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.
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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