Opponents release poll on Saltworks project

Developer questions credibility of poll

By Dave Boyce

Almanac Staff Writer

If the decision were up to the participants in a recent survey of 350 residents of Redwood City, they would reject a proposal now under consideration to build some 12,000 new homes on what are now off-shore salt flats in their city. The project would include substantial open space, recreational space, and 1 million square feet of commercial space.

The telephone poll was paid for by Save the Bay, an Oakland-based nonprofit environmental group that opposes the development proposed by Minneapolis-based Cargill Salt Corp. and an Arizona developer. Sacramento-based J. Moore Methods conducted the poll from May 11 to 15 and noted a margin of error of 5.3 percentage points.

According to the poll results reported by Save the Bay, 57 percent of those surveyed said they opposed the project.

The opposition dropped to 51 percent after being read a description of the plan from Cargill's proposal. But when read a series of provocative statements, participants sent the numbers back up, to 64 percent. Among the statements:

● "Building on salt ponds is not the right place for new development." Percent agreed: 58; Opposed: 27; No opinion: 15.

● "Traffic from 12,000 new homes will make congestion on local streets and freeways much worse." Percent agreed: 78; Opposed: 18; No opinion: 4.

● "Redwood City does not have enough water available for this much new development." Percent agreed: 44; Opposed: 19; No opinion: 37.

● "With future sea levels expected to rise, building along the Bay is a bad idea." Percent agreed: 62; Opposed: 28; No opinion: 10.

A whopping 83 percent of participants said the matter should be decided by voters and not the City Council in Redwood City, and 54 percent said they would weigh a candidate's position on this project in the next City Council election.

Developer responds

The developer -- DMB Associates Inc. in Scottsdale, Arizona -- challenged the credibility of the poll.

"Redwood City voters have already spoken about this," said DMB spokesman Jay Reed, "and they kicked (Save the Bay Executive Director) David Lewis back to Oakland."

Mr. Reed was referring to Measure W, a November 2008 initiative that would have required a two-thirds majority of voters to approve City Council decisions on uses of unimproved land. A Save the Bay poll at that time said the measure had 71 percent support, Mr. Reed said, but it lost to a 63 percent majority.

"This is David Lewis grasping at straws trying to stop the (environmental review) process," Mr. Reed said. "David Lewis has as much credibility about public opinion in Redwood City as Tiger Woods does talking about marital fidelity."

"First of all," Mr. Lewis said when asked to comment, "the numbers don't lie. This poll's been released in its entirety. All the information is there. Anyone can look at it and see what it says.

"Basically, there's no good news for DMB in this poll," Mr. Lewis continued. "Attacks on Save the Bay aren't working any better than (DMB's) desperate spin about this project. People just are not buying what the developer is selling and of course, they don't like that."

Sixty-five percent of the poll participants described themselves as environmentalists, while a plurality of 43 percent labeled themselves "pro-growth."

As to which was the greater priority, 61 percent favored jobs and the economy over civil rights and the environment.

Asked to describe themselves on a political spectrum, results showed 54 percent of the participants chose moderate, 24 percent conservative and 21 percent liberal. As for their voter registration status, a 52 percent majority registered as Democrats, with 26 percent Republican and 22 percent Independent.

Gender participation was essentially an even split.

Click here to examine the poll and its results.

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Like this comment
Posted by Jason
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 20, 2011 at 4:02 pm

Although I don't approve of the Saltworks project, I wouldn't say this poll was conducted in a neutral way. The poll questions listed in the article above were leading questions, stating an opinion, which then leads the respondents along a certain line of thinking.

DMB prides itself on shepherding controversial projects through the regulatory and approval process, has a lot of money to spend, and will stop at nothing to put another notch on its belt. Look at how many local thought-influencers it has on its payroll for example (or puts on its payroll when needed).

This will be a continuing battle to watch.

Like this comment
Posted by Barb Valley
a resident of another community
on May 20, 2011 at 7:32 pm

I am a member of the Redwood City community.
Here we have The Bay’s (STB) releasing yet another of their polls. David Lewis, Executive Director of STB, claims this one not only shows that a majority of Redwood City voters oppose the Saltworks plan but is a clear indication that we want the City Council to cease and desist and reject the project without any further review, although poll respondents were not asked directly whether they want the environmental review stopped. "It didn't occur to me to ask the question," Lewis said.

Really, David? Or did you not ask the question because you didn’t want to hear the answer?

