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Enviro Group Slams Saltworks Developer

DMB spokesman says environmentalist group's assertions are factually inaccurate.

A Bay Area environmentalist group assailed developers seeking approval for a bayside project they say would imperil wetlands that play a critical role in protecting the San Francisco Bay from pollution.

"Save the Bay" spokesman Stephen Knight in a statement on Tuesday pointed to a filing Arizona-based DMB Associates made with two federal agencies earlier this year requesting regulatory clarification that he says illustrates the companies disregard for basic environmental protections.

DMB in May scrapped a controversial proposal to build 12,000 homes on the 1,400-acre Cargil Sand Ponds parcel.

The proposal had been in the works for three years.

A DMB spokesman said his group is seeking clarification from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency before proposing a scaled-back plan.

DMB's 370-page public filing, Knight says, argues that the salt ponds sit on unregulated land and that "all the Bay water Cargill uses to evaporate and make salt – it’s not water at all."

Knight described the developer's assertion as attempt to circumvent environmental law.

"These key environmental laws are critical tools in limiting the pollution of our waterways and preventing unnecessary fill that destroys our wetlands, so important to the Bay," Knight said.

"Those protections could jeopardize Cargill’s ability to fill and destroy these baylands. And so the (developer's) new strategy is to get federal agencies to declare the ponds “exempt,” because Cargill is convinced it is above the law."

DMB spokesman David Smith said Knight's statement mischaracterized his group's arguments.

"It is completely wrong," he said.

"We do not argue that no salt ponds are jurisdictional. We make the case that the industrial facility - industrial portions of one particular site - are not subject to the Clean Water Act or the Rivers and Harbors Act.

"It's narrowly focused to one particular industrial facility that was permitted by the federal government in 1940."

Smith said he had no estimate for how long it would take the federal agencies to complete their reviews, saying his only expectation was that the review be comprehensive.

Asked if he thought the expected timeframe was closer to two months or two years, he said "hopefully, it's closer to two months."

"We'll bring (a revised proposal) forward to the city once we complete the process of getting clarity from the federal agencies," Smith said.

DMB in a statement posted on its website says the revised development will provide the community affordable housing and recreational amenities including parks, sports fields and miles of hiking and bicycling trails.  

But a coalition of environmentalist groups have joined "Save the Bay" in their fight to stop DMB from ever breaking ground on the Redwood City project. Earlier this year, "Occupy Saltworks" formed as an offshoot of "Occupy Redwood City."

Smith insists his group won't cave to pressure from environmentalist groups to walk away from the project.

"We're very committed" to pursuing the development project, Smith said. "We wouldn't have taken all that time and expense to prepare that filing if we weren't, and believe me, a lot effort went into that."

