The battle for open space in the Peninsula

June 24, 2008 7:41:43 PM PDT
There's a battle brewing over development in Redwood City. The question is whether voters should have the final say over projects planned for what's now considered open space.

Redwood City has 4,700 acres of open space. The biggest plot is the 1,400 acre salt pond site owned by Cargill. There's a move now to protect that land from any development.

"There's precious little open space left in Redwood City and it's important enough that people deserve a right to vote on any proposal to destroy it," said Save the Bay Executive Director David Lewis.

Save the Bay and other groups have gathered more than enough signatures to have their ballot measure go before voters. On Tuesday, the opposition announced it had formed its own group called "Citizens to Protect Redwood City" and is ready for a fight.

"It's been put out as an open space amendment. It's really not, it's really a change to the city charter," said Charlene Wright from Citizens to Protect Redwood City.

There's no question if a majority of voters approve the ballot measure it would change the city charter and proponents don't argue that fact.

If passed, any proposed development on open space or parks would require a two-thirds vote by the people.

Lewis says that's just good policy.

"It takes two-thirds vote to raise taxes, to acquire open space and fund open space and parks. So it should take a two thirds vote to on any proposal to destroy it," said Lewis.

But opponents, including a former mayor say changing the city charter isn't necessary. They believe the current system of public hearings already ensures responsible development.

"It's harassment to the city council people doing a job. It's infringing on their time and way of doing business," said former Redwood City Mayor Brent Britschgi.

For now the public will get one vote, probably in November. The outcome will determine just how involved voters are in any future development of open space.


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