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Occupy: Why We Oppose the Saltworks Development

Occupy Saltworks explains why it felt the need to create another opposition group to the proposed Cargill/DMB development.

Courtesy of Occupy Redwood City, as read aloud at the Monday, April 23 city council meeting

Editor's Notes: An inaccurate statement about a community member and her organization was removed from this opinion piece. The Peter Uccelli Foundation is solely supported by donations from the Uccelli family.  It receives no outside funding. It accepts no donations from corporations and is not associated with any for-profit corporation.

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As Redwood City residents, as Occupiers, and as concerned citizens, we have to join hands and oppose the development project being pushed forward by Cargill, DMB, and their friends on the City Council.

Occupy Saltworks is not a group of knee-jerk reactionaries who are afflicted with "Not In My Back Yard" Syndrome and as such we have not come to this decision lightly. Within our group we have environmentalists, but we also have people with backgrounds in marine science, people from labor who are concerned about union jobs, people who fight for poor and low-income communities, and people who advocate for affordable housing.

It is for all these reasons that we oppose the Saltworks development and the Environmental Impact Report being written by DMB's hand-picked consultants.
We want our city to grow, but we want it done right. Cargill wants to give DMB Associates carte blanche to build 12,000 new housing units on what used to be salt ponds out in the Bay.

While Occupy Saltworks agrees that Redwood City needs more housing, what we need is more affordable housing built near our existing transit corridors that include 101, Caltrain, and El Camino Real. Building 12,000 units out on the Bay waters increases sprawl and local traffic dramatically, undermining DMB's argument that they are building housing for Redwood City in the name of smart, transit-oriented growth. This is blatant greenwashing of a project that poses serious risks for Redwood City.

Proponents argue that increasing the housing stock in our city will help to stop the skyrocketing rent prices on the Peninsula. However, as affordable housing advocates, we know that there is no requirement for Cargill and DMB to make any of the 12,000 housing units they're proposing actually affordable to the people who live or work in our city.

As we have observed recently since the contentious city council meeting where our Council , we know that our City Council has done a poor job of fighting for affordable housing. We have seen officials make lip service to the idea of increasing the stock of affordable housing units, while at the same time proposing no city ordinances or taking even the most basic of first steps to move in that direction.

We are also fighting to protect our working class communities and communities of color. We know that the people to be most adversely affected by the development will be the economically disadvantaged and people of color who reside in Redwood City’s mobile home parks, next door to where Saltworks wants to build. Being right next to the proposed construction sites means that these families and their children will face decades of industrial pollution, noise, and increased traffic.

We also know that unless the City Council shows that they can back up their lip service on affordable housing with concrete actions to protect these underserved communities, the most economically disadvantaged people in our city will be priced out of Redwood City altogether once building begins on the luxury units that are proposed in the Saltworks development.

We demand that the salt ponds be restored to open space so that those who live in these underserved communities will have a natural resource all their own, just as those who live in Emerald Hills are able to enjoy Edgewood Park.

Sea level rise is documented and happening. Our city's mobile home parks already experience on a regular basis. Building what would amount to a separate small town on top of salt ponds out in the Bay - an area of high flood risk and high potential for liquefaction during an extreme earthquake event - would be one of the most anti-green, unsustainable developments even seen in the Bay Area and our country. 

Restoring the site to natural wetlands would provide a natural buffer from floods and rising sea levels, as well as creating a green space that would remove significant levels of carbon dioxide from our atmosphere.

We also want to protect local commerce and good union jobs. One argument often made is that "labor wants Saltworks," but it is important to know that the San Mateo County Labor Council last fall had to admonish some of their local affiliates for coming out against the Saltworks development.

It's important to know that our port unions who represent the workers at the Port of Redwood City to the Saltworks development. They understand that the industrial activities at the port are incompatible with a large luxury housing development, and they know that if housing of the sort proposed by DMB is built, the industrial activities at the port and the union jobs that go with them will eventually be pushed out of Redwood City altogether. The Port of Redwood City is the Bay’s only deepwater port and as such is a vital node of commerce that is essential to our city's economy.

As Occupiers we oppose the corporate takeover of government at the national level, but we've come together as Occupy Saltworks to highlight that even locally our government works for the wrong people.

