Residents push for wetlands restoration 

Residents who defeated Marina Shores Village, the proposal to build high-rise homes on the Bay, are now asking city officials to oppose any development on 1,433 acres of land owned by Cargill.

Public perception could help decide the fate of the property. Friends of Redwood City are asking city officials to restore the salt ponds on the property, which they are calling "Seaport Wetlands," to tidal marshes. Meanwhile, Cargill’s development consultants with DMB Associates have dubbed the project Redwood City Industrial Saltworks, a name that doesn’t sit well with open-space advocates.

Cargill’s salt ponds are located between Bair Island and more than 16,000 acres of former Cargill lands in the South Bay currently being restored as wetlands. The Redwood City property is zoned as tidal plain, and would need to be rezoned to allow any housing development.

"Bair Island is a treasure of Redwood City that was once slated for development," said resident Lynn Trujillo, a consultant on the South Bay restoration. "Seaport wetlands are headed for development, but if we make it clear we want them restored, many agencies will step forward [to help]."

When Cargill offered the Redwood City parcel to state and federal wildlife agencies along with the South Bay properties, those agencies refused, saying the estimated $75 million to $100 million price tag was too high. Locals may try to raise grant and private money to purchase the property, but they disagree with that cost appraisal, which assumed significant development, according to resident Bob Gelman.

"The relative value of the property is in question," particularly after a state judge rebuked the $100 million purchase price on Cargill’s South Bay acreage, Gelman said. "This piece [of Cargill property] can be restored without huge expense."

Meanwhile, DMB is continuing its outreach process and will hold a public forum April 18 to discuss local transportation issues, both related to the future of the Cargill property and on the Peninsula in general, according to John Bruno, general manager of Redwood City Industrial Saltworks. Early responses to mailers and "open houses" organized by DMB showed that 80 percent of respondents support mixed-use development on the site with housing, commercial space and parks.

"We are soliciting opinions from everybody," Bruno said, responding to the outcry for wetlands restoration. "[The Friends of Redwood City] has a specific point of view, but it is not representative of what we’re hearing from the rest of the community."

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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