Development could doom Redwood City salt ponds, environmentalists say

The Bay Area’s housing crisis is leading some politicians, residents, and environmentalists to worry development could mean doom for areas once off-limits.

The 1400-acre Redwood City salt ponds are one such area. It serves as a reminder of how industrialization can alter what was once a pristine bayfront. Now some worry those could be eyed for housing and business development.

“Cargill and their development partner, DMB, have made a public statement that they plan to explore what a development plan could look like here,” said Alice Kaufman of Committee for Green Foothills, a non-profit that works to preserve open spaces in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

At a press conference Tuesday morning, Peninsula-area politicians, residents, and environmental groups gathered to sound an alarm.

“We can’t build on the Bay. It’s a practice we abandoned a long time ago, and we shouldn't be doing it here,” said David Pine, a member of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors. 

Stretching back to the 19th Century, marshlands surrounded the San Francisco Bay, but industrialization and development have converted marsh into either salt ponds or concrete structures that are staples of modern progress.

“Ninety-percent of the Bay’s historic wetlands have already been lost to development," said Kaufman. "We really need to restore as much as possible. Every acre is important."

She said since the Trump administration has rolled back some environmental protections, Cargill Salt Company and it’s real estate partner DMB Associates, have been eyeing the site. 

“They spent a decade trying to build 12,000 homes on this site. And they were forced to withdraw that proposal in 2012," said David Lewis, executive director of Save the Bay. "Apparently they haven’t learned their lesson." 

KTVU reached out to DMB Associates and Cargill Salt about the possibility of the pair trying to develop the site. 

In an email statement from Cargill, "Nothing has been proposed for the site other than what it is now...Our intent is to engage in a broad community conversation about potential future uses.” 

DMB has yet to respond. 

“Development on this site could put people at risk for flooding and sea-level rise," Pine said. "It would destroy opportunities for wildlife restoration. And it would add to our increasing traffic burden here on the peninsula." 

Development opponents cite recent studies that show much of the natural ecosystem has been lost and reviving marshlands would benefit nature and residents.

“This area is one of the last places where we can restore wetlands in a large size,” Kaufman said.