Development Threatens Redwood City Wetland Habitat

Shorebirds along a mudflat – Photo by Scot Griffin

A developer is proposing to build a 350-unit apartment complex on a 20-acre tidal mudflat in Redwood City. This project will destroy wetland habitat, may result in release of toxic contaminants, and would put residential development in the path of sea level rise. Green Foothills and our partners are opposing the project.

Proposal: Destroy Wetlands For Residential Development

This site (known as the “Ferrari Pond”) was part of the thousands of acres of tidal marshlands that once ringed the Bay. Decades ago, these 20 acres were diked off and drained for salt production. Several years ago, a breach in the dike allowed Bay waters to once again inundate the site, with the result that this site is now under several feet of water twice daily, and has acquired all the characteristics of a tidal mudflat — an important type of Bay wetland that serves as foraging and nesting habitat for multiple species of shorebirds.

Shorebirds foraging and roosting on the Laguna Sequoia site – Photo by Matt Leddy

The proposed “Laguna Sequoia” development would include 350 apartments and a 500-car underground parking garage. In order to get enough material to fill in the mudflat and raise the building up above sea level, the developer proposes to excavate approximately 100,000 cubic yards of dirt from the remainder of the site, turning it into a lagoon. To mitigate the destruction of at least 12 acres of mudflat habitat, the developer proposes to create only about 4 acres of restored tidal marshland.

Before this development can be approved, however, the developer must obtain permits from the Army Corps of Engineers and the Regional Water Quality Control Board. The Clean Water Act regulations state that a permit cannot be issued if a practicable alternative exists that would have a less adverse impact on the aquatic ecosystem. In this case, the alternative is obvious — the developer can choose a site for this apartment complex that is on dry land, not in the Bay.

Toxic Contamination In The Bay?

In addition to destroying foraging and roosting habitat for numerous species of shorebirds, the Laguna Sequoia project could potentially release toxic contaminants into the waters of the Bay. There are high levels of mercury, PCBs and other contaminants in the sediments adjacent to the site. These are likely the result of heavy industrial uses in the area decades ago, and any dredging or excavation on the site could disturb those sediments and cause the contaminants to become mobilized.

Finally, the Ferrari Pond site is simply the wrong place for housing. The site is extremely vulnerable to sea level rise and is near to heavy industries and far from transit. The proposal for a 500-car underground parking garage seems like a particularly misguided idea for a site that is currently underwater twice a day.

What’s Next?

If the Army Corps and the Water Board deny the needed permits, the Laguna Sequoia development cannot proceed. If these agencies allow the project to go forward, however, the next step will likely rest with the City of Redwood City, which must also approve this development. Green Foothills and our partners Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge, Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter, and Redwood City Neighbors United will be urging the Redwood City Council to deny this project if it comes to them for approval. We will alert our supporters when there is an opportunity to submit emails opposing the project.

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