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Opinion: Port Benefits to the Peninsula are as Important as Housing

An opinion piece on the Cargill project by a member of the Seaport Industrial Association.

By Greg Greenway, Executive Director of the Seaport Industrial Association

 

Amid the controversy over Cargill’s proposal to develop its Redwood City salt ponds, there is one notable point of agreement: the Port of Redwood City and adjacent industry provide major benefits that must be preserved.

City and business leaders understand that Seaport industry is a vital asset to the entire region. Environmental groups that oppose Saltworks emphasize the value of the Port, and some labor unions are concerned about the project’s impact on industrial jobs.

Even the Saltworks developer intends to use products from the Port for construction.

This consensus is well deserved. Seaport industry provides hundreds of family-wage jobs, local products for Peninsula residents and public works, and a huge source of recycling in the Bay Area. The use of water and rail to ship cargo dramatically reduces air pollution and traffic congestion.

Seaport Industrial Association (SIA) represents most industrial businesses in the port area. Our public comments have been cited by others to support their positions against Saltworks, so it is timely to clarify our stance.

SIA has not taken a position on whether the Cargill site should be developed. Our message is simple—if the community decides that some portion of the property should be developed, then good planning principles require that any project should work well with existing businesses.

Location is everything for maritime- and rail-related industry. SIA members invest heavily in their businesses because they need strategic access to water, rail and the freeway. They also have nowhere else to go, locally.  Conditions that are necessary for industrial operations such as noise, nighttime lights, weekend work and so forth, are not appropriate in other parts of the developed community.

Regarding the Saltworks Environmental Impact Report (EIR), SIA makes three points:

 

  • The current proposal does not do enough to ensure land-use compatibility. It makes no sense—for future homeowners or the City—to locate new homes immediately across the street from heavy industry.

 

  • The transportation plan as described in the project application is much too vague to be studied in an EIR. Until the proposal is more detailed, it is impossible to assess the project’s impacts on traffic.

 

  • SIA has confidence in the public process. Most of our EIR comments are practical recommendations about how to study land-use compatibility and traffic impacts. City leaders have wisely pursued a planning process that gives the developer an opportunity to change the project design before beginning the EIR.

 

SIA is reserving judgment, pending the next version of the project. Realistic strategies to address compatibility include both: (a) establishing substantial buffers between industrial and non-industrial uses, and (b) proposing compatible development along Seaport Boulevard that is not sensitive to adjacent industry (e.g., light industry, public infrastructure or Port expansion).

The developer has a choice—pursue a path of land-use conflict, or take an enlightened approach to change that respects the unique value of Redwood City’s industrial corridor. The first should be a non-starter, while the second would merit a thorough analysis to help determine the best interests of the community.

Greg Greenway, Executive Director of the Seaport Industrial Association, can be reached at seaportindustrial@yahoo.com.


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