Call for public vote comes as surprise to lawmakers

Environmentalists denied blindsiding city government or attemptingto undercut lawmakers Thursday when it called for a public vote on all future plans to develop open spaces in Redwood City.

A coalition of environmental groups is seeking a charter amendment that would bar any proposals to build upon the city’s parks or bayside wetlands until the plans garner at least two-thirds voter approval.

The initiative comes amid plans to redevelop the Cargill Inc. salt ponds on a 1,433-acre property at the Bay’s edge in Redwood City, an idea vehemently opposed by environmentalists and locals alike.

David Lewis, executive director of Save the Bay, said the coalition isn’t necessarily attacking plans to build on the Cargill site but said he feels “the public should have the right to vote on any development on open space, no matter where it is in Redwood City.”

Mayor Rosanne Foust said she was shocked at the proposal, saying she wasn’t informed a coalition would assemble at City Hall on Thursday to announce the charter amendment. She said she found out about the proposal through a reporter and didn’t receive word from members of the coalition until an hour before it was announced.

“I was very disappointed, especially because I’ve met with these groups, and we’ve had dialogue about these issues,” Foust said. “The City Council is fully engaged in the public process. We understand the importance of our bayfront property and how it relates to and affects our public.”

Foust said she fears a public vote would only divide the community and stunt progress on the city’s $1.6 million overhaul of its general plan. Officials have just begun a 20-month-long review of its citywide initiative.

“I believe that a community dialogue would be a far better approach [than a public vote] and more respectful of Redwood City’s residents,” Foust said. “In my mind, a public process is when you reach out, talk to different groups in the community, how we can be the most inclusive.”

Lewis said he believes the proposal would not divide or misrepresent the public’s wishes, but in fact help the city make future decisions.

maldax@examiner.com

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