March 8, 2008
Developing open space: should voters decide?
By Marion Softky
A broad coalition of environmental groups wants to qualify an initiative in Redwood City to require two-thirds of city voters to approve any new development in the city’s open space areas.
Members of the Open Space Vote Coalition launched their initiative to amend the city charter at a press conference in front of City Hall on March 6.
“The protection and restoration of the Bay has long been a priority of Redwod City voters,” said Ralph Nobles, who has already led two successful referenda blocking Bayfront developments of Bair Island and Marina Shores. “This measure ensures that Redwood City residents have a say in any development of our parks and open space, now and in the future.”
The “Open Space Vote Initiative” will require signatures of 15 percent of Redwood City’s registered voters to qualify for the November ballot. The charter amendment will take a simple majority vote to pass.
The most obvious, though nor the only, current target of the initiative is the proposal by Cargill Salt and DMB Associates to develop 1,433 acres of retiring salt ponds between Bayfront Park in Menlo Park and Seaport Boulevard into a mixture of uses including housing, recreation and open space.
DMB has been engaging Redwood City residents for almost two years in an extensive outreach effort to devise a plan for the property that would have solid public support. “A strong majority advocates a balance of uses — including both wetlands restoration and development,” said John Bruno, vice president and general manager of DMB Redwood City Saltworks.
DMB is developing a specific plan based on a 50/50 concept, Mr. Bruno said. This will restore at least 50 percent of the site as wetlands and natural open space, and utilize the remaining 50 percent for a mixture of developed uses.
Mr. Nobles and the Open Space Vote Coalition want to see all the property returned to the Bay. “Destruction of our limited open space harms our precious environment and denies out children an opportunity to connect with nature,” he said.
“Today our Bay shoreline is under assault, and tomorrow the threat could be to our city parks and hillsides,” said Lennie Roberts of the Committee for Green Foothills. “Voters should have a say on massive development on out baylands, just as we voted to save Bair Island, Bayfront Park, and the Palo Alto Baylands.”
Supporters of the initiative include Friends of Redwood City, Save The Bay, Committee for Green Foothills, and the Sequoia Audubon Society.