Berkeley Daily Planet, October 8, 2004
Richmond Delays Pt. Molate Deal: By RICHARD BRENNEMAN
Confronted by too many unresolved questions, the Richmond City Council
Tuesday delayed a vote on the sale of Point Molate until they can get
The two would-be buyers of the former naval refueling station made their
pitches to the council Tuesday: the oil giant ChevronTexaco, which wants
the land as a security buffer, and a Berkeley developer who wants it for
a casino resort complex.
I am prepared to sign tonight, said Dennis Triplitt, regional real
estate projects manager for the oil company. Ours is a bona fide solid
offer that offers great value to the community.
ChevronTexaco is offering $5 million within ten days of signing for a
city job training and creation program, a $50 million purchase payment
when the property is transferred and $1 million a year for 25 years for
maintenance of public improvements on the site.
While the proposal would allow for light industrial and commercial
development of part of the site including the landmark Winehaven
building, Triplitt acknowledged that the project wouldn't create as many
jobs as the casino proposal.
To compensate, the oil company is offering the city a long-term lease on
25 acres across from the Point Richmond Technical Center adjacent to the
I-580 onramp on Castro Street.
The now-vacant site, which once housed
a Chevron warehouse, would be made available to help the city realize
their economic development plans, said ChevronTexaco spokesperson Dean
O'Hair. Terms would be negotiated whenever the city meets with the
company to work out details of the Point Molate agreement.
No meeting has yet been scheduled, O'Hair said Wednesday afternoon.
ChevronTexaco's original offer also included city-owned land at Point
San Pablo at the tip of the Richmond peninsula. After city officials
refused to consider the sale of that parcel, the oil company excluded it
from their bid but didn't change the purchase price. In essence, we've
increased the price for Point Molate, Triplitt said.
Berkeley developer James D. Levine, whose Upstream Point Molate LLC has
teamed with gambling giant Harrah's Entertainment and former Secretary
of Defense William Cohen, ridiculed the ChevronTexaco offer. Levine
referred to the city's contentious dealings over the years with the
refinery as a caution against accepting the firms current proposal.
You're trying to find a partner, and the fundamental basis of any
partnership is trust. But Chevron has misled you, Chevron has duped you,
and now they want to be your partner, he said.
Levine declared that, unlike the oil company's proposal, the casino,
hotel, upscale retail and entertainment complex he plans will offer
Richmond jobs and opportunities not seen since World War II.
Because Chevrons offer has no sustainable economic development plan, it
does not meet the fundamental purpose for reuse for a former military
base, he said. Calling Chevrons promises pie in the sky, he said, We
don't think that's what the city needs.
While some Richmond residents have questioned the wisdom of bringing
casinos into cities, Levine said, there will be urban gaming in
California. The only question is where and how much of it?
With this project you can set the model. There will be fewer urban
gaming projects if you get this up to Sacramento.
He did not explain what he meant by this comment.
Levine said his project would create a retail base that would help the
deeply indebted city balance its books, and he promised that once the
casino is up and running, the project would establish a
million-dollar-a-year community-based foundation to award 50 grants a
year to community organizations in Richmond.
Norman LaForce, legal affairs director for the Bay Area Sierra Club,
said Levine had offered a similar million-dollar-a-year environmental
trust fund if the Sierra Club and other organizations agreed to endorse
We refused to sign off, and now that's gone, he said, warning the
council that once the land transfers to tribal reservation status, the
city loses all control over environmental impacts at the site.
Two clear endorsements came during public testimony, a ringing approval
of the casino plan from the politically powerful Richmond Local 188 of
the International Association of Firefighters and a hearty thumbs up to
the ChevronTexaco offer from the Council of Industries.
Most of the other speakers questioned both offers, and interim City
Manager Phil Batchelor said too many questions remained unanswered about
While city staff and consultant attorney John Knox had spent months
hammering out details of the Upstream proposal, Batchelor said the
ChevronTexaco offer had just been received and there had been no time to
iron out potential wrinkles.
Questions about the oil company offer included:
While Upstream offered the city complete indemnity from pre-existing
problems with the site, the ChevronTexaco offer didn't.
What would happen if the federal government spent too long in releasing
the 51 acres of the site still under their control?
Would their offer still stand if the city wasn't able to comply with all
of the company's requests?
How long was the offer to remain open?
Questions for Upstream included:
What would the developer do if they couldn't receive authorization for a
casino, the likelihood of which the city had been informed was somewhere
between 5 percent and 50 percent?
What would happen if Harrah's backed out?
Would the city lose its indemnification?
We should put this over until we get the answers so we can clearly know
what well be voting on, said Mayor Irma Anderson. The rest of the
council agreed, and the proposals were tabled until such time as city
staff could bring back concrete answers to the questions they'd raised.
One other item scheduled for action was pulled off the agenda, a
proposed council censure of one of their members, Tom Butt, for his
outspoken e-mail criticism of the city attorney staff members and of
lunchtime spending habits of the city Human Resources director.
The motion was withdrawn in part because city ordinances neither define
nor provide for censure of councilmembers.
The Upstream proposal is one of three casino plans being floated for
Richmond. One would site a major casino at Hilltop Mall and another
would build a similar gambling palace in unincorporated North Richmond.
Of the three proposals, plans for the Sugar Bowl Casino in North
Richmond are the farthest advanced. The Bureau of Indian Affairs has
already conducted hearings on Scotts Valley Band of Pomo tribespeople
proposed reservation on the site along Richmond Parkway.
No such hearings have yet been held for the other two sites.
Posted on Thu, Oct. 07, 2004
Councilman's censure fades with silence
By Rebecca Rosen Lum
CONTRA COSTA TIMES
A threatened censure of outspoken Richmond Councilman Tom Butt petered
out without explanation Tuesday when no one came forward to take
responsibility for it and no one on the council appeared inclined to
vote for it.
An unsigned resolution that admonished Butt for violating the council's
code of conduct by authoring an e-mail was quietly removed from the
agenda Tuesday. The e-mail called the city attorney's office on the
carpet for allegedly condoning lax work habits, punishing a particularly
dogged staffer and retaliating against Butt.
The draft resolution noted that the oath requires council members to
"treat my colleagues, citizens, and city staff with dignity and
While the council didn't discuss the issue, several public speakers
rushed to defend Butt, who is seeking re-election.
"I think most people understand the code of conduct has no provision for
censure," community activist and council candidate Andres Soto said.
"There was no identified sponsor for this. Nobody had the courage to
take responsibility. This was a great strategy for getting him
"Every week for the last two years, we hear the city clerk read the code
of conduct," police commissioner Bob Sutcliffe told the council. "It has
become apparent you all can't get along. Everybody in the community
hears about the arguments."
Neither the mayor nor any council members offered comment.
In a recent candidates' forum, Butt said he has raised hackles among
staff by "asking tough questions."
"If that means indulging in a little micro-managing from time to time,
count me in," he said.
"I don't think the voters expect us to park our brains at the door when
we take office."