information?


Would you say that you generally support or oppose it? Strongly, somewhat, etc.


RWC has conducted two years of meetings and studies on the 50/50 Balanced Plan for the 1,400 acre Industrial Saltworks site. The developer of the Saltworks site is revising that plan – a new plan will soon be filed. The new plan would preserve more than 60% of the site as open space. The remaining 40% of the site will be a mixed‐use of

  • housing for seniors, families and technology employees.
  • 2 million square feet of commercial
  • a new hotel
  • 23 acre sports park
  • 53 acre water park
  • bayside park hiking and biking trails
  • land and funds to build new schools
  • funds to improve local streets and highways


The plan will pay for itself and generate surplus funds each year for RWC and local schools.

Does this plan sound like something you would support or oppose. Why?


Now I’m going to read you some more information about this potential new plan for the RWC Industrial Saltworks site. Does this additional information make you more likely to support or oppose.

  • pays for itself and generates millions each year for RWC schools.
  • includes 1800 homes for seniors and 3600 homes affordable to working families.
  • provides $100 million to meet affordable housing needs of local working families and seniors
  • creates hundreds of new local jobs and generate $100 million in new business spending
  • includes several miles of trails along the SF bay.
  • allows technology companies such as Facebook, Oracle to expand in RWC
  • provides funds to expand and improve the Woodside Road interchange 101.
  • includes a 23 acre sports park
  • permanently preserves 860 acres or more than 60% of the site.
  • provides land that RWC can use to reduce or eliminate storm water flooding


Now that you’ve heard more, does this sound like something you would support or oppose?


Please tell me if the following makes you more likely to support the plan or more likely to oppose it.

  • reduces the amount of housing proposed for this site by more than half
  • preserves an additional 360 acres
  • may include $500 million in additional private funds to meet other local needs.


Project planners are considering how to use these private funds and investment dollars. I’m going to read you some potential uses for the funds and after you hear each one please tell me if you would support or oppose it.

  • To provide affordable housing for working families, seniors
  • To pay for transit
  • To reduce flooding
  • To construct or expand levies


Next, which of the following statements comes closest to your opinion:

  • Saltworks development should be rejected because this was once part of the SF Bay and should be fully restored
  • Saltworks should be approved because it preserves 60% of the site, while providing a huge boost in local jobs and consumer spending, affordable housing, parks and trails, and private investment.


Which of the three following options do you prefer:

  • Restore the site back to the way it looked 100 years ago
  • Approve the new plan with smaller development that has been proposed
  • Continue salt harvesting operations at the site and keep it off limits to the public


Would you support or oppose a new homeowner tax of $150 per year for 20 years to purchase and restore the site?


Which of the following options would you prefer?

  • The new plan which creates jobs / housing, new parks and bayside trails, room for technology companies to expand and preservation of 60% of the site.
  • Or, full restoration of the site paid for by a new tax of $150 per year for 20 years on all RWC homes.


A list of who supports / opposes development of Saltworks ‐ which do you find more credible on the issue.

  • A coalition of environmental groups, led by Save the Bay, the Committee for Green Foothills, and the Loma Prieta chapter of the Sierra Club.
  • A coalition of business and labor leaders who support development, including downtown businesses, senior citizen and affordable housing leaders

