Menlo Park: Survey suggests details of possible development on Bay's salt flats


By Matthew Vollrath

Special to The Almanac

A recent survey sent to certain Menlo Park residents floated the possibility of a development project on a 1,400-acre wetland property on the Redwood City shoreline.

The survey from McGuire Research contains the following question: "Would you support or oppose a proposal for the Saltworks land that would permanently dedicate a substantial majority of the property as publicly accessible open space, active sports fields, the Bay Trail, tidal marsh restoration, flood control, transportation improvements, and a buffer against sea level rise; and, in order to help pay for those public benefits, the fractional remainder of the property would be used for a combination of private, economic uses including housing, office space, school and church sites and neighborhood retail stores?"

A subsequent question suggests that "only about 20 percent of the land would be used for buildings and about 80 percent would be used for public recreation, parks, open space, tidal marsh restoration, and access to the Bay and Bay Trails."

The possibility of such a proposal comes on the heels of a recent Environmental Protection Agency decision. In 2009, Arizona developer DMB Associates proposed building 12,000 homes on the salt flats. The proposal had Bay Area environmental groups and activists up in arms and prepared to fight the development; among those voicing strong opposition were numerous elected officials from Menlo Park, Atherton, Woodside and Portola Valley. In 2012 DMB withdrew its bid.

Last March, however, EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler ruled that the flats were not protected under the Clean Water Act as previously determined, potentially clearing the way for a new development proposal.

The survey goes on to acknowledge competing arguments regarding the implied proposal. On the one hand, it mentions that "the Saltworks project will increase the amount of affordable housing in Redwood City," and suggests that "at least 25 percent of the new housing units" would be dedicated to housing "for low and middle income families that would include professions such as nurses and teachers."

It also suggests that a development "would include hundreds of acres of tidal marsh restoration" and that an amount of land "bigger than Golden Gate Park in San Francisco" would be "permanently ... set aside as open space."

Barring such a project, it points out, "the property owner will continue the salt harvesting operations indefinitely, leaving the Bay shoreline as an industrial site, off-limits to the public, behind a chain link fence."

On the other hand, the survey implies that there may be "no guarantees from the developer on the project's community benefits." It also raises the possibility that "new housing on the Saltworks would put people at risk from rising seas, destroy habitat for fish and wildlife, lack an adequate water supply and worsen traffic."

Either way, the survey says, "Any building proposal will still have to go through a complete public review process, including public hearings and Redwood City approval."

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3 people like this
Posted by John
a resident of Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on Jul 3, 2019 at 8:24 pm

Great idea. To truly solve our housing and traffic problems we need to think boldly.

I would go even further: dredge the entire bay south of Dumbarton. Bay is too shallow for any meaningful water use and the new land would add homes and make crossings more accessible.

49 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 4, 2019 at 10:09 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.


the bay lands serve more purposes than simply "water use". Suggest you watch the KQED series "Saving the Bay". We were well on the way to filling in the bay in the 50's and 60's until people took action to stop it.

1 person likes this
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jul 4, 2019 at 10:53 am

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

Add a golf course and a 64 lane bowling alley.

42 people like this
Posted by Darshana
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 4, 2019 at 11:24 am

Darshana is a registered user.

I was one of the people sent the survey - I tried to share the link with friends, but it was tailor made for me and they could not take it (was marked “already taken.)

Even though questions are always skewed for a certain outcome in these kind of surveys, I tried to tell the survey askers (not shared with me of courses) clearly that I deeply believe the land needs to be returned to marshland, for the sake of everyone who lives here or visits our gorgeous Bay Area! It is supposed to be marshland, to cleanse runoff water and provide habitat for the diversity of species that keep all of us healthy!

I felt like many of the questions were "trick" questions designed to get people to think building housing there was a *great* idea - and that they would get *lots* of benefit. In reality, we will all lose if more buildings are built on land meant to filter water and be a buffer between land and water.

The survey was just designed for the folks who now own the land to make even more money! Please do NOT be fooled!

Anything other than a return to marshlands would be incredibly foolish with the current climate changes - that will be worsening for hundreds of years if we can even turn it around at all by our own efforts with tree planting, carbon sequestering, pollution cleanup and other restoration attempts.)

Nature had a perfect system with many forests, grasslands/prairies, marshlands, and eco-niches we haven’t even begun to study. We would be wise to copy that system and do our best to restore it for our own thriving.

16 people like this
Posted by Jennifer
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jul 4, 2019 at 11:29 am

Jack - the golf course down the street from our homes is greatly underutilized.

Build ball fields for kids.

You're a free market man, go into the real world and build a bowling alley. Capitalism!

Like this comment
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jul 4, 2019 at 5:23 pm

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

Also include a direct connection to the Bayfront Expressway.

4 people like this
Posted by Jennifer
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jul 5, 2019 at 10:48 am

Jack sure wants a lot of government services, intervention and perks.