As reported by the Bay Citizen two years ago, council member Rosanne Foust was exposed by the Fair Political Practices Commission as having a gross conflict of interest in advocating for the Saltworks development while also being CEO of the San Mateo County Economic Development Association, a pro-business lobby which has endorsed and stands to gain from the Saltworks project. It's important to point out we are not just concerned about Foust: the giant agribusiness Cargill, which is partnering with developer DMB Associates on the development, is also a member of her organization.

Cargill is a massive, private out-of-state firm that has given another out-of-state for-profit company in DMB the authority to plan for Redwood City. They have spent lavish amounts of money in our city convincing officials, business groups, and others of the need for the Saltworks development.

At every turn, the Saltworks development show us how much moneyed interests have infiltrated our fair city's government, and we think it's time for that to stop.

This is about the 99% fighting back against the 1%. It’s about the future of our city. Occupy Saltworks believes it’s time to return the voice of the people back to the community. It is time to take back our voice from the business executives, government officials, and the corporate interests that keep them in power.

It is time for those of us who care about the future of our city to fight back against those who would turn it into a sprawling, poorly-planned enclave for the rich and to make sure that our city remains a vibrant place that, unlike many other cities and towns on the Peninsula, is open to everyone regardless of class and background. It is time to take a stand.

We are the 99%.

 

