Saltworks Debate: the Pros and Cons of Bayfront Development

April 11, 2011
Planner Peter Calthorpe and Save the Bay's David Lewis debate the merits of the proposed Saltworks development in Redwood City.
California’s continued population growth was not up for debate at the SPUR Urban Center on March 29, but the Saltworks development project in Redwood City certainly was. At the latest event in our Debates Worth Having series, co-sponsored by The Bay Citizen, architect and urban planner Peter Calthorpe, the chief designer of Saltworks, and David Lewis, executive director of Save the Bay, presented their pointed arguments for and against the proposed project, which would occupy 1,400 acres of bayfront property adjacent to the Port of Redwood City.

The plan would remediate the site, a former salt-harvesting operation, as a combination of housing, schools, parks, ball fields and restored wetlands. Calthorpe argued that the development would place affordable housing near existing jobs and integrate with transit, making it among the most environmentally sound options for the Bay Area — a region, he pointed out, that has been exporting housing to outlying areas for years.

Lewis agreed that we need to increase housing in dense urban/suburban areas and look to transit-oriented design to do so. But he argued that the Saltworks project is the wrong plan for the wrong location. He said the site should be restored to wetlands, pointing out that it lies in the path of sea-level rise — on land that state and federal agencies have called an important biological resource.

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