I met each independently to talk about a resolution opposing the project. Based on my prior experience from Sand Hill Road, I advised each that in the face of neighboring opposition, cities usually get defensive and assert sovereignty. I proposed an alternative that imagines a regional land-use policy enabling property owners to sell and transfer development rights regionally, a policy I have advocated for years.
If applied to the salt ponds, Cargill would be rezoned with some amount of development rights to build housing but must sell those rights to property owners who own infill sites specifically zoned to receive them, hopefully in cooperating nearby cities like Redwood City, Menlo Park, and Belmont.
The proposed policy would allow Cargill to re-monetize the salt ponds without developing the site. It would create more housing units in appropriate sites in nearby cities, and it would give Menlo Park a more constructive way to participate than simply opposing.
The language in Mr. Cohen's e-mail, "... regional approach to housing cooperating with Redwood City ... providing higher density ... along El Camino ... in exchange for Cargill going away [transferring development rights] ..." accurately describes using property derivatives to both satisfy property owners and permanently preserve open space by transferring development rights.
Mr. Cohen and Mr. Knight were both interested in pursuing the idea. The Cargill public relations political operatives twisted the words "going away" to misrepresent and impugn their intentions.