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Lou Covey, The Local Motive April 23, 2012 at 06:24 PM
"It's important to know that our port unions who represent the workers at the Port of Redwood City are opposed to the Saltworks development." Point of fact, they are "concerned" as your link points out. The concerns expressed by the people directly affected are being addressed. "We know that the people to be most adversely affected by the development will be the economically disadvantaged and people of color who reside in Redwood City’s mobile home parks... Being right next to the proposed construction sites means that these families and their children will face decades of industrial pollution, noise, and increased traffic." Point of fact, the communities you address are quite well integrated and not merely a ghetto for "people of color" and they already have to deal with traffic, noise and industrial pollution. They also have to deal with flooding. There is no clear majority in those communities on whether they want the development to happen. They are, however, consistently heard about their concerns and like the port unions, their concerns are being considered. "John Bruno, a Senior Vice President of DMB who is in charge of the Saltworks plan, is a director at the Redwood City Chamber of Commerce." Question" Since Greg Greenway from the Seaport Industrial Association, one of the organizations that don't necessarily like the idea of the development, is also a director at the chamber, should we disregard his position because he serves on the chamber board?
Barb Valley April 23, 2012 at 11:41 PM
My thoughts, Part 1 “We oppose the Saltworks development and the Environmental Impact Report being written by DMB's hand-picked consultants”. Consultants are not writing the EIR, they are working on the new project description “We needaffordable housing built near our existing transit corridors that include 101”. 101 is less than 3 miles away. The initial proposal included 15% affordable or below market rate housing. “there is no requirement for Cargill and DMB to make any of the 12,000 housing units they're proposing actually affordable to the people who live or work in our city”. There is no requirement for any developer to include any affordable or below market rate housing in a development. There is, however, an incentive to do so. “where our Council approved the Mel's Bowl housing development, we know that our City Council has done a poor job of fighting for affordable housing.” Remember that incentive I mentioned? The Mel’s Bowl developers decided not to avail themselves of it. “[City Council has proposed] no city ordinances or taking even the most basic of first steps to move in that direction” Who says the City Council has to take the steps? Write something up, gather the signatures in support and walk it through the process..
Barb Valley April 23, 2012 at 11:42 PM
My thoughts PART 2 “economically disadvantaged and people of color who reside in Redwood City’s mobile home parks”. Have you visited these Mobile Home Parks?. “Our city's mobile home parks already experience low-level flooding on a regular basis”. As do nearby commercial and industrial, as well as the Friendly Acres neighborhood including Stanford Medical Offices. Not as the result of sea level rise but because the storm water during major rain storms funneling from our neighbors Menlo Park and Atherton has nowhere to go when the Bay is at high tide. 69 percent of the land area in Atherton, Menlo Park and unincorporated areas contribute water run-off into the basins. The initial Saltworks proposal had plans to mitigate that flooding. “Restoring the site to natural wetlands would provide a natural buffer from floods and rising sea level”. How long do you suppose that’ll take considering there are now some 40,000 acres of restorable wetlands waiting to be restored – no $$.
Barb Valley April 23, 2012 at 11:48 PM
And finally - My thoughts Part 3 PART 3 I could go on but I won’t. It obviously does no good to point out that the claims of 12000 homes, etc made by OS and other opponents is OBE since last November when the developer pulled back its initial proposal and has been working with its consultants on a new project description. At present the City is awaiting receipt of the new project description. The opponents know this. They just choose to ignore it. Occupy is the left's answer to the right's Tea Party folks. Both scream and shout and will not compromise to really solve problems. Easier to blame than do. Everyone "wants" to solve problems, no one "willing" to do it. Because willing means living with compromise and solutions.
4freedom April 24, 2012 at 07:51 PM
Barbera wrote: "Occupy is the left's answer to the right's Tea Party folks. Both scream and shout and will not compromise to really solve problems. Easier to blame than do. Everyone "wants" to solve problems, no one "willing" to do it. Because willing means living with compromise and solutions." This couldn't be further from the truth. Occupy is not left at all, occupy is not right at all. Occupy are people who care they do not pick sides, they pick community. As far as solving the problem, in the case of salt works, doing nothing and letting nature do it for us is the answer. If you believe in a God you can say it's God's answer. It wouldn't cost the city anything to just let the cargill salt flats go back to a natural habitat. That is the great thing about nature, it's free!
Lou Covey, The Local Motive April 24, 2012 at 08:00 PM
4, that's not quite accurate. It cost the cost Redwood City several hundred thousand dollars to initiate the restoration of Bair Island, which was, essentially, already wetlands. The salt flats as they are today are several orders of magnitude more toxic and difficult than the Bair Island project. And the cost for restoring the 40,000 acres already set aside for restoration is $1.2 billion according to the Army Corps of Engineers. Just because you think something should be simple doesn't make it so.
Roger Brina April 25, 2012 at 12:26 AM
"Just because you think something should be simple doesn't make it so." The Saltworks proponents should heed their own words.
Roger Brina April 25, 2012 at 12:30 AM
"Have you visited these Mobile Home Parks?" Yes, we have, and ORWC was involved in cleanup efforts after the horrific fire at Le Mar. We also brought a Le Mar resident t o city council to get him help on code violations and neglect because his attempts at contacting the proper people were going nowhere.
Roger Brina April 25, 2012 at 12:34 AM
As a person with a science background it baffles me that anyone thinks "compromise" is an acceptable solution to a project that anyone with even the most basic grasp of marine sciences, geology, physical oceangraphy, and/or climate change understands is a misguided proposal on its face. No one with any basic knowledge of how our ecosystem works here in the Bay Area needs an EIR to tell them that this project is fundamentally flawed and dangerous for the city. P.S. http://bit.ly/IQrzBM
