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Update on "Recovery Facility"
January 13, 2003

The plot thickens as the proposed "recovery facility" at the former East Bay Hospital vies with the casino as the most controversial project in Richmond this week. I believe I have received more phone calls and emails on these two projects than anything else I can remember since I have been on the City Council.

What troubles me most is the difficulty in nailing down any facts.

On January 7, 2003, I sent the following email to the Richmond city manager and the planning manager:

"I am hearing some rumblings from the community about rumors of a proposed drug and alcohol rehabilitation center at the former East Bay Hospital. It would be operated by North Richmond Neighborhood House. The word is that there will be a tour of the facility on January 14 and a town hall meeting at 7:30 PM at the Richmond Senior Center. Does anybody know anything about this?"

I was told by the city manager on the same day at the City Council meeting that he had also heard a rumor but did not have any details. I received no response from the planning manager.

For the last week, I have been telling people that no application for a permit has been made with the City. Just this evening, I received the following from the city manager:

"I'm providing you with this information."

"The North Richmond Neighborhood House (NRNH) applied for a conditional use permit (#02-73) on December 4."

"Planning is in the process of reviewing the application.  Within 30 days, Planning will request that NRNH  provide additional information to assist Planning in fully understanding the request as it pertains to a substance abuse treatment center and the other social components of the program."

"Planning will then review the project and ensure appropriate pubic input prior to taking the application before the Planning Commission for action."

 "After reviewing the application, there are couple of options:  1) deny the application based upon incompatibility to the surrounding neighborhood; or 2) approve the application and craft conditions of approval to address community concerns, such as hours of operations, security, loitering, lighting, pick up and drop off and number of staffing.  Any concerns the community may have will be handled through conditions of approval to make sure that all requested programs and services run smoothly without creating any adverse impacts to the surrounding neighborhoods."

I checked the Planning Department website and found the project listed as "820 23rd Street - Operate 120-Bed Recovery Facility" See http://www.ci.richmond.ca.us/~planning/docs/pdf/lu_active.pdf. The public hearing is tentatively set for February 6, 2003, before the Planning Commission. It is grouped under the North and East Neighborhood Council area. The Planning staff member reviewing the application is Joe Light.

The application and anything else in the file are public documents and can be obtained from the Planning Department under Richmond Municipal Code Chapter 2.40. (See http://bpc.iserver.net/codes/richmond/index.htm).

The article in the January 11, West County Times quoted the applicant as saying Contra Costa College is a partner in the endeavor:

"I am excited about this and my belief is when the community hears it all, they will be excited, too," said Becnel, whose group is in the process of buying the building and planning for programs with partners Contra Costa College and Citibank.

Much of the rest would include job training, literacy, computer skills and a culinary arts program, the latter two overseen by the college. Citibank will operate a financial and consumer services center on the ground floor that can serve up "everything from basic financial literacy to small-business loans."

However, Contra Costa Community College District Board Member David MacDiarmid fired off a letter to the West County Times today setting that record straight:

"I read with interest the article in the Sunday January 12, 2003 paper concerning the proposed treatment center located in the old East Bay Hospital building on 23rd Street in Richmond. In the article Barbara Becnel Executive Director of North Richmond Neighborhood house referred to Contra Costa College as a partner in this project. This is not the case, there is no partnership with Contra Costa Community College District on this project."

"The College District has certain procedures that require completion before a commitment to partnership is made, these include management review at the College and District Office levels, presentation to the Governing Board of, a recommendation of the chancellor, a business plan, a staffing plan, identified funding source(s), a governance model and finally an affirmative vote by the board of governors to enter into such a relationship. None of these steps have been completed. In fact the first time that I heard of this project as more than a rumor was the article in the Sunday paper. At this time there is no budget for and no commitment to a partnership for this project from Contra Costa College or Contra Costa College Community College District. Suggesting otherwise misleads and confuses the public."

"Typically the College District does not force its services on an unwilling community. Let me suggest to the proponents of the project that they need to secure some indication of substantial neighborhood support and the approval of the Richmond City Council prior to approaching the College District Board."

I cannot help but feel that someone is hiding the ball. I hope it is not intentional.