Voters to decide on competing measures

October 29, 2008 3:26:14 PM PDT
With Election Day less than a week away, the battle continues in Redwood City over two competing ballot measures that would allow residents to weigh in on proposed developments.

Measures V and W, if passed, would each require a vote from residents before any action taken by the City Council to change zoning or general plans for a specific property could move forward.

Measure W, placed on the ballot by Save the Bay and Friends of Redwood City after the groups collected 6,500 voter signatures, would require two-thirds voter approval for such actions in areas designated as open space lands, including a number of city parks and some private parcels.

A competing initiative, Measure V, placed on the ballot by a unanimous vote of the City Council, would require majority voter approval of any action by the council permitting development of the Cargill lands, 1,450 acres of land east of U.S. Highway 101 and south of Seaport Boulevard.

Redwood City spokesman Malcolm Smith pointed out that the passage of either measure would require approval by voters for the Cargill Lands to be developed.

However, he said, Measure V would only require majority voter approval, while Measure W would require two-thirds approval.

Another difference is that Measure V would apply only to the Cargill Saltworks site, whereas Measure W would apply to all designated open space areas in the city, Smith said.

Smith said the council placed Measure V on the ballot to give voters another choice.

"When the council looked at the effects of Measure W, they determined a viable alternative might be Measure V, given that the issue was really centered on the Cargill Lands, so they just focused on that in the measure," Smith said.

Save the Bay Director David Lewis said Measure W would better protect residents' interests.

"Measure W is very specific about when and how the public gets to decide," Lewis said. "When the City Council votes to change the zoning on open space, whether it's the Cargill property or the parks that are covered ... that decision of the City Council is not final until voters have weighed in."

He called Measure V "much more weak and vague about what a public vote would be on and when," he argued.

Lewis said proponents of Measure W have looked at the Bair Island example as their ideal outcome for the Cargill Lands. The City Council approved a development plan for Bair Island in the 1980s, Lewis said. Voters then overturned the council's decision. The private property was sold and became part of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

"That's the model for what should happen there," Lewis said.

A grassroots movement to support Measure W has recently come from mobile home residents along East Bayshore Road, which runs parallel to the Bay and overlooks the Cargill salt ponds.

Residents gathered recently at the home of Redwood Mobile Estates resident Linda Cox to show support for Measure W.

Cox, whose deck looks directly out onto the Cargill land and across the Bay, said she calls her mobile home Bella del Sol.

She said she is afraid that if Measure V passes, Cargill and DMB, a company partnered with Cargill, will attempt to build a large development instead of turning the area into protected wetlands.

"When I bought here, I thought this was protected land. I'm trying to save my mobile home from being devalued," Cox said.

Although Cargill and DMB, an Arizona-based real estate company, have not yet presented a development plan to the City Council to build on the Cargill Lands, the residents said they know the council would approve a development because of the potential revenue.

Cox said she does not want to look out onto commercial buildings or up to an overpass. She and other residents also expressed fear that if a development were to be built, their mobile home park may be taken by imminent domain.

"We want (to give) the citizens of Redwood City the ability to personally vote on this. Not the City Council," said Joe Folenta, an 11-year resident of Redwood Mobile Estates.

Jay Reed, communications manager for DMB Redwood City Saltworks, the partnership between Cargill and DMB, said the company has been out in the community since 2006 trying to find out what residents would like to see on the Cargill lands.

"Cargill owns the land (and) DMB was brought in as a partner to ascertain future uses on the Cargill-owned Redwood City Saltworks site," he said.

Reed said DMB has taken a 50-50 approach to any potential development on the land, meaning 50 percent would be set aside for the creation of new habitat and the other 50 percent would be set aside for a mixture of development uses, including parks and trails as well as housing, retail and commercial buildings.

"We were kind of blindsided by Save the Bay and its efforts to take over power from the City Council and residents that we never got to finish the conversation with residents," Reed said. "We never got into greater detail."

Reed said DMB is part of Citizens Against Costly Initiatives, which opposes Measure W. As part of the group, DMB has contributed funding to oppose Measure W and has not taken a position on Measure V.

If both measures receive a majority vote on Nov. 4, the one that receives the most votes will be adopted, according to the city clerk's office. If neither receives a majority vote, no part of either measure will be adopted.


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