More than a hundred locals who met Sunday to discuss the future of one of the largest undeveloped parcels of bayshore land only wanted to know one thing: How much will it cost to take the land back?
Cargill owns 1,433 acres of Bayfront property that was used for commercial salt mining. The company announced in 2006 that it would shut down the industrial salt plant in Redwood City but then hired DMB Associates — developers known for creating large-scale communities in Arizona and other parts of the U.S. — to study the possibility of housing on the property. The idea has been opposed by environmentalists who said the property should be protected.
On Sunday, more than a hundred locals gathered for the first community-sponsored forum to discuss the Cargill-owned site. While Sunday’s panel included several proponents of restoring the site, currently zoned as tidal plain, residents asked repeatedly: How much would it cost for the city, a grassroots group or the government to buy the land?
Nobody knows exactly how much it would cost to purchase and restore the property, according to Save the Bay president David Lewis. He said the 40,000 acres of Bay wetlands currently being restored would cost $1.43 billion over 50 years for full restoration.
Cargill has not made any formal plans to develop, but its developers have maintained that according to a public survey, 80 percent of Redwood City residents support a mixture of housing, commercial, recreational parks and open space on the property.
Restoring the property as tidal marsh would provide habitat for local wildlife and protect the rest of the city from flooding, storm surges and global warming-related sea-level changes, said Lynn Trulio, lead scientist with the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project.
Restoring Bair Island and other Cargill lands has cost local taxpayers “next to nothing,” because those projects were funded with private, state and federal funds, Lewis added.
“If the City Council says no to development on this property, and keeps saying no, then the price comes down,” said Peggy Bruggman, representative with the Friends of Redwood City.