Local grassroots organization Redwood City Neighbors United hosted a meeting Wednesday night with Acting Planning Manager Blake Lyon Wednesday to discuss city development and the status of the controversial Cargill Saltworks Project.
RCNU was on the basis that Redwood City should abandon the Saltworks Project, which includes the construction of 8,000-12,000 residential units, 1 million square feet of office space and 140,000 square feet of commercial space, and concentrate on downtown development.
“When we started this we realized very clearly that this is a marathon,” said RCNU committee member Gail Raabe. “It’s not a sprint.”
The organization has quickly gained more than 400 active supporters since its establishment. Supporters have said the proposed Saltworks Project, headed by developers DMB Pacific Ventures, would have negative affects on the environment, traffic mitigation, local economy and water supply.
“We believe the Saltworks development project is one of the biggest issues of our city,” Raabe said.
However, Lyon said that after DMB halted plans due to a largely negative response from local residents in November, city planners have no word of the project’s advancement.
“You can ask me all you want, I don’t have any information,” Lyon said. “They haven’t given us any additional information.”
Lyon, who has been active in the project for four years, said that despite the recent comments DMB developers gave to reporters of the San Francisco Chronicle, city planners hope for transparency with Redwood City residents.
“When we know, you will know shortly thereafter,” Lyon said.
According to Raabe, members of the RCNU met with two representatives of DMB at their request to discuss concerns.
“We don’t know if they’re hearing us, but again, we have their attention,” Raabe said.
But while RCNU may support downtown development, other audience members were reluctant to agree that any development would be beneficial to the community.
“It seems like we approve, we approve, we approve before we look at the deficit we have,” said 20-year Redwood City resident Bob Wilson.
The city’s development, with an influx of high-density housing projects, will strain water allocation and further complicate the city’s traffic, Wilson said.
“I don’t understand why we’re open to these high-density over-developed plans,” Wilson said. “Why don’t we just stop?”
Lyon responded saying that Wilson’s position is not an uncommon one, but the city must develop in the most efficient way to remain competitive.
“We don’t have the luxury of just stopping,” he said.
There are more commuters to Redwood City than residents, Lyon said, and high-density housing will allow commuters to become locals with the option of taking public transportation instead of driving cars.
“Right now it’s done out of necessity rather than pure choice,” Lyon said of commuting drivers.
Many Redwood City residents have the perspective of a detached single-family home, Lyon said, in which families are dependent on their vehicles to accomplish simple tasks such as going to the grocery store or dropping kids off at school.
However, he said, city planners are attempting to accommodate growth in an efficient way with new living options.
But for Wilson, high-density development remains an unreasonable proposition.
“There’s a strong, perhaps too silent, part of the community that just doesn’t get it,” he said.
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