|City Council Bolsters Defenses
Against ChevronTexaco Takeover of Point Molate
September 8, 2004
In a 6-2 vote yesterday at a quickie and lightly attended noon public meeting, the Richmond City Council ratified a previous extension of the Exclusive Right to Negotiate (ERN) with Upstream Investments. Chevron had earlier written a letter to the City claiming the extension was not legally approved and violated the Brown Act.
Belcher stated that he opposed it for the same reason that he has consistently opposed anything related to gaming. I also voted against it on the principle that I did not believe it was an action that needed to be “cleaned up.” See Chevron Accuses City of Improper ERN Extension, Tom Butt E-Forum, August 21, 2004.City Attorney Everett Jenkins stated that he did not believe the Brown Act had been violated but recommended passage as insurance. Jenkins went on to opine that the original ERN, which also had not been approved by the City Council after it was drafted, did not need to be addressed because ChevronTexaco had not challenged it. Bates was absent.
Coverage in today’s WCT follows.
Richmond casino negotiations still exclusive
The Richmond City Council publicly has ratified a staff decision to extend exclusive talks with a developer over a proposed Point Molate casino.
Officials wanted to stave off any claims they violated state open-meeting law when the council stated its intent last week to sell the 354-acre parcel to Upstream Point Molate LLC, said acting City Attorney Everett Jenkins.
"We do not believe we have violated the Brown Act," Jenkins told the council Tuesday afternoon. "But ... in the interest of being proactive and pre-emptive, we believe it advisable to affirm and extend" the agreement by a public vote.
Vice Mayor Richard Griffin approved a contract extension July 27 that grants Upstream exclusive negotiating rights with the city until Sept. 27, according to the document.
The deal extends a previous agreement granting six months of exclusivity that the city staff approved Jan. 27 under general council direction.
As in the Jan. 27 agreement, Upstream in July agreed to pay the city $250,000 for the rights. Part of that money was used to pay for the city's legal defense in a suit filed last week by ChevronTexaco to stop the sale, Jenkins said.
Among the company's complaints was that the city violated open meetings law in handling the negotiation agreement, Jenkins said.
"We've been given the money, we've spent the money and we can't rescind it," Councilwoman Mindell Penn said. "But I propose that we ... proceed carefully."
A refinery belonging to the oil giant borders Point Molate. The company has long maintained that it would prefer the land remain undeveloped for security reasons.
In response to the casino proposal, ChevronTexaco offered the city $34 million for the shuttered naval fuel depot and indicated it would develop a shoreline park and trails with the East Bay Regional Park District, a plan that would also provide its desired security buffer.
Upstream, working with the Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians and Harrah's Operating Co., has offered the city $50 million for the parcel, where the group plans a gaming complex and high-end shopping mall.
"It's in the best interest of ... Richmond to consider all proposals on the table right now," ChevronTexaco spokesman Dean O'Hair said. "I can't help but voice concern that the (extension) removes the city's ability to discuss the plan with Chevron."
The July 27 agreement specifically prohibits Richmond from negotiating "in any manner, any offer, or proposal from or on behalf of Chevron or any of its subsidiaries" regarding the property.
Last week, a Contra Costa Superior Court judge granted a restraining order barring sale of the land before a Sept. 20 hearing.
Casino opponents claim the city's deal with Upstream violates state law requiring any public agency seeking to sell surplus property to first consider proposals from other public agencies.
Most members of the public who spoke at the meeting voiced support for the casino proposal, which is in its early stages.
If Upstream buys the land, the federal government must grant it reservation status, the tribe must negotiate a compact with the governor that the Legislature must approve, and the whole deal must pass federal muster.
Community supporters of the casino said they look forward to tax revenue and jobs the proposed entertainment complex would create.
"Our men and women need jobs. They don't need rhetoric. They need jobs," said the Rev. Andre Shumake, president of the Iron Triangle Neighborhood Council. "This is an opportunity to create hope."