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Cargill development may see rough waters

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As developers of a massive piece of waterfront property kick off efforts to design the future use of the site, development opponents are coming out of the woodwork to block the potential for construction.

Cargill Salt hired DMB Associates, known for large-scale developments, to plot the redevelopment of Cargill’s 1,433 acres of salt ponds near Seaport Boulevard. DMB recently hired three planners — Peter Calthorpe, who helped design San Mateo’s Bay Meadows; Keith Bowers, a restoration expert familiar with salt-marsh restoration; and Boris Dramov, who helped craft waterfront development near San Francisco’s AT&T Park — to design the future Cargill site.

After 18 months testing the public waters, “we’ve heard such a variety of different uses and priorities, we felt it was important that we hired companies that addressed, specifically, what we were hearing,” DMB president John Bruno said.

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Eighty percent of locals surveyed by DMB support a mix of uses on the site, including some housing, commercial space, plus parks and open space, Bruno said.

Now, the company is kicking off a series of meetings with the planners and residents, hoping to sketch out a site plan. The first is scheduled for Nov. 15. Once finessed, the plan will become an application DMB hopes to submit to the city next year, Bruno said.

Save the Bay has emerged in opposition to any development, while the Bay Conservation and Development Commission’s Director Will Travis has made statements suggesting that no more than 50 percent of the site should be developed. Residents are asking the Association of Bay Area Governments to protect lands under a “Conservation Area Designation,” which would help them leverage funds to buy and protect the property, resident Matt Leddy said.

However, Redwood City is also home to two major referendums that overturned large-scale developments on Bair Island and near Pete’s Harbor.

“We want it preserved, and it’s going to be preserved,” resident Ralph Nobles said. “They make it sound like they’ve talked to a large percentage of residents, and they haven’t. You can get any answer you want on any survey depending on how you ask the question.”

Recent talks between DMB and industrial firms along Seaport Boulevard have raised practicality concerns.

“Residential uses are often not compatible withindustrial uses nearby, so if there’s going to be any [housing], those issues have to be mitigated,” Port of Redwood City Director Michael Giari said.

A timeline

» 1901: Redwood City Saltworks begins operations in 1,433 acres on the Bay.

» 1941: Leslie Salt Co. purchases the property.

» 1978: Cargill Salt purchases the property.

» 1982: Mobil Oil submits plans to develop a new waterfront city on 3,000 acres next door to the Cargill site. A referendum, led by resident Ralph Nobles, overturned those plans and created protections for what is now Bair Island.

» 2002: Cargill offers more than 17,000 acres of its salt ponds ringing the Bay to the state and federal governments. The government purchases 16,500 acres for wetlands restoration, but does not purchase the Redwood City property.

» June 2004: Redwood City approves plans for high-rise housing, at Peninsula Marina and Pete’s Harbor, called Marina Shores Village.

» November 2004: A referendum, also championed by Nobles and members of the Friends of Redwood City, overturns Marina Shores.

» 2006: Cargill announces plans to shut down its Redwood City salt plant and explore redevelopment of the site.

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bwinegarner@examiner.com



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