A bowling alley? A private road? Golf courses? Put a business plan together, and go get it funded. Capitalism!

When's the last business plan you had funded by the free market, Jack Hickey? Recently? Or has it been awhile?

Good news - there's a LOT of funding out there, readily available for good, sound plans.

29 people like this
Posted by Disgusted
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Hills
on Jul 5, 2019 at 1:32 pm

Why is it that every piece of dirt needs to be developed? Greedy ass developers, who don't have to live with the consequences of building and paving over everything in sight, just move on after leaving the mess behind. The survey is a misleading piece of BS. People should read a book "I've seen California destroyed by progress" - to see what the craze to develop everything has done to quality of life.

14 people like this
Posted by Mark
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jul 5, 2019 at 1:41 pm

Bluntly, DMB Associates can pound salt for decades, far as I'm concerned, until it becomes economically absurd to continue the enterprise. They'll then be motivated to sell the property to a government agency charged with restoring and preserving it as wetlands/tidal marsh, the one best use for the entire area. We needn't reward every speculator who has purchased large swaths of land with questionable development potential. One also wonders what sort of tax breaks and other incentives DMB may extract from Redwood City or the county for a deal such as this, given some of the company's past efforts [Web Link].

9 people like this
Posted by concerned
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Hills
on Jul 5, 2019 at 2:05 pm

If San Mateo is so concerned about sea level rise that they are advocating spending $25 Million to study it, why would the county even consider allowing more development in wetland areas???

12 people like this
Posted by NativeSon
a resident of another community
on Jul 5, 2019 at 2:38 pm

We already said no to developing on these wetlands, but developers clearly see big dollar signs. They were run out of town in 2012 by a city council that finally heard what their own constituents were saying -- don't build on the Bay! I saw that Redwood City Mayor Ian Bain strongly opposes any change to current zoning that prohibits development on salt ponds, and he said “The community wants to see the site restored to wetlands and there’s close to zero appetite for another housing proposal.”

8 people like this
Posted by Beth
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 5, 2019 at 2:43 pm

Is anyone able to custom-tailor a survey and how do they know which residents to target? I'm not surprised to hear some of the questions seemed to be tricky. The Federal EPA would love to score against the wishes of most Californians and this is only one spot where they're changing regulations. The survey and public relations of this firm are sugar-coating the future with rose-colored glasses, such as mentioning the substantial housing for low and middle income. Yes, say 1 home for low income family and the rest for middle class. I trust none of these greedy corporates.

Like this comment
Posted by Henry fox
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 5, 2019 at 2:48 pm

would like to see the "transportation" part of the plan defined.
If it includes an express link between the Dumbarton and 101, I would enthusiastically support it.

24 people like this
Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 5, 2019 at 3:06 pm

This is a no brainer... no on development. Let the Baylands alone.

22 people like this
Posted by Redwood City Kid
a resident of another community
on Jul 5, 2019 at 3:23 pm

This sounds like a push poll. So not really s poll but s means of persuasion. The salt ponds are the perfect place for horizontal levies, which can ameliorate the inevitable effects of climate change. Housing is great but not in the bay. We had this discussion 10 years ago. Redwood City kids don’t want houses in the bay, they want restored wetlands.

2 people like this
Posted by JLG
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 5, 2019 at 3:47 pm

The article says "substantial" as the portion allotted for public use. What does that mean? Though I haven't seen it, the survey sounds specious, most likely skewed toward supporting development while downplaying preservation of the wetlands, which are vital to the health of the bay. We recently succeeded in razing the levees at Bair Island to help in restoration there. Why would we want to counter that achievement with this sort of development? I'd love to see POST buy these wetlands and to see housing built on dry land.

3 people like this
Posted by frugal
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 5, 2019 at 6:01 pm

Great! Build 12,000 more homes and overnight Facebook will be able to add 12,000 more jobs. Meanwhile out on US 101 . . . .

9 people like this
Posted by Kathy Voss
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jul 6, 2019 at 8:29 am

I just want to voice my agreement to what my neighbor Darshana commented that the Cargill lands and other areas east of 101 need to be returned to marshland, "for the sake of everyone who lives here... to cleanse runoff water, and be a buffer between land and water!" Marshland prevents flooding which is so important as sea levels rise, and more and more of San Mateo county is vulnerable to flooding during storms, especially during high tides. Anything other than a return to marshlands would be incredibly foolish in light of all that we know about climate change and sea level rise.

I agree that the recent survey "was just designed for the folks who now own the land to make even more money! Please do NOT be fooled!" Thank you.

13 people like this
Posted by Carolyn Chaney
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jul 6, 2019 at 2:58 pm

Let’s say no to development of bay lands. We need to prepare for sea level rise by restoring our wetlands, not building more things that can’t weather the storms or rising water levels. The salt flats belong to the SF Bay.

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