Roger Brina April 25, 2012 at 12:41 AM
So what if Greg Greenway is on the chamber board? No one's arguing that everyone should revoke their chamber membership. The point is to underscore how deeply Cargill and their property development wing DMB have infiltrated our city with money, networking, PR firms that specialize in greenwashing, influence-gathering, and more. One of our Occupiers mentioned that at the Earth Day event at the Marine Sciences Institute staffers were wearing t-shirts with the Cargill logo, an ironic twist considering how many environmental scandals Cargill has been responsible for around the globe. If you think that the fight between Cargill/DMB/their supporters versus those opposed to the project like Occupy Saltworks or RCNU is in any way a fair and equal battle when one side has the overwhelming majority of money and influence you're sadly mistaken.
Lou Covey, The Local Motive April 25, 2012 at 03:31 AM
Roger, I have great respect for what scientists do. I am not a scientist. I am a writer and a historian. I know that mankind is capable of great things, in spite of a loud chorus of people, many of them scientists, who tell visionaries that something can't be done. In fact, I have had many people try to say what I could not do. There were doctors that said I could not survive past 6 weeks, but here I am. There was an English teacher who said I would have better luck being a day laborer than trying to live by writing, but here I am. When people tell me what can't be done, I like to see if there might actually be a way. You, as a scientist, tell me that we can't build a smart community on 400 acres of salt evaporation ponds, even before a plan is put forth for consideration. I tend to ask, "Why not?" rather than listen to someone who has yet to bring forth a cogent argument in opposition. I'm certainly glad that Galileo didn't give up when "conventional wisdom" said otherwise.
4freedom April 30, 2012 at 05:09 PM
Lou what I said is true otherwise I would not say it. The money that was spent on the restoration of Bair Island was due to lack of patience. Bair island would have restored itself naturally and free also. The price that you are referring to is accelerated restoration. In other words restoration sped up to meet man's agenda. That does cost money. Eventually nature will take it's place. Why would it have to be in our lifetime? Are we that selfish of a human race to make everything run on our time? The only reason for something natural to cost money is because our sick human selfishness wants it to cost money. Nobody will suffer if we leave the salt flats alone. Many will suffer if we build expensive homes on top of it. On top of toxic waste.
Patrick Cleeves October 16, 2012 at 03:12 AM
I am a citizen a Redwood City with no connection to the project other than personal interest and research. I am going to try write light heartedly, but it is hard when people take another movements motes and try and use them in a completely different, irreverent arena. You are making the people who are fighting for a better economic system look bad. #1 The harbor union: How do you think that Salt Works will get all of their building materials to the site. Drive it down 101 during rush hour? If I was moneyed, I would invest in the harbor as they will have the best few years they have seen since there were Redwoods to ship out. If you are so worried about your jobs, how bout you put a clause in that the harbor has to stay, or obey the regulation and keep your toxic metals and cement out of the bay and air. I use both facilities and it is nice paying low prices, but that is not the price of business. #2 Economics 101 low income housing: The value of any man made asset will depreciate, unless or until it becomes collectable. You don't want them to build shitty housing that will only get worst, wait the ten years till you can afford it. Unless, that is, they are allowed to build them with the quality that they are talking about and the value will stay high because of demand. If you can not afford it, move out of the most expensive living area in the world and take enough friends with you, the prices will drop. That is only if they are not allowed to develop the park
Patrick Cleeves October 16, 2012 at 03:12 AM
, public transit and wetlands that they are proposing because everyone in the world is hopping for living areas like that. This is bay front housing, with insane parks and access; affordable, are you insane, wait your time or get a better job like I am trying to do. (That also means pay fair prices, but that is another story..)!!!! #3 If you want more houses, where will you put them? Way up in the hills!!!!!! #4 You are really arguing against a developer throwing millions at creating a wet land out of land fill. This is fill we are talking about, it was never land in the first place until the gold rush. #5 Where else with easy access are you going to get 10 sports fields and at the developers cost, OOO and low income like me are welcome to it. Those fields will make Red Morton look tiny. #6 floods. The trailer park floods because the flood prevention ponds are beyond neglect. Have any of you gone and looked at the ponds that are supposed to hold water during high tide. Not only are the Saltworks real grass fields the answer, they are willing to dike all of Redwood City that is not already protected from the rising seas caused by people sitting in traffic all day, having cheap, horribly in-efficient houses and more "private space" then they know what to do with.
Patrick Cleeves October 16, 2012 at 03:12 AM
If you want something to complain about, contact MHenderson@dmbinc.com, take a tour of the barren waist of land and talk to the man about what they see happening. Then, make it pass, make sure they are restoring and giving us field and make sure that the houses are as clean as they want and help them push Stanford to allow an over pass for buses that they are pushing for. I want to see the trolley to down town, I want to see paragon falcon nests, I want to see wind turbines, but there is no way they will or can do it with all this back lash. It is a burin waist land, talk to the decision makers and do something about it instead of complaining and wasting a good opportunity. It is a salt mine that they are offering great things with. Fields, close housing with no yards but huge parks, public transit.... and wet lands on their nickel. No wonder nothing get done any more, people just want to complain instead of creating useful change.
Barb Valley October 16, 2012 at 04:26 AM
Patrick, DMB pulled their proposal. MHenderson as well as the ohers who were worknig on the project are no longer with DMB, It's OBE.

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