Going green could keep port in the black 

The Port of Redwood City is pushing toward a revenue evolution.

In an effort to offset a lull in shipments and a recent decline in revenue, port officials are beginning to diversify operations at the only deepwater port in southern San Francisco Bay, renting out land for a wood recycling company and a possible biodiesel facility.

Approximately 70 percent of the port’s revenues come from shipments of housing construction materials, which has slowed due to declines in housing development throughout the Bay Area. At the end of 2007, the amount of construction material moving through the port dropped 15 percent — from 776,000 metric tons between July and December 2006 to 660,000 during the same period in 2007, said Port Director Mike Giari. The port primarily ships aggregates used to make concrete and its main competitor is the Port of Oakland.

"We’re still definitely in the black and our revenues are healthy. [But] when there’s a slowdown in demand for [building] materials, it affects port revenues," Giari said.

The port’s financial crunch also affects Redwood City’s coffers. The port functions as a commercial site but is also a department of Redwood City government, and fewer shipments means less revenue for the city, according to city officials.

To infuse the port with more funds, port officials have looked beyond their traditional sources of revenue. Last month, officials approved a nine-month-long environmental review on a biodiesel production facility that would operate on 4.4 acres of port property, Giari said. A Southern California company would pay rent on the property and fees to use the port’s rail track and wharves, he said.

Meanwhile, a wood recycling company has agreed to rent out about 3 acres of that land on a month-to-month basis for $12,000 per month.

"There’s certainly a demand for [green businesses] in the Bay Area," he said. "And they would also provide an opportunity for the port to diversify its business."

A report released in February detailed expansion possibilities for waterfront operations. The report said the port would gain from purchasing a strip of land adjacent to Seaport Boulevard to allow for a variety of new uses. The land, currently owned by Cargill Inc., could be used to house future imports of automobiles, refrigerated bulk (such as produce), and other goods the port does not currently ship, the report said.

But the land in question — once inhabited by Cargill’s industrial salt operation — might not be available. Environmentalists are trying to bar any development of the property to protect surrounding wetlands.

The port is also eyeing future recycling operations for yard and food waste, specifically for those coming from San Mateo County municipalities. "The report is correct that for a major new flow of cargo, the port would probably need some expansion area," he said.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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