County opposes city charter change

San Mateo Daily Journal
August 13, 2008

County opposes city charter change

by Michelle Durand

If Redwood City voters rather than leaders decide development of open space, the county will be hard-pressed to sell off the current jail site to finance a new facility in a different location, according to Supervisor Jerry Hill.

The worry over the county-owned land on Maple Street — the current location of the Women’s Correctional Facility — and other areas that could be sold helped prompt the Board of Supervisors yesterday to unanimously pass a resolution opposing the pending Redwood City charter change initiative.

The county usually doesn’t wade into local government issues but with its property values at stake, the supervisors took it upon themselves to aid the initiative’s defeat at the Nov. 3 ballot box.

The two-thirds amendment, formerly known as the Open Space vote, changes the city charter so that a two-thirds majority is needed to approve development on lands deemed open space.

The women’s jail is zoned tidal plain, one of the affected areas. The initiative won’t affect the land if it is under county ownership but will kick in if sold to a non-county entity or individual.

The restrictions make the area less desirable for buyers, limiting the opportunity to turn a profit for buying land elsewhere. If the county chooses to build its long-needed jail outside Redwood City, it will need that money to pay for the land.

The bind is “ironic,” Hill said.

“The residents don’t want a jail in their city … but the proposition will almost lead us to build the jail at that location,” Hill said.

Sheriff Greg Munks also opposes the initiative for the same reason, said Assistant Sheriff Tricia Sanchez.

The board also expressed concerns over how the measure may affect flood prevention measures near the San Carlos airport and construction of a commuter ferry terminal.

In a letter to the supervisors, David Lewis, executive director of Save the Bay and leader of the Open Space Vote Coalition, said the initiative would not prevent either and accused Redwood City of perpetuating misinformation.

Lewis, in the letter, and Lennie Roberts of Committee for Green Foothills, unsuccessfully sought a postponement of the resolution to meet with officials.

The charter change amendment is the hot-button issue in Redwood City, sparking numerous public meetings, a war of words between both sides and an alternative initiative proposed by the City Council.

The second initiative is specifically tailored to the Cargill Saltworks Site, an area which, at 1,433 acres, is the largest untouched land parcel on the Bay. The future of the site is the primary target of the initiative so the city hopes voters will choose to decide only its fate rather than that of all development.

Michelle Durand can be reached by e-mail: [email protected] or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 102.

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