Almanac

News - December 15, 2010

Portola Valley council rejects Cargill development

by Dave Boyce

The Portola Valley Town Council is not waiting for completion of an environmental impact report to take a position on the proposed Cargill development, which would build as many as 12,000 new homes and a million square feet of commercial space on a 1,436-acre salt flat off Redwood City.

Rather than making the salt flat home to a housing project, it should be home to creatures that lived there before it was a salt flat, the council said in resolution it adopted on Dec. 8. The area should be returned to its natural state and made a part of the adjacent Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge, the council declared.

Though Councilwoman Ann Wengert was absent for the 4-0 vote, she has said she favors a "strong statement opposing" the project.

The council's resolution staked out positions in favor of environmental values, against increases in traffic and population, skeptical of a proposed fix to Redwood City's anticipated drinking water shortage, and concerned about the effects of climate change.

"We, as current elected officials, understand the pressures cities face to solve the housing and jobs imbalance in San Mateo County," the council said, but this proposal is not the answer and over 100 current and former elected officials from throughout the Bay Area agree.

"The Bay belongs to all of us and we all must protect it," the resolution said.

"The Bay doesn't belong to Redwood City," chimed in resident Derry Kabcenell during the public comment period. Rather than wait for the project applicants — Minneapolis-based Cargill Salt Corp. and an Arizona developer — to dramatically modify this proposal, as is expected to happen, Portola Valley should recommend that it be thrown out and the project re-designed, Mr. Kabcenell said.

In the end, the resolution was approved essentially as drafted.

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