The Loma Prietan - May/June 2010

Chapter Continues Fight against Development in Wetlands

by Cynthia Denny

Bayfront views along the Cargill Salt Ponds. Photo: John Gibson, GOT Imaging
Bayfront views along the Cargill Salt Ponds. Photo: John Gibson, GOT Imaging

In Redwood City, DMB Associates has proposed to develop one half of the 1,433-acre Cargill salt flats into up to 12,000 homes and one million square feet of office space and will dedicate the remaining half for wetlands restoration, open space and recreation.

Members of the Chapter's Wetlands Subcommittee drafted public comments in response to the new Notice of Preparation on the Redwood City General Plan Update, challenging the Redwood City Council to take back the leadership role of the city's plan for the bayfront from the developer. Unfortunately, when these comments were presented at the February 1st Council meeting, Mayor Jeff Ira cut them short. Ninety-two current and former elected officials from nine Bay Area counties lodged their opinion opposing the development proposal via a signed letter to the Council, urging council members to reject massive development on Bay salt ponds. Peter Drekmeier and Mike Ferreira, members of the Chapter's Conservation Committee, are among that group.

More recently the Wetlands Subcommittee also supported the San Francisco Bay Joint Venture's efforts to denote San Francisco Bay as a "Ramsar Wetland of International Significance." Wetlands having this designation benefit from increased conservation status, receive international attention and are included in the international conservation network that encompasses flyways and other migratory routes, making them eligible for increased funding. This effort, if successful, will strengthen the goal of fighting development along San Francisco Bay and preserving regional wetlands.

Machinery lines the edge of the Cargill salt ponds. Photo: John Gibson, GOT Imaging

In order to have the opportunity to represent the Club, members of the Wetlands Subcommittee drafted the San Francisco Bay Protection Resolution in 2008, which the Chapter adopted. In late 2009 this same resolution garnered the support of the Bay and Ventana Chapters and ultimately was proposed and adopted by the Club's California-Nevada Regional Conservation Committee (CNRCC), despite the objections of Tim Frank, an employee of DMB Associates. The CNRCC version resolved to "support full restoration to tidal wetlands of the entire Cargill salt ponds property in Redwood City." The adoption of this resolution by the various Sierra Club entities is significant because it helped to unify the goals of local, regional and state groups with the Sierra Club national policy, which rejects development in exchange for restoration of wetlands.

Cynthia Denny is a member of the Sierra Club California Executive Committee and chapter delegate to the CNRCC.