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Sue April 28, 2012 at 02:15 PM
I also received a survey call this week. I stopped the caller after a few questions to ask if this Saltworks sponsored. Yes it was.I refused to continue. Over the years I have received numerous survey calls from them. They are only interested in finding out how to make their project advertisements more palatable to the citizens of Redwood City.Money can buy your vote, and they have it!
Barb Valley April 28, 2012 at 02:34 PM
I would be interested in hearing from folks who were contacted wgho were not members of either Occupy Saltworks or Redwood City Neighbors United. And why refuse to participate in the poll? Seems like an opportunity to voice their opinions.
Sarah H. April 28, 2012 at 03:48 PM
I've received calls like this in the past, and in reading the questions you can kind of see how someone would answer positively to some of them, even if they are opposed to Saltworks. None of the questions mention the influx of, what was the number again?, 30,000 more people to Redwood City. Pollsters have long been known for the ability to frame questions in order to get the answers they seek. Would you like this shiny new sportscar, or the '76 Pinto? Nevermind the potential consequences of choosing the shiny new sportscar....
Lou Covey, The Local Motive April 28, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Barb, the thing is, it wouldn't matter to the opponents of the project if t cured cancer, ended world poverty and brought peace to the middle east. If a corporation can make a profit it must be bad.
Julie Abraham April 28, 2012 at 05:33 PM
There's a very good reason not to particpate in a poll: when the poll smacks of a push-poll. A push-poll is not designed to gather legitimate information. It is to seed misinformation in the minds of the community, and control public opinion to promote the ambition of the sponsor. Let's look at the question, "would you prefer 60% restoration of the site, or a $120 tax for the next 20 years to restore wetlands?" This is like saying "I am deeply interested in your opinion: would you prefer a slice of fresh baked cake, or a kick in the shins?" The only way out of this kind of manipulation is to look at our experience as a community: Bair Island, twice the size of this site, was restored with no financial imposition on the community. So, I'm not surprised that people are leery about having their opinions processed through a warped lens. They are intelligent, and know that this poll is not about listening and not about transparency. It is about manipulation. Will DMB step forward and claim it for their own?
Lou Covey, The Local Motive April 28, 2012 at 06:42 PM
Julie, that's not far from the same question Save the Bay pushed out in a poll last year.
Lou Covey, The Local Motive April 28, 2012 at 06:44 PM
Sue, so do you think they should be doing more to make the project less palatable?
Pavement is forever April 28, 2012 at 07:12 PM
Lou, not every decision should be made solely on whether a profit can be made (think schools, libraries, police and fire protection, public parks). Cargill wants to pave over 1,400 acres of restorable salt ponds next to Redwood City, filling in an area of wetlands larger than San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. It makes no sense to build a new city of 30,000 people on the East side of 101, destroying forever of the opportunity to restore this ecologically sensitive area. The development would be below sea level and have to be protected behind 8 to 10 foot tall levees at a time when global warming means that sea levels will continue to rise, risking flooding in future years much like New Orleans suffered. The Saltworks property is right in the path of the Pacific Flyway, host of nearly 300 species of migratory birds. This property should be part of the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge. http://www.fws.gov/desfbay. The land developer DBM's name is misspelled. It more correctly should be written as DUMB, DUMB, DUMB!
Lou Covey, The Local Motive April 28, 2012 at 09:40 PM
Pavement, I hear the rhetoric but it isn't accurate. They are not planning on paving over 1400 acres. What will actually be pavement will be about 100 acres. It will not be 30,000 people simply because that was the maximum they were looking at. It will probably be more like 12,000 max and more likely 6,000 when it is all done. It is not currently wetlands, but more than 400 acres will be within 8 years, rather than the 30 it took to do 100 acres on Bair Island. Right now, if we build no levees, everything will be underwater east of El Camino, including our current downtown, so something will still have to be done if the development is not done. And the government rejected the parcel for the refuge not because of the price of the land but because of the price of the restoration, which is greater than the cost of the land. I'm ready to get on board with a different idea as soon as someone start talking honestly about it.
Lou Covey, The Local Motive April 28, 2012 at 09:57 PM
Here's an interesting little discussed fact. 50 percent of the Saltworks site is set aside as an urban reserve. The definition is: “lands outside an urban growth boundary that will provide for: (a) Future expansion over a long-term period; and (b) The cost-effective provision of public facilities and service within the area when the lands are included within the urban growth boundary. So current zoning allows for "paving over" 700 acres.
Aaron April 28, 2012 at 10:40 PM
Here come lou and barb ... occupying (yet) another story about the Cargill/DMB Venture..... good to see you two (are still) earning your salts. but when a polling firm makes comments like "The plan will pay for itself and generate surplus funds each year for RWC and local schools." it seems to me to be more of a "propaganda" machine rather than a polliing machine
Roger Brina April 29, 2012 at 01:30 AM
FMA stands for Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates, Inc. They are a "public polling industry" firm based in Virginia that conducts interactive marketing via push-polling: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Push_poll FMA push-polls for tons of large, unethical corporations like Dow Chemical, right-wing think tanks and advocacy groups like the Cato Institute and the NRA, and tons of partisan, Republican advocacy groups. Below is their client list. Examine it and you will see that CARGILL is one of their clients: http://www.fabmac.com/client.html So this is definitely a Cargill-sponsored poll. "What these polls have in common is that they reveal 'findings' that their sponsors wish the public to believe as facts." - Chris Mooney, "John Zogby's Creative Polls" Thank you Judy Kirk and Patch for reporting on this development. P.S. I'm flattered that a giant, mega-corporation and agribusiness like Cargill that has been involved in environmental scandals and actions that harm working people around the globe has asked FMA to include ORWC in their polling.
