Open-space fight closer to the ballot

Environmentalists say they’re gaining ground on a proposed ballot measure that would likely hinder plans for housing on the Redwood City salt ponds.

On Thursday, a coalition of environmental groups said they had gathered about 2,500 signatures for its proposed measure — about half of what is needed to qualify the measure for the November ballot. The coalition needs signatures from at least 15 percent of the city’s registered voters.

The proposed ballot measure — which has been lambasted by city officials as a “hijacking” of public process — would bar any new development on city parks and open spaces without a two-thirds public vote. It comes amid private plans to redevelop Cargill Inc. salt ponds on a 1,433-acre property at the Bay’s edge in Redwood City, an idea threatening environmentalists’ efforts to restore Bay Area wetlands.

The coalition, which consists of Save the Bay, Friends of Redwood City and the Sierra Club, said Thursday that 71 percent of the city’s voters supported the initiative in a J. Moore Methods Inc. poll conducted two months ago. Save the Bay’s David Lewis said of the 300 voters polled, only 23 percent opposed the initiative. He did not reveal the questions that were asked in the poll.

The poll “confirms what we’ve been hearing from voters,” Lewis said. “I am confidant we will qualify the measure for the ballot.”

Mayor Roseanne Foust and fellow lawmakers are vehemently opposed to the initiative, saying it would slow down city projects and stifle economic growth. Foust has said a two-thirds public vote on all parks and open spaces would hogtie the city’s ability to build new amenities, such as a new school, senior center or recreation facility.

Lewis said the public vote would be required when the city considers zoning amendments that would allow for building upon lands, such as the Cargill salt ponds.

maldax@examiner.com

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