It will likely be a messy and confusing election for Redwood City voters who will have to decide in November between two similar ballot initiatives regarding Cargill Salt Works.
One is sponsored by Save the Bay and proposes all development on open space be passed by Redwood City voters with a two-thirds majority. The other, drafted by the city, proposes any development of the Cargill Salt Works be passed by voters with a simple majority vote — 50 percent plus one.
The pending Cargill development of the salt flats east of Highway 101 may have spurred the ballot initiatives, but it is 40 parcels of land fueling the debate and dividing the city.
The Save the Bay initiative seeks to permanently change the city’s charter — or constitution — by requiring all open space development changes go to a vote of the people. The change will affect 40 parcels of land in two zoning districts, the tidal plain and the Redwood Shores Bayfront, all city parks and the uses of five privately held areas of land: Cargill salt ponds; Docktown Marina; marsh land south of Galveston Drive, adjacent to Redwood Creek; wetland area of the Preserve at Redwood Shores; and Oracle’s parcel along Belmont slough.
Residents in those areas are worried any change to their property, like a home addition, will require two-thirds approval by voters. Worse, they are afraid it will adversely affect their property values.
For that reason, the City Council placed the second counter-initiative, on the November ballot.
My heart just goes out to the people caught in the middle here. There is nothing more precious than your home and having it attacked ... I don’t think I could keep it together,” said Councilman Jeff Ira.
Ira opposed the second initiative because he said he would rather see the Save the Bay proposal "go up or down” without confusing voters with another ballot measure.
Ultimately, Ira voted in favor of the second ballot measure.
The city will have to draft language for the ballot and hopes residents will campaign for it. The council is forbidden from campaigning for a city ballot measure.
However, plenty of money will likely be spent on the campaigning, Councilman Jim Hartnett said.
"There is not going to be a lavish campaign by anybody to support [the city’s initiative]. The real battle is between gobs of money of what Save the Bay is going to spend and gobs of money of what DMB is going to spend,” Hartnett said.
The council said it had faith residents could make an informed decision and get along during the already divisive battle.
"Folks, hang on. It is going to be ugly, it is going to be rude and, by the way, everyone is open to attack in the next couple of months because we will all be attacked. I hope we’ll all be able to look at each other, pat each other on the back and say we did something for the community because that’s where we’ll all be,” Mayor Rosanne Foust told the audience.