REDWOOD CITY (KPIX 5) -- A renewed fight over the future of the Redwood City salt ponds as community groups push back over a developer's plans to build thousands of waterfront homes with help from the Trump administration.
On Tuesday, a coalition of elected officials and environmental groups -- led by San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine -- reasserted their opposition and authority against any proposed development on the Cargill Salt Ponds adjacent to Redwood City.
At a press conference just outside the ponds, the group released a statement signed by nearly 60 federal, state, county, and city officials, and environmental groups. The letter said in part:
We oppose development on the Redwood City salt ponds, because we don't build on San Francisco Bay. Cargill Salt and luxury home developer DMB have colluded with the Trump Administration to weaken Clean Water Act protections for San Francisco Bay. They are again proposing to build on Bay salt ponds where massive public opposition stopped their 12,000-home project in 2012. New housing on the Redwood City salt ponds would put people at risk from rising seas, destroy habitat for fish and wildlife, lack an adequate water supply, and worsen traffic. To combat climate change and create more resilient and equitable communities, the Bay Area needs more affordable housing near transit hubs and city centers, not on Bay wetlands.
Back in March, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers, stating the Clean Water Act does not apply to the Cargill Salt Ponds. The ruling reversed an earlier decision under the Obama administration, and cleared a major federal hurdle to developing the 1,400 acre site.
David Lewis, executive director of Save the Bay, says the Trump administration has helped breathe new life into a project that looked dead in the water seven years ago.
"It's ridiculous to come back and try again," said Lewis, "The developer's basically aligning themselves with the Trump administration's anti-environmental agenda, and it's just not going to fly in the Bay Area."
Cargill and DMB must go through a gauntlet government agencies to secure approval for any project. Dave Pine, San Mateo County Supervisor, says any development plans are unlikely to secure approval, but it doesn't mean the site is safe.
"Developers are persistent. They work hard to obtain the entitlements they want. So it's important for elected officials and community organizations to state now, very clearly and strongly that this is not a site for development," said Pine.
The coalition says a housing development on the Cargill site would be isolated from public transit and would worsen the massive traffic congestion along the Bayfront Expressway. In addition, rising sea levels due to climate change would place residents at high risk of flooding.
"The Cargill Salt Ponds are a poster child for exactly where we should not build," said Megan Fluke, executive director of Committee for Green Foothills.
Cargill and DMB and formed a venture named "Reimagine Saltworks." Attorney David Smith released the following statement:
We appreciate the community's interest in the Saltworks site. We want to clarify, however, that nothing has been proposed for the site other than what it is now—an active industrial salt harvesting facility that can continue operations indefinitely. Our intent is to engage in a broad community conversation about potential future uses of the property to meet many already present needs of this community. We need to address our existing regional vulnerability to sea level rise, annual flooding of homes and businesses, crippling congestion, access to integrated public transit options on both water and land, housing, and habitat restoration. We look forward to engaging with all stakeholders in this region about the future of this property, including all of this morning's participants.
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