This story is part of Scout’s ongoing coverage of proposed riverfront land development.
Two weeks after the City of Redding first quietly agendized the discussion of a development proposal involving almost 200 acres of riverfront land as part of a closed session, the Council voted yesterday to unanimously table further discussions regarding the proposal, pending a planned series of workshops to involve the community in the decision-making process.
Council members Mark Mezzano and Michael Dacquisto both expressed that the number of comments and concerns they had received in the days and weeks leading up to last night’s meeting was a significant factor in their call for more public input, prior to any decision on land development.
Almost twenty people spoke directly to the Council after a presentation by representatives of the Design and Development (D&D) team, which includes developers Populous and K2, as well as The McConnell Foundation and Turtle Bay Exploration Park.
Some commenters like Marge Cantrell, who says she’s lived in the area since 1946, emphasized the importance of keeping Redding’s natural beauty and small-town feel front-and-center. “Every town doesn’t have to have a Disney,” Cantrell said, “Frances Kutras, when she deeded that property to the city of Redding, said it was for the city to enjoy.”
Other concerns centered on the potential environmental impacts of development. David Ledger, President of the Shasta Environmental Alliance, told the Council he was open to development of some of the property, as long as the riverfront was protected.
Three members of Sunrise Redding, the local branch of a national youth-led climate action group, also spoke about potential environmental impacts. One called for the Council to recognize Indigenous stakeholders as “the original stewards of this land,” while another suggested that the city might consider “land back” or returning riverfront land to its original occupants. (The area now known as Redding lies within the Wintu people’s ancestral lands.)
Many community members were resistant to the possibility of any sale of riverfront land to developers. Shasta County resident Jonathon Freeman wrote in a letter to the Council that was also shared with Shasta Scout, “There is no privately owned development that can substitute land owned by the People. Would we have the National Park Service sell Manzanita Lake to developers? Would we turn over Brandy Creek to Disney, or Crystal Creek to Six Flags? No, we wouldn’t. And we should not turn over OUR last segments of Public Sacramento River front property to private developers, no matter if they are local or international.”
It’s likely the D&D group would privatize some of the riverfront as Freeman and some others fear. Michael Lockwood, who spoke to the Council by video conference, is a Redding native and a Senior Principal and Senior Architect of Populous, a development firm that specializes in designing large entertainment and sports venues internationally. His presentation to the Council cast a vision for on-site residential units integrated within proposed event facilities, and boardwalks and restaurants built out over the water. He also reassured the Council that ongoing public access to the riverfront is “our highest goal.”
Privatization of some of the riverfront land did not concern some speakers at Tuesday night’s Council meeting, including Eric Hiatt and Daniel Morrow, both board members of Advance Redding, who spoke in favor of the proposed development process. Advance Redding, a non-profit started by Bethel Church, is currently contracted by the city to operate the Redding Civic Auditorium, one of the properties that may be redeveloped under the new proposal.
As an Advance Redding Board member, Morrow said, he had been given the opportunity to “grill” developers prior to Council discussions and came away satisfied. Hiatt agreed: “From our perspective,” he said, “this is a great team to pull this off.”
McConnell’s Shannon Phillips, who also spoke to the Council, called both Advance Redding and the Redding Rodeo “key stakeholders” in the development process, saying “both have been invited to consider re-imagining this area.” Potential development, Phillips said, can mean a “transformation that will be inclusive, bringing in people and parties who hold this ground near and dear.”
At the unanimous request of the Council, City Manager Barry Tippin agreed to have staff bring back a proposal regarding the timing and content of a series of public workshops to the October 5 council meeting. Workshops could be used to highlight the process of master planning, explain how public land can be declared surplus, and address other legal concerns―in addition to providing an opportunity for public comment.
Dacquisto told Tippin he hopes that the workshops include more information about important city land. “I’d like to know the history of where the land came from,” he said, ”and whether there are any conditions that came with it…and I think the public would want to know too.”