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Occupy Cargill September 26, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Just wanted to leave a comment here, before Lou Covey. Lou Covey is CEO of Footwasher Media ... a company which uses social media to generate positive 3rd party press. Lou regularly "Occupies" patch stories about this subject and comments using multiple accounts to make it look like many people are in support. Lou also started an agency called "Sustainable Redwood City" which is pretty much a result of his accepting a contract with DMB and Cargill to generate positive press for this development. As you can see by this website, he also took money from the Uccelli foundation which is currently using it's political ties to fast track a development at pete's harbor. Many people accuse Lou of being 1%. Trust me when I say this ... Lou is NOT the 1% ... he is just a paid tool of them.
Michael Craig September 26, 2012 at 05:10 PM
I watched the NIMBY's fight the Bay Meadows Race Track Development for nearly a decade which finally got approved in 2008 right at the economic downturn. The Racetrack was losing money for years and was private property but yet the anti-development people fought it for years even though it was a good project going to be a Transit Corrider Development Project since it was so close to Caltrains. Now we have another company trying to convert wasted space(sorry environmentalists) that was formerly used as a working salt pond. Interestingly, the County Board of Supervisors immediately voted no on this project but in the same week said a resounding Yes to building a prison less than 50 yards from a Family Entertainment Center in Redwood City. The Saltworks redevelopment would have created housing, commerical mixed use properties, revitalized and defunct area and instead the County votes for a multi million dollar prison project that the county can't afford and brings no value to the area. Am I missing something or do we have our priorities a bit screwy in Redwood City?
Tim O'Leary September 26, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Spend some time down in the "salt flats" and you will see it is not exactly a "wildlife habitat". If you walk down the trail at the end of Whipple Ave. you'll see the wildlife everywhere. Sorry environmentalists your not doing your homework. Your right Michael, what animal is hanging out there except for the "brine shrimp"!
Reality Check September 26, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Sadly hilarious . DMB's Smith claims Save The Bay is "completely wrong" and then goes on to say: "We make the case that the industrial facility - industrial portions of one particular site" (Cargill's RWC bay salt evaporator ponds) "are not subject to the Clean Water Act or the Rivers and Harbors Act" ... which is to say that Save The Bay is completely right! Maybe this Smith guy is Mitt Romney's separated-at-birth brother? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HD_sutOpCws
Richard Vaughan September 26, 2012 at 06:43 PM
Tim, restoring habitat takes time. FYI, former DMB salt flats have already been converted in the north bay. In our neck of the woods, if you look to the right as you go over the Dumbarton, you will see that those salt flats have recently been converted and there is already wildlife and birds reappearing. The process takes years. As for Michael's assertions...hmmmmm, let's see. Everytime I drive through San Mateo, it is a crapshoot around Hillsdale as to whether the traffic will back-up. So, let me get this right, at Woodside Rd, you are going to build 12,000 homes adding 22,000 more cars onto already clogged highways. All I see is more impacted infrastructure & less use of public transit. The Future? 101 becomes a parking lot at 2PM rather than 4:30. Everyone west of El Camino turns to 280, thus impacting Farm Hill & Edgewood. 280 becomes a parking lot at 3:30 rather than 5. Quality of life in Redwood City will be highly NEGATIVELY IMPACTED. If this is what you want, then you should agree with DMB. BTW, it is not about the location of a jail. That is a distraction and not relevant to this discussion. 50/50 was never viable. To get my vote, it should have been something more along the lines of 80/20 with the 20 just being sports fields and parks. Commercial & residentail redevelopment should focus on existing transit corridors. Smart Growth not based upon the greed of DMB.
Chip Krug September 26, 2012 at 08:10 PM
You mention groups opposing the Saltworks project, but failed to mention one specifically formed to oppose it: Redwood City Neighbors United. It seems to me that Cargill has extracted profit from this land for 70 years. Now it's time to turn it back over to the people so it can be used for a public value, like filtering water from our polluted streams, and buffering Redwood City from sea level rise and flooding.
Corrin Trowbridge September 26, 2012 at 10:29 PM
All this noise is just that! Lets see what they come back with and then let the voters of Redwood City decide if they want it , or not. They already voted on this once and it passed easily. My hope is that they will choose what could be a revolutionary development, leading the nation with a great example of urban planning, while incorporating the natural habitat.
Reality Check September 27, 2012 at 12:29 AM
Wow, spoken just like a real estate pro developer type! The voters have *never* voted on paving Cargill's bay lands. If it's great urban planning you want, then it will have to be infill development closer to the core and Caltrain / El Camino transit corridors.
Occupy Cargill September 27, 2012 at 12:38 AM
Actually, The developers didn't want this to go to voters. The plan was pulled when City Council started talking about this going to a vote. I agree ... let's have some public hearings and let the voters decide.
Mark Casaretto September 27, 2012 at 04:55 PM
The proposed Saltworks site is bay habitat that has been degraded by Cargill for decades. To call it a wasteland and only good for development is inaccurate. One only has to look at the dozens of former salt evaporators that have been brought back to life; teeming with wildlife. Our local San Fransico Bay National Wildlife Refuge,headquartered in Newark, has many examples of what can be accomplished. Restoring a marshland takes times; it won't happen overnight. The proposed Saltworks site is not a wasteland, as so many believe, good only for development. It is a former wetland degraded by Cargill for decades. Our local San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, headquartered in Newark, has many examples of former salt evaporators restored to living marshes. Get out and learn the history of our Bay, it doesn't just have to be a legacy of fill and build. There are many restoration successes;many projects on going right now.
Cheri Hahne September 27, 2012 at 05:36 PM
When DMB identifies a local water source that doesn't drain the Bay or cost any Redwood City residents anything--ever--I will begin to take their proposals seriously. Right now, all proposals to date involve acquiring water, through piping and pumping, from elsewhere in the State. If the local environment can't support and sustain local development, the proposal is not environmentally friendly.
Paul Stewart September 27, 2012 at 05:41 PM