Redwood City (and regional) residents have been engaged in a public and transparent process. A democratic process. One that STB has tried to stop time after time after time. Thomas Jefferson said democracy depends on an educated and informed electorate. You have to ask – why would a so-called environmental group not want an environmental review? Why does STB object so strongly to residents having an opportunity to have aspects of the project explained, to ask questions, voice concerns and to ultimately shape this project?

Like this comment
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on May 20, 2011 at 7:59 pm

Barbara Valley wanted a different question to be asked.....

"poll respondents were not asked directly whether they want the environmental review stopped."

I think if that question was asked of the same people the answer would have been YES of course it should be stopped. Don't forget these were people opposed to the Cargill Saltworks Plan period. I'm opposed to the project but I support city council paying for the environment review process....Has a price per affordable unit and amount of units been disclosed yet?

Like this comment
Posted by Barb Valley
a resident of another community
on May 21, 2011 at 5:52 am

The City Council is not paying for the environmental review - the Developer is, as it should. There have been a number of public scoping sessions and workshops and some 900 pages of questions, comments and concerns have been submitted submitted by Redwood City and regional residents. The plan is evolving.

Like this comment
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on May 21, 2011 at 6:07 am

Has a price per affordable unit and amount of units been disclosed yet?

Like this comment
Posted by Richard Vaughan
a resident of another community
on May 22, 2011 at 7:11 pm

As a resident of Friendly Acres, all I can see coming out of this project is increased traffic jams, future problems with water distribution and loss of an opportunity to repair some of the damage we have inflicted upon the Bay's ecosystem for the past 150 years.
If DMB had come up with something, say, 30/70 with the 30 being parks and fields w/out all of the proposed housing, I could have gone for this. But it seems like DMB wants to have everything; 50+ years of $$ making salt production and then selling the land back to us with houses attached. I don't see how this will be good for Redwood City in the long term. Sure, it will provide some jobs to the construction industry and the realtors are already drooling but what will happen to our current way of life on the peninsula? 101 is already a mess and 280 isn't too far behind. Does everyone really think that building 12,000 more units on the peninsula is going to "reduce" traffic? Count me as a critic of the entire project. Anything of this scale should be built downtown. Where a transit corridor that is not the freeway already exists.
Some folks are saying wait for the EIR, but already I question its validity having learned that DMB is paying city staffers to write it. Considering that every neighboring city council has come out with serious concerns, if not down right objections to this project, I can only see that this is something that will be dealt with in the courts for many years to matter how the poling comes out.

Like this comment
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on May 24, 2011 at 11:37 am

I'm still waiting for Barb Valley to answer the question about affordable housing pricing and how many units at those ?? prices will be available and to who?

The reason I am asking this is I have never seen this information in any of the presentations.

Also San Mateo County currently has 13,194 vacant housing units, I'm not sure we need to add 12,000 more at this time, and even if we do ....not on the Bay.

Like this comment
Posted by Anders
a resident of another community
on May 25, 2011 at 9:56 am

Barb probably can't answer the question because her name isn't DMB. Don't expect unreasonable things from people. She's not the developer.

The existence of some vacant housing units is not an argument against the creation of new housing. SMC actually as one of the lowest vacancy rates in the state, and in any case, not all housing units are created equal -- surely someone who wants (apparently quite desperately) to be County Supervisor should understand that.

A vacant 40-year-old one-bedroom apartment in, say, Daly City, does not mean that a newly-built, three-bedroom townhouse in Redwood City would be vacant. People are looking for different kinds of housing in different locations with different amenities at different price levels all the time.

There may be all kinds of reasons for not pursuing this project, but "there are already vacant housing units!" is a silly argument that shouldn't carry any weight.

Like this comment
Posted by Anders
a resident of another community
on May 25, 2011 at 9:58 am

Also, Mr. Vaughan, the developer is not "paying city staffers to write" the EIR. The city council chose an environmental consultant -- a firm that writes EIRs for a living -- and the developer is required to write the check to pay for it. So the city is the "client" for whom the EIR consultant is working; the developer just has to pay the bills as part of the process.

Like this comment
Posted by AboutEIRs
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Hills
on May 26, 2011 at 6:01 pm

FYI, as I understand it: CEQA and NEPA are laws that regulate A PROCESS. Once an EIR is written, the laws do NOT require law makers to make the best environmental decision per se (unless an endangered species is involved). An EIR is a step in the process TOWARDS development. This is why STB is strategically trying to block the EIR from even being written... because EIRs are a step towards development and without them the development cannot happen.

Now my opinion:
Don't need the housing or the traffic
Don't have the water
Sea level rise (hello!!)
Earthquakes + building on mud = liquefaction
Already have lost 90% of our shoreline wetlands to development

Go Save The Bay!

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