Open space battle begins

San Mateo Daily Journal
March 6, 2008

Open space battle begins

by Michelle Durand, Daily Journal Staff

A trio of environmental groups plan to announce a ballot measure today to protect parks and open space in Redwood City but Mayor Rosanne Foust said not being given a heads up is “incredibly insulting.”

“As I said in my State of the City address, I do not want to divide the community,” said Foust, adding she was disappointed at what she believes is a “complete lack of courtesy” by the environmental leaders involved.

This morning, Save the Bay Executive Director David Lewis, Ralph Nobles of Friends of Redwood City and Lennie Roberts of the Committee for Green Foothills are holding a press conference in front of City Hall to “announce a ballot measure to protect the precious and limited parks and open space in Redwood City,” according to a press release.

A ballot measure is widely supported by organizations like those involved in the announcement and Sequoia Audubon, according to the release.

Aside from that description, the groups involved remain mum on what exactly they plan to propose. A call to Friends of Redwood City went unanswered and Lewis declined further comment before today’s event.

There is “nothing for city officials to be upset about,” Lewis said and they will be “involved in the process.”

Foust, however, wondered why neither she nor other city officials were alerted about a possible ballot measure.

“I don’t want an us and them mentality. We’ve worked so hard in Redwood City,” Foust said.

Redwood City is no stranger to such a community divide. In 2004, voters shot down Marina Shores Village after residents — frustrated by the council’s endorsement — placed Measure Q on the ballot. Nobels, who led the fight to protect Bair Island in the 1980s, was closely involved in that battle through the Friends of Redwood City.

The acrimony sparked by the proposal, the vote and the ultimate defeat remained in the city, teaching the City Council their vote isn’t the final word and showing the community it can bring a large-scale development proposal to its knees. When developers brought back the scaled down plan now known as Peninsula Park, they and the city worked with former opponents to resurrect an idea palatable to all.

With Peninsula Park approved, the city is now eyeing the Cargill Saltworks site on the Bayshore. Developers have pushed public outreach for approximately 20 months and officials like Foust have made no secret of a desire to hold city-sponsored public forums to work with residents rather than against them.

The proposed ballot measure — although completely unclear — is a throwback to previous divisions, Foust said.

She also feels insulted to be caught unaware after meeting and discussing open space issues with Lewis and Peggy Bruggman of the Friends of Redwood City.

“I am just sitting her wondering why does it have to be like this?” Foust said.

Lewis said any concern is premature and that city officials were not yet involved because “we haven’t done anything yet for them not to be aware of.”

John Bruno, spokesman for DMB Associates who is developing the saltworks, said he was also unaware of the ballot measure or if it is a direct response to plans for that site. While conceding he can’t speak to an unknown proposal, Bruno said public response has shown a desire for mixed uses at the site without residents footing the bill. The plan now calls for the creation of new habitat on 50 percent of the site’s 1,433 acres, he said, plus a new park bigger than the existing Red Morton Park in Redwood City.

The industrial site is roughly the site of the Presidio in San Francisco and is the latest target of debate over Bayshore development.

The possible ballot measure doesn’t worry Bruno as much as motivate DMB to intensify its community outreach process.

“We will address [the ballot measure proposed] appropriately,” Bruno said.

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

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