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Environmentalists will soon be fighting housing advocates over what to do with the SF Bay locally

Uploaded: Mar 18, 2019
A recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decision has produced a challenge for liberal residents in the area – do you want to turn a whopping 1,400 acres of San Francisco Bay’s shoreline in Redwood City into more housing – or into an environmental estuary for birds and fish in the San Francisco Bay? These two good causes for many Democrats are now pitted against each other.

A bit of background: The land has been owned by Cargill Salt for ages, and it’s been used for salt ponds -- clearly visible by the array of green and brown-colored waters seen when flying over the area. The Trump Administration through the EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler declared earlier this month, according to the San Jose Mercury, that all those acres are no longer bound by the federal Clean Water Act, and are not subject to a 1972 law that limited the bay’s filling and draining. Therefore there are no restrictions on development. In other words, anything goes now for what to do with those 1,400 acres that Cargill wants to sell.

That’s a big reversal and a huge decision, since this marshy mass is now worth millions more. Environmentalists want the land, which sits at sea level and is prone to flooding, to be preserved and used as tidal wetlands for wildlife, a position that has garnered public support for several decades. But housing advocates are excitedly aware that these swampy acres are suitable for housing, particularly the affordable kind. Indeed, in 2009, Cargill and DMB Associates, a developer from Arizona, proposed building some 12,000 homes on the site.

Whatever happened politically, we now have a new problem – and lots to consider. And this is not just a local problem – areas in Brooklyn are fighting over preserving wonderful city gardens and parks vs. building high rises. In a Sunday NYT article that implied some people were thinking of turning parts of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden into housing, Scot Medbury, president of the garden, said, “The (small) gardens (in town) are not just some generic green space. We shouldn’t pit open space vs. housing.”

And yet that’s what may soon happen here

The housing shortage is a fact-based area-wide need, and 12,000 (plus or minus) new units could help solve some of the critical housing needs in the area for 25,000-plus people. But the land would have to be redeveloped, a costly undertaking, akin to what happened to Foster City in the 1960’s, amid opposition from some of the environmentalists. At that time, some feared that reclaimed and refilled area would be subject to earthquakes.

I empathize with the need for more housing, but there are related problems -- it will add more people on more traffic on the Redwood City roadways, as well as roads north and south. A further problem is that due to climate changes, cities, particularly Palo Alto, are now anticipating that waters, including those in SF Bay, will rise, and by the 2050s, may usurp a lot of the shoreline. So if we all build housing there now, will it be flooded by mid-century?

On the other hand, it’s very important to preserve the Bay and prevent it from reckless filling, because it’s an important microclimate, and it could easily be restored to marshlands.

This shouldn’t be an either (housing) - or - (save the Bay) decision. I, for one, don’t have enough of the facts or the costs. But I do remember back in the early 1980s in Palo Alto, there was a move to turn the Elizabeth Gamble House on the corner of Waverley and Embarcadero into an affordable housing project for lower-income people, rather than turn it into a lovely public garden. I wanted then and now to preserve Gamble Gardens, because it has become such a lovely community treasure.

And if we had built more affordable housing there, we still would have a just-as-intense lack of below-market-rate housing problem here today.

So I guess I come down right now on tilting toward the side of preserving the Bay and forgetting about filling it in. Do you?
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Comments

 +   7 people like this
Posted by Create Another Foster City, a resident of another community,
on Mar 18, 2019 at 7:43 pm

Why not do both? Create another Foster City but set aside an all-natural section as a wildlife preserve.

Also have a series of canals so people can travel to each other's house by small boats just like in Foster City.


 +   20 people like this
Posted by Los Altos Neighbor, a resident of Los Altos,
on Mar 18, 2019 at 11:07 pm

Save the bay!

We don't have a housing shortage, we have a people overage.

If you build 10,000 new homes then they will just add 25,000 new jobs and make it more crowded and tell us to give up even more of our quality of life the next time.

What is wrong with saying "no more growth" other than the builders can't get richer selling our quality of life in exchange for raising our taxes and rationing our water to fit more into our space.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Mar 18, 2019 at 11:45 pm

Have we seen any raising of the SF Bay waters yet due to global warming?
It might not be the best idea to build stuff there and let it be a buffer zone
for flooding. It depends on the housing proposal ... but if there is housing
out there, would there not then or later be businesses, like Foster City?

There are some nice designs in Foster City, but also a lot of single-family
dwellings that are kind of low density, but it is also cold, windy and
loud thanks to SFO.

Maybe we need to pioneer a new kind of housing called ultra-low-cost
that is like the micro-apartments that have been build in SF. I don't know
if we still have things like that, but we used to have at least 2 very small
unit apartment buildings ... I think somewhere off of High St. maybe behind
the Aquarius theater. What was the history of those and how did they work
out? Maybe there was also one on University or Hamilton ... very small studio
apartments. Perfect for students or low wage workers and not very
obtrusive.

There was also another unit like that just as you would turn into downtown
Mountain View from Central Expwy on the right. None of these places were
of a very large enough scale to make much of a difference.


 +   15 people like this
Posted by mauricio, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Mar 19, 2019 at 6:54 am

mauricio is a registered user.

There is no housing shortage. Companies are allowed to keep hiring new people ,expecting local communities to fix the mess they are creating. As long as more commercial development is allowed, the screams for more housing will continue. The only solution is to snot approve any more commercial development and allow only home remodels. This area needs ta significant reduction in its population. A population increase would amount to an environmental suicide.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Mar 19, 2019 at 7:13 am

Before building up any more we must improve our public transportation. The Bay itself is very underused with water taxis, ferries and hovercrafts. Totally inadequate Caltrain service to Morgan Hill and Gilroy should be brought up to a more frequent service to enable commuters from south of San Jose to get to where they work. Express bus services using freeways with various stops at off ramps with parking lots and efficient shuttle service should be designed all around the Bay - along the lines of the Google and Facebook buses, but for everyone.

Housing near jobs won't help traffic as both people in a couple rarely work in the same place and people change jobs more often than they change homes.

Get more effort into public transportation, with one Agency that encompasses the whole Bay region with efficient services that complement rather than compete against each other.

Then the homes can be built where there is space!


 +   11 people like this
Posted by under water, a resident of Green Acres,
on Mar 19, 2019 at 9:19 am

We need the marshlands, graded, to buffer from rising bay levels.

You seem to not be cognizant of another thread:

Palo Alto starts to plan for sea-level rise
Original post made on Mar 19, 2019
Web Link


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Mar 19, 2019 at 9:38 am

The only "solution" that I can see is tax-supported public housing, so that we, the taxpayers, can put that housing where we want it. Of course, we know that government is much better at big projects than it is at managing housing, so, we need to build the housing and sell it off at a loss.

As for the salt marshes -- we should have bought them already, but, since we didn't, we'll have to pay the price. The world where real estate developers run everything is going to be extremely ugly.


 +   7 people like this
Posted by under water, a resident of Green Acres,
on Mar 19, 2019 at 10:07 am

>> we should have bought them already, but, since we didn't, we'll have to pay the price.

And we get to pay twice: the second time when we have to protect the new housing with increased protection from rising tides.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Diana Diamond, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Mar 19, 2019 at 10:11 am

Diana Diamond is a registered user.

Under water:

You said, "You seem to not be cognizant of another thread: Palo Alto starts to plan for sea-level rise."

I think not. I wrote:
A further problem is that due to climate changes, cities, particularly Palo Alto, are now anticipating that waters, including those in SF Bay, will rise, and by the 2050s, may usurp a lot of the shoreline. So if we all build housing there now, will it be flooded by mid-century?


 +   3 people like this
Posted by under water, a resident of Green Acres,
on Mar 19, 2019 at 12:27 pm

DD: Mea culpa. Sorry.


 +   7 people like this
Posted by margaret heath, a resident of College Terrace,
on Mar 19, 2019 at 3:36 pm

Staff's presentation during last night's council meeting about changing climate with its steadily rising sea level impacts on our baylands and adjacent lower lying residential and commercial areas was most informative. It appears, understandably, those who advocate building housing that intrudes into the bay are unwilling to acknowledge the critical importance of preserving and using wetlands if we are to protect the viability of the existing neighborhoods and developments closest to the bay.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Mar 19, 2019 at 3:52 pm

Posted by margaret heath, a resident of College Terrace

>> It appears, understandably, those who advocate building housing that intrudes into the bay

Are you referring to someone or some specific discussion? Are there people actually advocating building into the bay (now, not back in the 1950's)?

The good news is that anything built along the bay at sea level will be underwater in 50 years, which will solve the problem. I hope the structures will be biodegradable, or, at least non-toxic. They may become homes for marine life.

In the meantime, might as well start building the levees up.


