September 5, 2004
My home Internet access has been down most of this week, so E-Forum activity ground to a halt. However, on Friday, an electronic swat team from Comcast and City of Richmond IT descended on my residence and got me back on line. I give special thanks to Henry Lei of Richmond IT who diagnosed and repaired the problem. It seems the recent Comcast upgrades were incompatible with the software running my Linksys wireless router, and Henry was able to download new software to resolve the problem.
Those following Point Molate developments know that the City Council voted unanimously on August 31 to adopt a resolution of intent to continue entertaining the Upstream Investment proposal for a destination resort at Point Molate. Included in the resolution were a number of areas where the Land Disposition and Development Agreement (LDDA) required revision and clarification to address many of the concerns voiced by the 60 speakers at the City Council meeting.
It also appears that the City Council will formally offer the property to other public agencies in accordance with Government Code Section 54220 et seq. this would render moot the ongoing litigation initiated by ChevronTexaco.
In addition to the oral testimony of August 31, I have continued to receive phone calls and a lot of email about Point Molate. Several organizations, including ChevronTexaco, have provided detailed critiques of the draft LDDA, all of which have been very helpful. I have provided to the city manager my own detailed recommendations for LDDA revisions. The most consistent concern of those who have contacted me involve preservation of and public access to the shoreline and open space. People want iron-clad guarantees, and I agree.
Some are supportive of the Upstream proposal, and some bluntly state they will not vote for any Council member who supports a casino.
It is likely that those who oppose, in principle, any project with a casino will not be mollified with any revision to the LDDA, and I can respect that. In a perfect world, I would rather not have to deal with the real and perceptional potential adverse impacts that could come with gaming. Unfortunately, our options are limited, and the Upstream proposal, if appropriately amended, satisfies most of the objectives of the Reuse Plan adopted in 1997. That is why I joined with eight other Council members and voted to continue the process.
There are many obstacles yet to overcome to make the Upstream proposal work, including finalizing an acceptable LDDA, negotiating a compact with the governor and getting the legislature to approve it. The Bureau of Indian Affairs also has to approve the compact and the LDDA, and ChevronTexaco will probably litigate it every step of the way.
Media coverage of last Tuesday’s action by the City Council follows:
Richmond moves ahead on casino resort
The Richmond City Council wants a casino at Point Molate, despite a judge's order temporarily halting the site's sale to a gaming consortium.
Late Tuesday night, the council unanimously approved a resolution stating its intention to sell the shuttered naval fuel depot to Upstream Point Molate LLC.
To extinguish a legal challenge by ChevronTexaco, the council also decided to set another meeting to vote on taking purchase bids exclusively from public agencies for a 60-day period in an effort to comply with the state Surplus Lands Act.
The law does not require the city to sell the land to any public agency bidders.
The council's decisions followed a lengthy special meeting full of fiery excoriation and lavish praise from more than 60 speakers. Council members said they were deluged with e-mail messages and phone calls from constituents, many who learned of the sale in online editorials by environmental groups.
Upstream, working with the Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians and Harrah's Operating Company, has offered the city $50 million for the parcel, where the group plans an upscale gaming complex replete with a hotel, entertainment venue and high-end shopping mall.
In a lengthy presentation the development team described a lavish complex nestled on the shoreline in which buildings would be linked by glass tunnels and the historic character of the original red brick construction preserved.
City staff will retool the development agreement to clarify "a whole bunch of issues raised by people last night and in letters -- like who will build and maintain the open space," Councilman Tom Butt said this morning.
Although many urged the council to preserve the land as open space, former staffer Rod Satre said the 354-acre parcel includes "no undeveloped shoreline."
"It's all been dredged," he said. "This land has been developed for 100 years."
Spokesmen for Harrah's say the complex would pump $450 million to $550 million in capital into the local economy with a new and predictable revenue stream of $8 million to $12 million annually.
Monday, Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge David Flinn approved a 20-day freeze on any sale at the request of neighboring ChevronTexaco, which claimed the city is bound by state law to offer the land to interested public entities first. Flinn set a Sept. 20 hearing for legal arguments.
But the planned council action will render the lawsuit moot, Butt said.