This is hilarious... "Dog Bites Man" stuff... what's 'Save the Bay' (STB) going to say? "Our bad - we're really not elitists or NIMBYs and fact is, we do need more housing in RWC plus the other amenities the Saltworks project will provide." Puhl-leease; though it is interesting since STB is located in Oakland but they're trying to dictate to Redwood City how to plan your community. And this all started with Occupy Cargill's (STB's) polemic against Lou Covey, which would be laughable if it wasn't so pathetic. Lou Covey has more integrity and sincerity in his little toe than all of STB/Occupy Cargill.
Jamie S. September 27, 2012 at 09:48 PM
The "opponents" comments are always the same...scare tactics! From my understanding (and I've been following this since the beginning of this), there is NO plan filed with the city now, they've said they would come back with a smaller project, so don't use the 12,000 new homes to scare people. The water issue? RWC officials said they couldn't build unless they found their own water supply (and that's not just a RWC rule, that's the law). I don't think the water solution had been finalized yet, so maybe we should wait to see what they come up with before leading people to believe they are "pumping and piping water" here. That's not how water transfers work anyway. These are the same old arguements over and over but there is nothing to even argue about at this point. Let's wait to see what gets filed and then vet it from there. And yes, then let RWC residents decide what to do! As far as I can tell, DMB is doing the responsible thing by getting federal clarification first.
Jamie S. September 27, 2012 at 09:49 PM
The "opponents" comments are always the same...scare tactics! From my understanding (and I've been following this since the beginning of this), there is NO plan filed with the city now, they've said they would come back with a smaller project, so don't use the 12,000 new homes to scare people. The water issue? RWC officials said they couldn't build unless they found their own water supply (and that's not just a RWC rule, that's the law). I don't think the water solution had been finalized yet, so maybe we should wait to see what they come up with before leading people to believe they are "pumping and piping water" here. That's not how water transfers work anyway. These are the same old arguements over and over but there is nothing to even argue about at this point. Let's wait to see what gets filed and then vet it from there. And yes, then let RWC residents decide what to do! As far as I can tell, DMB is doing the responsible thing by getting federal clarification first.
Occupy Cargill September 28, 2012 at 01:12 AM
The term "scare tactics" is an unfair generalization of opposition to future development on the saltworks site. While I expect that such arguments will undoubtedly be effective to campaign against the development if it comes to a vote, I find the majority of opposing voices to be thoughtful, concerned, and evidence based. This is a very divisive subject because there are many things to consider. environmental and economic issues, traffic, public services, water, tax revenue, police, fire, schools .... the list goes on and on. Cargill will have no trouble coming up with the financial and political resources required for a federal endorsement of legal exemption. To address Cheri's concern regarding water supply, Developers will point to a desalination plant in the next proposal which we will start to have more details about in Jan or Feb. The likelihood that this will come to an advisory vote is high, given the political fiasco which will ensue once a new "scaled back" proposal is on the table. Because of Chamber of Commerce and SAMCEDA ties, Councilpersons Gee and Foust acted with great delicacy and grace (despite suffering vehement personal attacks). Councilperson Ira is not too bright, but can be counted on to recommend an advisory vote, as he has in the past when totally clueless. the below article may be of interest to some in this thread http://redwoodcity-woodside.patch.com/articles/councilman-bain-why-i-support-an-advisory-vote
Occupy Cargill September 28, 2012 at 01:17 AM
and Jamie S. = Lou Covey / footwasher media here is the profile : http://redwoodcity-woodside.patch.com/users/jamie-s-8e59d353 accounted created today to make this one post... if you see some of the other posts made by Lou, you will see very similar language. I'm surprised that "resident with opinions" and "barb valley" haven't showed up yet. But we have all come to consensus now anyway ... Let's see a proposal, have a public hearing, and then take an advisory vote.
Reality Check September 28, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Nice job on exposing Covey's "astro-turfing" (vs. "grass roots") activism. One can't help but suspect people who do sort of thing are receiving (or expect) some form of compensation from the beneficiary(ies) of their efforts. And *if* that is what's going on, it would really reflect on the sleaziness of DMB/Cargill. At any rate, on the water issue. I really don't care if they do have all the water they need and more. It's just one of a great litany problems with paving the Bay and inappropriately placing a huge new auto-dependent (notwithstanding Cargill/DMB's cynical and transparently hopeless attempts at transit "greenwashing") subdivison cut off from the rest of the city. Dumb growth vs. smart growth. At at the same time, as demonstrated with other former salt evaporator ponds, destroying easily-restorable Baylands and critical habitat better suited for everyone to enjoy in its restored, natural state.
Lori Go October 01, 2012 at 01:17 PM
1) I don't want the saltworks to turn into another Foster City. 2) The saltworks should be converted to parkland. The Bayland parks in Palo Alto should be the model for this. 3) The citizens of Redwood City already voted against any housing development in this area. Signifying they want a park area instead of housing too.
Enquiring Mind October 02, 2012 at 05:12 AM
Talk is cheap. Let's see some evidence to support your claims.
Enquiring Mind October 02, 2012 at 05:14 AM
When exactly did "The citizens of Redwood City already voted against any housing development in this area. Signifying they want a park area instead of housing too"?
What are you thinking January 03, 2013 at 02:22 AM
With that logic, you dont mind if I take your house you and your parents have and where you grew up in and turn in over to public use, like a basketball court...Its 70 years old and should be back in the "public hands"
Occupy Cargill January 09, 2013 at 03:40 AM
lol ... you been to Chip's house? Looks to me like it's wide open for public use. Unlike Chip's house where just about anyone is welcomed, salt ponds are not property; "Cargill's" salt ponds are a portion of wetland buffer which have been damned up, flooded and drained constantly for a century and polluted to the point that operation is no longer economically viable. Cargill has risen to become one of the largest privately held corporations in the world. The money it would cost would be a fraction of 1% of last year's earnings alone. Their claim to the salt ponds is as preposterous as me saying "I own the bay because my grandfather has been fishing in it since before leslie salt came along" Doesn't matter anyway. There won't be any Development on the salt ponds any time soon XD rcnu.org, save the bay, occupy saltworks, and occupy cargill will be tested again with this issue, but meanwhile cargill and DMB are waiting for it to blow over a little bit.

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