Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Stanford Trails issues

Last week, CGF sent out an Action Alert asking for support of Supervisor Liz Kniss' proposal to use the Stanford trail funds for two trail-related projects. Here's part of the text of our Alert:

In 2000, Stanford received permission from the County through its General Use Permit (GUP) to develop about 5 million square feet on its core campus. As mitigation for this campus expansion, Stanford agreed to grant two trail easements across Stanford land as shown on the County Trails Master Plan. After years of negotiation with Santa Clara County over the exact alignment of the trails, Stanford insisted on constructing one of the trails on a different alignment than the one shown on the Master Plan, and insisted that the second trail should be relocated to San Mateo County, along Alpine Road. Over the next few years, San Mateo County rejected Stanford’s proposed trail alignment three times, the final time being in December 2011. At this point, the trail funding was returned to Santa Clara County to be used to mitigate the loss of recreational opportunities due to Stanford’s development.

Now, Supervisor Liz Kniss (whose district includes Palo Alto and Stanford’s land) has proposed that a portion of the $10.4 million currently in this fund be used for two trail-related projects: a bicycle/pedestrian overcrossing over Highway 101 at Adobe Creek, and the completion of the “Dumbarton link” of the Bay Trail, between the Ravenswood Open Space Preserve and the Dumbarton Bridge. The Adobe Creek bridge would provide safe, year-round access between residential Palo Alto, including Stanford, and the Baylands nature preserve. The Dumbarton link would form the final link in the Bay Trail between Redwood City and Alviso, providing 27 miles of uninterrupted shoreline trail. Both of these trail projects would benefit bicycle commuters as well as recreational users, and would be environmentally beneficial in multiple ways: reducing automobile traffic, providing access to shoreline open space, encouraging increased biking and hiking, and drawing attention to the natural beauty of our Bayfront.

Here's our update from May 23:

Thanks to all of you who emailed comments to the Board of Supervisors in favor of the proposal, and an especially big thanks to those who showed up at the meeting and spoke in person! Unfortunately, the proposal was not voted on at the meeting yesterday. The Board of Supervisors decided to delay voting until after other proposals have been submitted for consideration. The Board is expected to hear this matter again in August. CGF will alert our members when the issue comes before the Board again. Thanks again for taking action -- the Board received a lot of emails, so they definitely know the public is paying attention!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Developer withdraws Saltworks development proposal

Big news on the Redwood City Cargill Saltworks project! At the May 7 Redwood City Council meeting, the Council announced that developer DMB Associates had officially withdrawn its application for development of the Cargill salt ponds. While this is very good news, the bad news is that DMB and Cargill are already planning a new development proposal to submit in place of this one. So we can’t relax our vigilance just yet!

After Councilmember Rosanne Foust requested that the City Council look into putting an advisory vote about Saltworks on the November ballot, Mayor Alicia Aguirre announced formation of an ad hoc Saltworks Committee to explore the City Council’s “options” regarding the development. The ad hoc committee recommended that the City Council deny the existing Saltworks development application. The committee’s reasoning was that the application had been pending for 3 years, was still incomplete, and was taking up too many City resources.

The report simultaneously acknowledged that developer DMB has made clear its intention to submit a revised project application, and that the City would have to determine whether and how to proceed on that application if/when it is received. Various options suggested in the report included: conducting a poll of residents via phone, postcard or online survey; holding workshops for public input; and holding an advisory vote on the new project.

DMB announced immediately after the City published its committee report that it would be withdrawing its application and focusing on preparing the new, revised project application, to be submitted at a later date.

The Cargill/DMB Saltworks project would be the largest Bayfill development since the 1960’s. The site is over 1400 acres of former wetlands that could be restored.  Even in their current state, the salt ponds provide valuable habitat to migratory waterfowl. The area is highly unsuitable for development, being below sea level and requiring levees to protect it from sea level rise, as well as being located in an earthquake liquefaction zone. Any development on this site, especially development involving housing that would place residents in this unsafe area, is a bad idea!

- Alice Kaufman, CGF Legislative Advocate

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The ongoing saga of the Cargill Saltworks project in Redwood City took an unexpected turn recently when Redwood City Councilmember Rosanne Foust requested the City Council to put an advisory vote on the November ballot, asking voters whether the city should continue with its review of the project. CGF Legislative Advocate Alice Kaufman wrote the following op-ed for the Palo Alto Daily News:

Council shouldn't need an advisory vote to learn most oppose proposal

Like many others who have been watching Redwood City’s handling of the DMB/Cargill Saltworks proposal to build the equivalent of a small city on the Cargill salt ponds, I was surprised by the City Council’s announcement that it will consider placing an advisory vote on the November ballot to ask voters whether they should continue reviewing the project. Considering that the constant message from the City Council for the past several years has been that they will not make any decisions about the project until after environmental review has been completed, this seems like a complete about-face.
            I was even more surprised to learn that the advisory vote was proposed by Councilmember Rosanne Foust, who has been advised by the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) that she must recuse herself from all City Council discussions and votes on the Saltworks project. Due to Foust’s position as President and CEO of a lobbying organization for business and development interests that has endorsed Saltworks, the FPPC determined that Foust has a personal financial interest in seeing this enormous development built on our shoreline.
            This bias was apparent in remarks that Foust made to the Redwood City Patch (, in which she stated that the advisory vote would list “all the benefits of the development” in its description of the project. “All the benefits”? What about all the risks and drawbacks? Shouldn’t voters get the whole picture before they decide? The Saltworks project will increase Redwood City’s population by 40% while it paves over restorable wetlands, puts people at risk from rising sea levels, and clogs our roads with thousands more cars daily. Does Foust include these issues among the “benefits” of this project?
The City Council’s willingness to consider Foust’s proposed advisory vote is bewildering. For one thing, the City has already received plenty of public input on this project. With the review process barely begun, already nearly 1,000 pages of comments have been submitted to the City from members of the community – and about 90% of those comments have been opposed to the project. It is hard to imagine what additional information the City Council feels an advisory vote might give them. If the mountain of negative comments they have already received is not reason enough to abandon this project, how will a nonbinding advisory vote help them to make up their minds?
            If the City Council shares Foust’s stated concerns about the “divisiveness” of the Saltworks project (though it is hard to see how the overwhelmingly negative response of the community can be described as “divided”), the City Council should halt the review process now and deny the project without going through the expense and delay of an advisory vote. If they are unwilling to deny the project before the EIR process is complete (which has been their consistent stance all along), then what is the point of the advisory vote? If the Council wants to know how the public feels about the project, they have already received more than enough feedback to answer that question.

Alice Kaufman is Legislative Advocate for the Committee for Green Foothills ( and a resident of Redwood City.

Go to to see this article on the Daily News website.