Lou Covey, The Local Motive April 29, 2012 at 01:31 AM
Could be, Aaron. But only if you publicize the results. This year, DMB has taken about 3 surveys. So far, they have publicized none of their results. They do it for internal consumption, just like lots of other companies do. I've participated in 5 different surveys this past week. One from President Obama's re-election team. One from Romney's, one from a trade publication, one from MoveOn.org (they asked for money at the end) and one from a bank. It's a generally accepted practice to gain some understanding of where popular opinion exists.
Lou Covey, The Local Motive April 29, 2012 at 01:41 AM
Roger, thanks for that vital information. I checked your links and was truly stunned to find the following clients of FMA. New Jersey Association of Colleges & Universities Independent Charities of America Wampanoag Indian Nation Citizens for Affordable Health Care Minnesota Twins Federation of Public Employees That's a sinister bunch of clients, for sure. Why don't you go picket their offices. Better yet, Minnesota comes to the Oakland A's in August. You guys should go occupy the Coliseum. Block access to the parking lot. That should help.
Roger Brina April 29, 2012 at 02:01 AM
Way to distract from the point, as is your modus operandi: So what if non-"sinister" organizations contract out to FMA? The fact still stands that FMA is a company paid to conduct negative campaigning via push-polling for corporate behemoths like Cargill. Just because non-sinister orgs. are also on their client list doesn't change the fact that FMA is conducting an interactive marketing campaign in favor of Saltworks as their client Cargill has asked them to do. When we were called by FMA, we were asked if we "support or oppose growth and development." There was no option to specify what KIND of growth and development we support. FMA described DMB's revised plan in a very positive light. They claimed that 60% of the land would be restored and that there would be thousands of affordable housing units. They also said that if the land was restored, homeowners would have to pay $120 more of taxes a year. They tried to make restoration sound as negative as possible. Even without an advisory vote, Cargill is already campaigning. RWC residents are not stupid and see it happening already. FMA's function as a company is not to conduct an honest poll of what RWC residents feel, but to advocate for Cargill's position, regardless of how many innocuous organizations you can try and point to on FMA's client list to distract from the issue.
Lou Covey, The Local Motive April 29, 2012 at 04:35 AM
Um... Roger... You were the one that pointed to the client list. Not me. Don't get your knickers in a knot when I actually follow where you lead.
Barb Valley May 02, 2012 at 10:55 PM
Why, those sneaky so and so's, wanting to find out how the project could be better. Next they'll be holding workshops and public meetings. Oh wait! They did that.
Cheri Hahne June 26, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Does Lou Covey work for DMB/Cargill? The conversation seems to be centered on how much pavement and how the survey is slanted (no surprise if funded by DMB/Cargill,) while the major question is: Why does RWC want to discard it's award-winning, already-adopted General Plan? Why is the City Council ignoring SCHOOLS to be impacted by more kids as DMB/Cargill is not building & staffing new schools with the housing. The survey says some of the"annual profits" will go help fund existing local schools, but it's hard to enough annual profit to RWC schools when additional property tax revenue won't provide much in State-mandated (RWC doesn't decide how much we'll receive) school revenues. Do the math: 6,000-10,000 new residents with 30% kids = 1,800-3,000 additional kids entering impacted-to-the-gills RWC schools & high schools. And this won't be low-income & senior housing--it's "below market" or less than $800,000. Low income housing on the Peninsula is in the $300,00 range--can't imagine DMB/Cargill has that price in mind. If they use SAMCEDAs past low-income housing % of the total new housing, it'll be 10% or less--60 to 100 units. Who cares how much or little paving there is when the trade-off is more overcrowding in our schools and our kids getting even less in education w/o our real housing needs being met? Trails & parks are nice, but...
residentwithopinions June 26, 2012 at 04:27 PM
I think what people are forgetting here is that Cargil WILL BUILD one day, it's just a matter of time. So why not work with them so we can make a development everybody can agree on rather than always being so negative about it. Just like Mel's Bowl, big privately funded corporations that come in to build will do it and they can help the area at the same time. Lou is the most even keeled fact based poster on Patch no doubt because of all his experience, just look at his linked in Profile!
Lou Covey, The Local Motive June 26, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Gee. Thanks. I was going to bow out of this considering there is no project and I'm a little tired of the bickering. I'm of the opinion that we probably won't see a development out there. What we will probably see is a swath of warehouses and then some wetland restoration at an enormous cost to the taxpayer. We won't see any significant tax revenue, or jobs, or housing, Friendly Acres will see even more flooding as sea levels rise and the schools will continue to be crowded and underfunded. In other words, status quo. At least it is something we can count on, right? But I read something the other day from Seth Godin: "The single most appropriate question to someone who attacks, dismisses or trolls: 'What are you afraid of?' It's incredibly easy to tear someone down, easier still to criticize an idea. The more vehement the opposition, though, the deeper the fear.: So I've come to realize that the people that opposed the project are very fearful people. I'm not sure what they are afraid of and I'm pretty sure they aren't either. When you are gripped by a faceless, amorphous fear, your arguments for doing something tend to be as ill-defined as the fear. And when you are set to tear something down, no amount of logic or fact can dissuade you from your goal. Like Occupy Redwood City' James Lee said so often, he doesn't need an education to know what he doesn't want. And. no, I don't work for Cargill or DMB.
Cheri Hahne June 28, 2012 at 05:24 PM
The only thing " the people" are afraid of is our politicians not doing what "the people" who elected them have voted on. RWC residents have approved the existing 20-yr general plan, which addresses growth & development, and we want execution of the plan as approved. It's not fear, it's fair.


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