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.
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.