The state Surplus Lands Act does not obligate the city to sell the site to a public bidder, or take less than a private bidder has offered.
ChevronTexaco, which owns the land surrounding Point Molate, has consistently opposed development there, saying it would threaten the oil giant's security.
In recent weeks, ChevronTexaco offered the city $34 million for the spread, saying it would work with the East Bay Regional Park District to bring a shoreline park and trails to the property, which would also serve as a security buffer.
Even if the council OKs the deal, the land must be taken into federal trust as a tribal reservation and a state gaming compact struck before the slots roll in.
The ailing city would benefit to the tune of thousands of jobs, proponents said. Upstream would pick up the tab for developing water, sewage and road improvements, and cleaning up toxic deposits that remain from the U.S. Navy's tenure.
However, if the project proves unworkable the city would still be obligated to accept an alternative project from the same developer, counsel John Knox.
Council votes to proceed on casino at Point Molate
The Richmond City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to proceed with plans to sell Point Molate to a casino developer, infuriating opponents who packed the meeting and said their cries against Nevada-style gambling on the former naval depot were ignored.
The 12:35 a.m. vote followed more than four hours of heated but evenly divided discussion and contradicted the council's assertions that it would not vote on the matter until next week at the earliest to consider public opinion.
"This is just a sham meeting," Charles Smith, a Richmond resident, yelled at the council before their 8-0 vote. "Not one single meeting has taken place with the citizens because you people have made up your minds. ... I'm not a gambling man, but 20 bucks says you people will pass this."
A temporary restraining order issued Monday bars the city council from signing off on the deal with Upstream Development, so the vote only confirms its intention to sell the land to the Emeryville company for $50 million.
The deal cannot be finalized until at least Sept. 20, when a judge will rule on Chevron's claim that the city must offer to sell the land to public agencies for parkland before it can approve an agreement with the casino developer. Chevron opposes the casino plan and has offered to buy Point Molate for $34 million.
But even if the city does complete the sale, it would be just the first step in a long federal process of turning the land into an Indian reservation that allows gambling. Also threatening the deal is the state's pending compact with the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians, which would bar slot machines within a 35-mile radius of the tribe's Casino San Pablo.
Councilman Tom Butt said it is no secret that he and his colleagues have long supported building a casino at Point Molate, but the council considered opponents' comments before making their decision Wednesday.
"From my standpoint, I reserved judgment, but I didn't hear anything ... that was different from what I'd already heard," Butt said.
Before voting in favor of the casino, Councilman Jim Rogers acknowledged the opponents.
"The concerns you've raised have been heard," he told them. "I think the proposal is definitely better due to that input."
Some 130 people packed the council chamber, and more than 70 filled a tent outside, where they watched the contentious meeting unfold on a television monitor.
Developer Jim Levine, flanked by Harrah's CEO Gary Loveman and former Las Vegas Mayor Janet Jones, unveiled plans for a casino with 2,500 slot machines and 1,100 hotel rooms that Upstream Development will build for the Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians.
Colorful renderings showed a huge complex with a convention center and theatre nestled into the hills of the coastal property. A ferry terminal would be built so that visitors from other parts of the Bay Area could come by boat.
"What we're trying to re-create is turn-of-the-century San Francisco," Levine said. "Ghirardelli Square times 10."
Harrah's will manage the casino, which developers predict will create about 7,500 new local jobs.
Public comments over the proposal were evenly split, with supporters saying they welcome the prosperity the casino would bring their cash-strapped city.
"This project could put us on the map," said Kathy Scharff, a retired government administrator. "It could make us the Monte Carlo on the Bay. It could put us alongside Sausalito."
Residents who oppose the idea of a casino so close to home said gambling is not a vice the city needs and complained it would destroy open space and threaten the security of a Chevron refinery adjacent to the proposed site.
"I have enjoyed Harrah's hospitality in Nevada. I do not think it belongs in Richmond," said Irwin Friedman, a self-employed consultant. "As far as using Point Molate as a resort, that's the same logic as putting a high-rise at the end of a runway where jets land. ... Refineries have accidents."
E-mail Cecilia M. Vega at email@example.com.