Last November the developer DMB asked the Redwood City staff to suspend work on the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for its Saltworks proposal (see previous article).
The Saltworks proposal would turn 1,436 acres of eminently restorable sea-level Cargill salt ponds into a mini-city of 30,000 residents and a million square feet of office space behind three miles of new levees, in an earthquake zone, and far removed from downtown infrastructure. We had heard that DMB was revising its project to respond to approximately 900 pages of comments offered during the extended public-comment period, but we’ve been on tenterhooks, wondering just what DMB was up to.
Now we know. Some vigilant folks from Redwood City Neighbors United (RCNU) found that the City of Redwood City has allowed consultants that work directly for Cargill/DMB to write the key technical studies behind 15 out of 17 major sections of the EIR. RCNU co-chairs Dan Ponti and Ramona Ambrozic questioned the propriety of this in a letter to Mayor Aguirre and the Redwood City Council. Over 100 people wrote letters supporting RCNU’s position.
Although the practice is not illegal, RCNU suggested that, at best, there is an appearance of impropriety, as neither the city staff nor the city selected these consultants. At worst DMB will edit the reports to its own advantage before the city conducts its review. The RCNU letter urges the mayor and City Council to “change this practice and require that the City selects, hires, and directly oversees all of the consultants contributing to the EIR, and not allow the developer to intervene in that process.” Note that the developer must pay for the EIR, whoever writes it.
Mayor Aguirre’s weak response, assuring residents that this is only part of the scoping process and promising transparency later, did not mollify RCNU and the other 100 letter-writers. Responding to the mayor, RCNU wrote a strong op-ed, which appeared in several local papers and on Redwood City Patch, reiterating the importance of having the city hire and oversee the EIR consultants.
Club opposes Saltworks
The Sierra Club continues to oppose Saltworks. During the initial public review of the EIR in March 2011, Gita Dev of the Loma Prieta Chapter’s Save Our Baylands Task Force compiled our comments into a 20-page document. It both stressed the value of the wetlands and raised questions and concerns that we felt the EIR should address.
Unwilling to twiddle our thumbs during the maddening hiatus, which began last November, members of our Chapter’s Baylands Task Force, along with RCNU and other groups, have continued education and outreach efforts to inform friends and neighbors about Saltworks’ negative impacts. These education efforts include short talks about the project at all the Chapter’s film events and outings to promote appreciation for our diminishing wetlands. We are building awareness of the location and scope of the proposed project.
RCNU is working with other groups and individuals to organize educational house parties to counter DMB and Cargill’s massive and heavily funded PR campaign.
Marianna Raymond, chair of the Loma Prieta Chapter’s Baylands Committee and a member of the Chapter’s Save Our Baylands Task Force
from the Loma Prietan, newsletter of the Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter