An article in the Chronicle today discussed the possibility of building homes on 1,433 acres of Peninsula bayshore land. The land, located in Redwood City near the crossing of Highways 101 and 84, is currently used by Cargill Inc. for salt production that the company plans on phasing out. At this point, no official plans have been released, and no formal application will be filed with the city until next year — but environmentalists have already announced their intention to actively block this project. Will Travis, the head of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, does not necessarily oppose the general idea of development here, provided that the proposal is accompanied by a plan to restore at least half of the land to its natural state. In any case, there are still considerable hurdles to contend with, ranging from local (Redwood City zoning ordinances) to federal (the Clean Water Act).
Nancy Radcliffe, vice chairwoman of the Redwood City Planning Commission, supports the project. She cites the city’s strong need for additional housing, but she misses the point:
Redwood City is in desperate need of residences for people who work in the Peninsula city. Such housing would reduce the number of commuters on Bay Area roads, thereby reducing car emissions and helping the environment.
I cannot say that I agree with the latter half of this assessment. There is no particular reason to believe that this development, with its easy access to Highway 101, will house only people working in Redwood City. Meanwhile, the remote location, distant from the Caltrain corridor and core SamTrans bus routes, essentially ensures that none of its residents will ride transit. I appreciate the Redwood City Planning Commission’s desire to introduce additional housing into the city, but “transit-oriented development” that is nowhere near transit (or transit-friendly employment) is counterproductive.
The Peninsula corridor could certainly use more housing, but new development should be high-density and focused intensely along El Camino Real, with immediate access to Caltrain and SamTrans — not low-density homes sprawling across bayshore land parcels adjacent to the freeway. Too much bayshore land has already been eaten up by development that would be better placed in major urban centers and along transit corridors. We should protect what precious little bayshore land remains and restore it as open space. The Bay Area needs more housing, but the housing must be well-placed in order to be consistent with our long-term goals for smart growth.