Development plans for Cargill site are unveiled

The future developer of one of the largest undeveloped plots of bayfront property is offering the clearest picture yet of what could be built on the former site of a commercial salt factory.

Cargill Inc. announced plans in 2006 to redevelop its salt ponds on the 1,433-acre site at the Bay’s edge in Redwood City. The property is zoned as tidal plain and development is forbidden. Last year, Cargill announced that it is considering the development of housing there, an idea vehemently opposed by environmentalists and locals alike.

In the list of commitments drawn up by developers DMB Associates, at least 50 percent of the site owned by Cargill would be reserved for “open space and restored wetlands habitat.” The other portion — which could be as much as 50 percent —would contain a mixture of housing, businesses, an aquatic center and 50 acres of public parks, according to the developer’s representatives.

Despite the firm’s pledge to restore 50 percent of the site, Will Travis, director of the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, said it’s unclear whether that percentage of restoration would be enough.

“The commitments are laudatory, but until you go through a more detailed analysis … it’s difficult to thoughtfully comment,” Travis said.

DMB is also pledging to offer 15 percent of any new housing at affordable levels and to create new transit links to downtown and a proposed ferry terminal. DMB project manager John Bruno said the company will work to reduce flooding problems along East Bayshore Road and in the Friendly Acres neighborhood.

“We have heard, loud and clear, that habitat restoration is important to this community,” Bruno said. “Even though we’re still in plan-generation mode, we felt it was important to come forward with that pledge.”

Specifically, the portion of Cargill’s property closest to the Bay, parallel to Greco Island, would be restored, Bruno said.

The development would take into account Redwood City’s building-height limits, Bruno said. However, those limits theoretically allow for 150-foot-tall buildings on a development of 40,000 square feet — less than 1 acre — city planner Blake Lyon said.

Commitments or not, residents from the Friends of Redwood City and some regional nonprofits oppose any development on Cargill’s property.

“This is a bad place for development, because it’s likely to be inundated as sea levels rise,” said Save the Bay Director David Lewis.

DMB officials said they expect to deliver a development proposal to Redwood City in May or June.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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