|Point Molate Decision Postponed
October 6, 2004
Needing additional information from both ChevronTexaco and Upstream, the Richmond City Council postponed a decision on which proposal, if either, to accept for the sale of Point Molate.
Regarding the motion to censure me, no one owned up to placing the matter on the agenda, and perceiving little, if any, support, Mayor Anderson removed it from the agenda.
This morning’s news on Point Molate follows.
Richmond voters overwhelmingly oppose building a Las Vegas-style casino at Point Molate, and more than half want the city to instead sell the former Navy depot to Chevron, according to a poll commissioned by the refinery.
The poll was made public just hours before the City Council was to decide Tuesday night what to do with the land.
Chevron touted it as proof that Richmond residents favored its plan to preserve the land as open space. But the casino developer and some City Council members suggested the survey was tailored to favor Chevron's position.
The City Council, which has favored a casino at Point Molate, was to decide Tuesday whether to sell the land for $50 million to casino developer Upstream Development or to Chevron for $80 million. Instead, the council decided -- for the second time in as many weeks -- to postpone taking any action on the deal. The poll, which had a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points, found 56 percent of respondents supported Chevron's proposal to convert the land to open space with some light industrial and commercial use. It also found nearly two-thirds of voters opposed building a casino there. Of those, 53 percent of respondents said they were "strongly opposed."
"I think what this poll demonstrates is that the citizens of Richmond are concerned about the direction the city's heading, but they don't feel a casino at Point Molate is the way to go," said Chevron spokesman Dean O'Hair.
Even when told the casino could bring thousands of jobs to the community and hundreds of millions of dollars to city coffers, 56 percent of respondents said they opposed it. Just 18 percent said they "strongly" supported it.
"People are more strongly opposed to a casino under any circumstances than they are supportive, and that's the bottom line here," O'Hair said.
Chevron owns a refinery adjacent to Point Molate and opposes placing a casino there, citing security and safety concerns.
Upstream Development, which is backed by Harrah's and working on behalf of the Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians, wants to build a casino resort there.
Jim Levine, head of Upstream, said he had visited many churches and community groups where "the response we've gotten is overwhelmingly positive."
"We have absolutely zero confidence that it means anything," Levine said of the poll. "You can get a poll to say anything you want if you word the questions a certain way."
One in 10 respondents said they supported the casino proposal, according to the survey.
Councilman Tom Butt disputed the survey's finding that 56 percent of respondents wanted Richmond to sell the land to Chevron and embrace its plan to convert it to open space.
"I don't think that's necessarily an accurate number," he said. "I think the poll's designed to elicit that sort of response from people."
Last month, the City Council unanimously announced its intention to sell Point Molate to Upstream. On Tuesday, Butt said the Chevron poll did not make him more inclined to support its bid "because it is full of holes."
Chevron announced its bid Sept. 28, after Upstream's right to exclusive negotiations expired. Chevron offered $55 million in cash for Point Molate and Point San Pablo. It also promised $1 million a year for 25 years to be used for maintenance of the land.
On Monday, Chevron sweetened its offer to the city by taking Point San Pablo off the table and saying it would allow light commercial development on the land, which would bring much-needed tax revenue to Richmond.
It also revised its bid to include $5 million for job training programs.
Chevron's poll was conducted by Evans/McDonough, which polled 400 likely voters by telephone Sept. 30-Oct. 3.
The casino debate has become a contentious issue in Richmond, where five of nine City Council seats are up for grabs on Nov. 2, and many challengers oppose Indian gaming on Point Molate.
The poll found 64 percent of respondents were less likely to support a candidate who favored placing a casino at Point Molate.
City officials said delaying Tuesday's vote could delay the matter until after the election.
E-mail Cecilia M. Vega at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Richmond council delays Point Molate bid decision
RICHMOND - Courted by two ardent suitors, the Richmond City Council for the second time Tuesday night delayed picking a winner in the contest over Point Molate.
"Too many questions remain unanswered" about the bids on the 354-acre waterfront property by ChevronTexaco and a high-stakes casino developer, said interim City Manager Phil Batchelor.
The city, buoyed by a recent Contra Costa County Superior Court ruling, has looked to the former Navy fuel depot to site a project that offers tax dollars and jobs while appeasing open space advocates.
ChevronTexaco owns all the land surrounding Point Molate and has long coveted the parcel as a security buffer.
The oil giant upped its offer from $34 million to some $55 million on the heels of a $50 million offer by Upstream Point Molate LLC, with an additional $25 million over as many years for maintenance costs.
The developer, working with Harrah's and the Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians, plans a lavish hotel/casino complex that would include an entertainment venue and high-end shopping mall. Spokesman Jim Levine said the project could raise $8 million to $12 million a year in new revenues. ChevronTexaco sweetened the pot with $5 million for job development, and Upstream Point Molate LLC offered up $1 million in yearly grants for local charities.
Batchelor acknowledged that Upstream has worked hard to hammer out an agreement with the city but said, "What happens if the Upstream main mission cannot come about? We know (taking land into federal trust) is a difficult process. We would like to see that fleshed out.
"What is the relationship between Upstream and Harrah's? Would Harrah's just go away?"
In regard to Chevron's proposal, "it wouldn't matter if this were $50 million or $500 million," Batchelor said. "If there are sufficient escape clauses, we would end up with nothing."
Several of the public speakers Tuesday night did not appear enamored of either proposal.
"This land is worth $1 million an acre," said the Rev. Henry Williams. "They should be paying $300 million for this property."
Originally, the company had asked the city to throw in Point San Pablo, a piece of port property worth some $20 million. In its most recent offer, ChevronTexaco has taken that request off the table.
The company is seeking an exclusive right to negotiate with the city.
While many at the council meeting Tuesday cheered the Upstream bid as offering a viable economic benefit to the city -- the ChevronTexaco proposal would create a shoreline park and create a restricted-access security buffer zone out of the rest -- many acknowledged that ChevronTexaco's offer provides more revenue up front.
If ChevronTexaco's property is expanded to encompass Point Molate, its taxes would increase as well. The Upstream complex could conceivably yield a reliable bumper crop in sales taxes.
Attorneys consulting on two proposed Indian casinos have advised the county that the chances of any casino passing all the legal obstacles in its path are less than 50 percent.
In recent weeks, a coalition made up of ChevronTexaco, the East Bay Regional Park District and the Audubon Society has launched a multipronged public relations campaign aimed at turning opinion against a casino.
When the city sought proposals from developers, "about 60 percent" were centered on a casino, according to former Redevelopment Agency project manager Rod Satre.
If the city enters negotiations with ChevronTexaco, that would stall any action until after the November election, when the makeup of the council may change. Four incumbents are vying with 11 challengers, many of whom oppose any shoreline development.
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