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  Point Molate is a Go
November 10, 2004
 

Last night, the City Council voted 6-2-1 to approve the Land Development Agreement (LDA) with Upstream for an option to purchase Point Molate to construct a destination resort that is intended to include a casino. Dissenting were Maria Viramontes and Charles Belcher. Mayor Anderson abstained.

 

I supported the Upstream LDA for several key reasons:

 

  1. It included commitments to build and maintain approximately the same park, open space and trail components that were in the Reuse Plan approved by the City Council in 1997.
  2. The areas proposed for development are limited to adaptive reuse of the existing buildings in the Winehaven Historic District and the brownfield areas previously used by the Navy for structures and storage facilities. The currently undeveloped areas will remain as open space.
  3. There are substantial commitments for economic activity, taxes, jobs and other payments to the City that can be used city-wide.
  4. If the casino falters, Upstream is willing to quickly switch to a development model that more closely resembles the mixed use alternate of the Reuse Plan, which includes hundreds of housing units.

 

My principal hesitation on the Upstream LDA was the casino. Clearly, there are a number of Richmond residents, including many friends, neighbors and others I deeply respect who are adamantly opposed to a casino in Richmond. Some are opposed because they believe it will adversely impact their quality of life and that of others by increasing traffic congestion, crime or undesirable newcomers. Others cite the adverse societal impacts of gambling. All of these are important, but like anything, they have to be balanced by potential benefits. Richmondís huge backlog of capital projects, including a rehabilitated City Hall and over $200 million of street repairs looms large. So does the approximately 10% unemployment in Richmondís flatlands.

 

Some people have urged further delay. Others say we are selling too cheaply. I have been struggling with Point Molate and fighting for the right project for some nine years. It was time to make a move. Both the ChevronTexaco and Upstream proposals for Point Molate are within the envelope of fair market value. We have good recent comparables, such as the Toll Brothers housing project at the former Terminal 1 to establish values. The idea that Point Molate is worth hundreds of millions is just unsupportable.

 

Doing nothing or waiting for some future angel is not tenable. It costs hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to secure and maintain Point Molate, including continuing to stabilize and weatherproof dozens of Winehaven buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The City simply does not have the money to sit by and do nothing for an indeterminate period of time.

 

The ads and phone calls paid for by ChevronTexaco have led many people to believe that the Upstream proposal does not provide parks, trails and open space, while the ChevronTexaco proposal does. In fact, just the opposite is true. The ChevronTexaco proposal provides no specific guarantees for parks, trails and open space, including public access, as well as adequate funding for construction and maintenance.

 

I have been in periodic contact with ChevronTexaco representatives for months. I wanted a competitive proposal that I could feel comfortable supporting. In the last few days I have pleaded and begged them time after time to modify their proposal to make clear commitments to parks, trails, open space, public access, historic preservation, jobs, and economic activity, but they turned a deaf ear. They simply said, ďtrust us.Ē How can you trust someone who mounts an ad, phone and political campaign costing hundreds of thousands of dollars that is completely filled with bald faced lies?

 

Yesterday, at the eleventh hour, some members of the City Council tendered a counter offer to Upstream that substantially improved the draft LDA. The non-refundable deposit was increased 300%, from a maximum of $5 million to a total of $15 million. Additionally, language was incorporated that guaranteed that one-third of new jobs would go to Richmondís most needy residents, so long as there are sufficient qualified applicants.

 

In trying to assess the mood of Richmond residents about these two proposals, I had to sort through a lot of communications via email, phone calls, and personal contacts, some of which were obviously based on erroneous information provided by ChevronTexaco. My best guess is that if a referendum were to be held today on the two proposals, Upstream would prevail by at least 60-40.

 

Of those of you who were disappointed in my vote, I hope you will forgive me. I take seriously my representation of all the people, and it is my perception that a majority support the Upstream selection as opposed to ChevronTexaco. The ChevronTexaco proposal had a lot of dollars up front but no other commitments. Regardless of opinions about the casino, virtually all of the people who have contacted me about this project were clear that they wanted parks, trails, open space and public access. The ChevronTexaco proposal simply didnít make that commitment.

 

This project will have to undergo the full scrutiny of an EIR, including review by the Design Review Board. There will be many opportunities for public input, and mitigations for negative impacts, such as traffic congestion, are required by law. It is not inconceivable that there may have to be substantial changes in the plan or that it simply wonít pass muster. It is premature to assume that it will be ďtacky.Ē In fact, the current plan is for the entire casino component to be housed in the existing barrel cellar, that historic building that must be rehabilitated according to the secretary of the Interiorís Standards, which means the exterior will retain its historic appearance.

 

At any rate, the contract is a done deal, and the next job of all of us is to be prepared to examine and critique the plans as they develop and make sure that every component is consistent with good design, public access, environmental sensitivity and minimal adverse impact on the community.

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