 +   9 people like this
Posted by A Christ-wing Christian, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Mar 19, 2019 at 5:01 pm

Oh brother, this is not a liberal divide. It is a divide between environmentalists and those who have let themselves be co-opted by development interests with specious arguments about housing that result in the opposite of their intentions, very much like Republicans have co-opted rightwing Christians and gotten them to worship a very unChrist-like political party and figures.

I find it quaint to even think that any of the latter even remotely think about the environment anymore. Really, this is not a conundrum. What do we need? To save the earth? Clean water and air? To save disappearing species? Or do we need to make this area as dense as we can possibly make it and then some regardless of the costs because a few companies got bigger and bigger and no one wants to leave because companies and government don't invest in civic amenities anymore?

I think we save the earth, and start figuring out how to create the desirability in places around the state (or country) who want the jobs/companies/growth, and might be willing to accept good schools, new community centers, upgraded local colleges, in exchange for taking the companies.

In the meantime, we could really stand to do a head tax on anything but small companies and retailers. Make it large enough to actually mitigate some of the problems, and conflicts like these magically go away.

Someone should tell the rightwing Christians that it's safe to care about Creation again since the liberals have all been co-opted by developers and are going to destroy the dominance of Democrats in California. (Republicans can rehabilitate their idiotic economic ideologies by just starting to believe in "outcomes" and "facts" and "truth" way faster than Democrats can make the evidence of and negatives from corrupt overdevelopment go away.). Now that liberals are trying to destroy it, maybe the people who claim they believe in Creation will stop being the ones most trying to destroy it. (Remember the Sabbath?... now, let's everyone say together what the Sabbath was supposed to commemorate...)


 +   2 people like this
Posted by A Scared Christian, a resident of Portola Valley,
on Mar 19, 2019 at 9:30 pm

Post removed


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Diana Diamond, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Mar 19, 2019 at 9:33 pm

Diana Diamond is a registered user.

Post removed


 +   9 people like this
Posted by A Christ-wing Christian, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Mar 19, 2019 at 10:59 pm

Well, I'm sorry those comments above were deleted before I saw them. I think it's about time that the media start recognizing that Christians in this country are NOT majority Republican voters (see Pew Research study on US religious groups and their political leanings), and their focus on the extreme on one end becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy for cultural Christians who just identify with it like a tribalism. They hear some weird hateful belief (hate being antithetical to the teachings of Christ) is associated with Christians, and add that to their belief system. You hear it all the time in the media. And politicians then lead around a segment of Christians by the nose, and the public thinks that's what Christians believe.

Have any Christians considered why we hear the isolated passages twisted and pulled out of context to condemn gays, but not (in this current environment) the many very clear verses about how we should care for immigrants and aliens among us? Or the very, very pointed things Jesus had to say about religious hypocrites? I can't remember the last time I heard "love your neighbor as yourself" or "turn the other cheek" or "whatever you do for the least of these, you do also for me" or "it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven".

I care a lot about social justice, and I care a lot about not being used to further a greedy agenda. The fact that we are even talking about doing anything except environmental stewardship with those lands shows just how badly liberals have become co-opted by moneyed interests using them and destroying their environmentalist leanings in the process. More corrupt overdevelopment will be irreversible evidence of Democratic corruption and mismanagement and will come back to haunt and hurt us.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by billyjoebob, a resident of Escondido School,
on Mar 20, 2019 at 1:39 pm

I grew up in Palo Alto in the 60's and 70's. Going back to visit and seeing what it has become makes me want to throw up. It will get to the point where you all will swim in your own sewage and pay top dollar for it. Enjoy!
BJB


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Mar 20, 2019 at 2:32 pm

I'm still wondering about something. Certainly, there is the history. The "Reber Plan", Foster City, Redwood shores, all the bay fill, and so on.

The article mentions the 2009 Cargill proposal. But, what I'm trying to understand if there are actual "housing advocates" today who are proposing this, and, if so, who are they? In particular, I'm wondering if these ideas are being re-floated by developers, their minions, and their shills, or, are there actually (misguided) people who really do care about housing, who are advocating such proposals?


 +   2 people like this
Posted by before The Rising Tides Of False Fear, a resident of another community,
on Mar 20, 2019 at 9:43 pm

> start figuring out how to create the desirability in places around the state

All of the desirable places have already been taken up. That is why we have population density in certain areas & not throughout the entire state.

Trying to create geographic appeal is superficial at best. Erecting new buildings & modern housing tracts will not guarantee that people will want to live there & neither will establishing a state university.

