Redwood City residents aim to preserve local wetlands

Locals hoping to protect several pieces of waterfront property have requested a conservation designation for those properties, including 1,400 acres owned by Cargill Salt and a Redwood Shores site slated to host a new school.

The Friends of Redwood City and the Committee for Green Foothills nominated 1,625 acres of city bay-front land for a “conservation area designation” from the Association of Bay Area Governments on Aug. 17. Earning the designation would allow the group to leverage public and private money to protect the bayfront land, ABAG spokeswoman Kathleen Cha said.

“This designation would make it easier for us to get funding to help purchase those sites,” Friends representative Matt Leddy said.

The proposed conservation area includes five parcels. The largest two are being eyed for development: 1,433 acres of salt ponds owned by Cargill and 114 acres in Redwood Shores.

To earn a conservation designation, applicants must show that there is an urgent need to protect the lands, that they contain important natural or historic resources and that there is broad community support for preservation, Cha said. Decisions will be made in November.

Cargill announced in 2006 that it plans to cease salt production, and officials believe there is considerable public support for redevelopment that could include parks, residential and commercial construction, said John Bruno, spokesman for development firm DMB Associates.

Cargill’s property was offered to the state and federal government in 2002 as part of a package of lands owned by Cargill Salt. While officials approved the purchase of 16,500 acres around the Bay, they declined the Redwood City piece, appraised at $200 million by Charles Bailey, who was later charged with misconduct for the appraisal.

The land is no longer for sale, according to Cargill spokesman Lori Johnson. “We would look at an offer, but we have made a commitment to involving the entire community in looking at different options and that’s where we are right now,” Johnson said.

Developer Max Keech, who owns the 114-acre site in Redwood Shores, argued that his plans for the site can compete against what Friends of Redwood City hopes to do.

“I propose that 80 percent of the land would be restored and preserved at no cost to taxpayers,” Keech said. “I suspect that will be acceptable … rather than coming up with the money to buy 100 percent.”

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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