Almanac

News - March 31, 2010

Woodside council keeps powder dry on proposed Cargill project

by Dave Boyce

The Woodside Town Council, in its first formal discussion of a proposal for a residential community on what is now 1,400 acres of salt flats off Redwood City, sounded notes of dismay about the project but chose to wait for an environmental impact report before issuing a resolution.

The proposal includes 800 acres of wetlands and outdoor recreational space, up to 12,000 homes, and 1 million square feet of commercial space, with extensive water and sewage management, according to a report by Woodside Town Manager Susan George and based on Redwood City planning documents.

Homes would be "within the financial reach of a broad range" of family incomes, Ms. George said, quoting a Redwood City report.

But the community would feed vehicle traffic onto Woodside Road, is almost entirely in a flood zone, and would stress Redwood City's Hetch-Hetchy-based potable water supply (which the developer proposes to address using water rights from Kings County), Ms. George said.

The Woodside council's 6-1 vote on Tuesday, March 23, directed staff to keep abreast of developments while waiting for an environmental impact report (EIR), which, Ms. George said, is at least two years away.

In dissent, Councilman Ron Romines recommended going on the record now, and in opposition. The project does bring a welcome regional consideration of housing concerns, he said, but is a throwback and would undermine "intelligent" planning by regional stakeholders.

"It's wrongheaded thinking to think about putting it in this location," Mr. Romines added. Building on Bay fill "is a history that I don't think any of us are proud of as we look back on it," he added.

Councilwoman Sue Boynton agreed on the project's potential to supplant other planning efforts, but said she would rather not pre-empt the EIR.

Councilwoman Deborah Gordon agreed on waiting for the EIR. She is instinctively skeptical, particularly about the water management challenges, she said, but "my gut feeling is not what a decision of this magnitude should be made on."

Councilman Peter Mason was pointed. "I think that this project is really bad 1960s planning, and that was bad 50 years ago," he said. Thirty thousand people in the community and three vehicle exits? "There's no way that works," he added.

And don't count on blunt analysis in the EIR, he said. "It doesn't really say, 'No, it's a dumb project and shouldn't be built.' It never says that."

Twelve members of the public spoke up, most against. Janet Larson, who chairs the Woodside-Atherton Garden Club, captured the mood. "We are strongly, strongly opposed to this project," she said. "The Bay belongs to all of us, not just Redwood City."

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