California is a large state but there are numerous counties where people prefer not to live.

Blue VS Red voting patterns has a lot to do with it. Regardless of political affiliation, most folks would rather live in 'blue' counties (Orange & San Diego being possible exceptions).

Try developing a place like Modoc County & getting both companies + people to relocate there. Good luck with that.

So in the meantime, save some estuary but build some nice raised homes in the marshland areas.

Historically, Mountain View once had a deep water harbor & there are no records of flooding having destroyed any buildings...same with Alviso.

If global warming and tides are still a major concern, create a houseboat community as an alternative.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by mauricio, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Mar 21, 2019 at 9:06 am

"Try developing a place like Modoc County & getting both companies + people to relocate there. Good luck with that."

Completely untrue. People go where the jobs are and where they can afford housing. People go to hell holes like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Dubai, Yemen and Pakistan for work, some of them who I know personally are even Stanford graduates. Saying that if companies in SV move to other parts of California (and why should it be only in California?)they would have trouble hiring workers is not only ludicrous, it feels too much like real estate developers propaganda.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Alviso?, a resident of College Terrace,
on Mar 21, 2019 at 5:53 pm

"Historically, Mountain View once had a deep water harbor & there are no records of flooding having destroyed any buildings...same with Alviso."

Isn't a good part of old Alviso abandoned because rising water has caused it to flood?


 +   5 people like this
Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Mar 22, 2019 at 1:12 am

^ Not rising water. Sinking land. Web Link - "Santa Clara County has experienced as much as 13 feet of subsidence caused by excessive pumping of groundwater."
Santa Clara Valley Water District


 +   5 people like this
Posted by A resident, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Mar 22, 2019 at 8:09 am

In the 1950s developers wanted to fill in the bay and build housing and luckily that didn't happen. The union representing the SF airport workers is against building the housing as they feel,residents of the newly minted cargil town will complain about all the noise which comes from the SF airport.
It is also laughable that the Cargil and supporters claim "affordable" housing will be built. By affordable they mean around $1,000,000.
What will truly address the housing issue is high speed transportation into/out of the Bay area.


 +   7 people like this
Posted by In God We Trust, a resident of Los Altos,
on Mar 22, 2019 at 9:40 am

"Have any Christians considered why we hear the isolated passages twisted and pulled out of context..."

To suit one's purposes...this approach is used by countless 'special interest' groups as an endorsement (of sorts) from a higher authority.

Curious. What does Christianity have to do with this thread topic?


 +   8 people like this
Posted by PA Grandma, a resident of Community Center,
on Mar 22, 2019 at 11:15 am

The Bay Area seems to be prone to magical thinking when it comes to dealing with problems, especially traffic and housing. Let's add sea level rise to the list.

A quote from National Geographic:
Web Link

"The most recent special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says we can expect the oceans to rise between 10 and 30 inches (26 to 77 centimeters) by 2100 with temperatures warming 1.5 °C."

If you want to see what that means to the Bay Area, and the Cargill site, not to mention Palo Alto, play with the NOAA Sea Level Rise Viewer:
Web Link

Note that the proposed site for all of this new housing will be under deep water with 1 foot of sea level rise.

Then do some research into how allowing the salt ponds to migrate back to marsh will help to mitigate flooding. Think about it this way. Take cookie sheet or large baking pan and put it in your sink. Fill half way with water. Then take a stiff piece of plastic or cardboard, put it in the water at one end, holding the bottom edge so you can push the water as you move the barrier down the sheet. Notice that the water level rises as the space available declines. This is what happens when the salt marsh areas around the Bay are replaced by land fill. Yes, the Bay is very large so you may not think the effect would be that great, but the difference in the height of the Bay during high tides and flood conditions is measurable. Then add sea level rise. At some point even Foster City will be under water.

And then there is the earthquake risk for building multi-story housing on filled mud flats, the cost of filling the mud flats to a reasonable height - at least one high enough to allow flood insurance - and the cost of flood insurance for those buildings, if FEMA will even provide it.

Not even going to address the traffic issue . . .



 +  Like this comment
Posted by Moslitski, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Apr 8, 2019 at 10:13 am

Moslitski is a registered user.

80% of pedestrians wear dark clothing; that's the trend. That shouldn't mean that they should keep getting hit at brightly lit intersections and crosswalks where they have right of way. That doesn't mean that they should have to dress up like construction workers


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