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JP Morgan Abandons Container Port Concept (See City Manager's Weekly Report)

See Item 2, below: 

Mayor and Councilmembers:

This is the weekly report for the week ending October 20, 2006.

1.         Meeting Notes

The next regular City Council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, November 14th.  Note that there were no study session items necessitating a “4th Tuesday” meeting in October, and the City Council previously moved its first meeting of November to November 14th due to the election being on November 7th.

 2.         Update on North Shore Port Proposal

As you know, JP Morgan initially approached City staff about the idea of building a new port on north waterfront property near the rail yards.  City staff and representatives from JP Morgan made a presentation to the City Council at its meeting of July 25, 2006, after which the Council directed staff to develop a scope of work and financing plan to further study such a proposal.  The most recent update from JP Morgan is that, for various reasons, investment groups are no longer interested in pursuing the new north shore port concept.  They are, however, still interested in pursuing investment and development opportunities associated with the existing Richmond Port area (Terminals 2 and 3, and Point Portrero Marine Terminal).  Thus, when City staff returns to the City Council with a scope of work and financing plan for a feasibility study regarding port investment opportunities, it will be related to the existing land and facilities rather than to a new facility.

 3.         Remote Control Train Operation

On October 16, 2006, Janet Schneider, together with representatives from the City Manager’s Office and the Office of the City Attorney, met with Michael Shircliff (BNSF General Manager - California Division) and Ronnie Russell (BNSF Terminal Superintendent – California Division).  The meeting was at the request of BNSF to discuss BNSF’s proposed establishment of Remote Control Operations (“RCO”) in Richmond.  Remote Control Locomotives (“RCL”) are operated by two conductors, using an Operator Control Unit (“OCU”), which replaces the locomotive engineer.  These two conductors are on the ground observing the locomotive while operating its controls.  BNSF began statewide implementation of the RCO program in 2002, and plans to begin training on RCOs in Richmond by the end of 2006.

According to BNSF, the RCO program will not preclude the sounding of horns during emergencies or when approaching a public grade crossing, nor will it interfere with adherence to quiet zone standards.  They indicated that operators can and would abide by quiet zone designations.

According to Patrick Berdge, legal counsel for the California Public Utility Commission (“PUC”), the legality of the RCO program is strictly governed by Federal law through the Federal Railroad Administration (“FRA”).  The PUC recently petitioned the FRA for an investigation concerning the safety of the RCO program and received a reply that such operations were not a safety concern to the FRA.  As a result, railroads are allowed to proceed with establishment of RCOs, and any state or local attempt to bar or limit said establishment is apparently preempted by Federal law. 

 4.         Castro Cove Cleanup Project

Site investigations in Castro Cove of San Francisco Bay, immediately north of the Chevron Richmond Refinery, indicated that historical releases of mercury and residual hydrocarbons from the refinery have affected near-surface sediments in the cove.  As a result, representatives from the San Francisco Bay Area Water Quality Control Board, together with the California Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, US Fish & Wildlife Services, the California Department of Fish & Game, and other agencies, have developed a remediation plan for a 20-acre area of the cove.  In addition, these agencies are in negotiations with Chevron to reach a settlement for natural resource damages associated with the contamination, which would be in the form of a Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP).

City staff members have met with representatives of these agencies, and have discussed possible SEP projects that might be funded using proceeds from the natural resource damage settlement.  Currently, the City of Richmond doesn’t know the amount that will be assessed to Chevron; however, we are very interested in participating in the decision making process to ensure that the SEP be undertaken in the City of Richmond.  The leading candidate proposal for review is the restoration of Breuner Marsh, which includes the lower end of Rheem Creek.

 We will keep you informed as our conversations continue.  In the meantime, we would welcome your input regarding candidate SEP’s.

 5.         Unauthorized Grading at Greenridge

As you will recall, a number of residents raised concerns during the Open Forum session at a recent City Council meeting regarding grading activities at the end of Greenridge Drive in the El Sobrante area of Richmond.  This past week, the Building Official, Fire Marshal, and Planning Director met with the landowner, his contractor, and his attorney to discuss this activity.  The meeting was prompted, in part, by the Stop Work notice that was posted at the site by City staff.  During the meeting, the landowner agreed to submit an application for a grading permit and to provide detailed information and documentation before doing any additional work at the site.  This information will be carefully reviewed by City staff before any permits are issued.

6.         Pro Bono Legal Assistance for Code Enforcement

The City Attorney and City Prosecutor met with John Knox this week to discuss the creation of a pro bono program for Richmond.  Under this program, the Orrick law firm would provide associate attorneys to prosecute code enforcement cases in Richmond.  The City of Richmond would not be charged for these services, but Orrick would benefit from having attorneys gain valuable trial experience early in their careers.  Although the discussions with Mr. Knox are conceptual at this point, the City Attorney's office is hopeful that the program can be up and running (with Council approval) before mid-2007.

 7.         General Plan Update

Two of the three General Plan community meetings scheduled for the month of October have been held, and attendance has been very good.  This past Tuesday’s meeting was attended by approximately 50 people, despite stiff competition from both the National League playoffs and the City Council meeting (no Nielsen data are available at this time).  The meeting also received local television coverage by KRON TV. The next community meeting is scheduled for Monday, October 30th in the City Council Chambers.

Graduate students in the Planning Department of the University of California have agreed to study Richmond as a class project.  Their ideas will be presented to the General Plan Advisory Committee and to the City Council at the end of the semester.

 8.         Planning Department Field Trip

This past Wednesday, members of the Planning Department toured urban and historic districts in the local area to learn about what some other cities have done right (or wrong) in redeveloping areas of their community.  Department staff made stops in the Point Richmond Business District, Old Pinole, the Hercules Waterfront District, Downtown Vallejo, Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Crockett, Solano Avenue in Albany/Berkeley, Bay Street in Emeryville, and Shattuck Avenue and 4th Street in Berkeley.

 Planning Department staff members would be glad to make themselves available to host a similar tour for any interested Councilmembers.

 9.         Tarnel Abbott, Reference Librarian at the Richmond Public Library, Receives Prestigious Award

Monique le Conge, Library Director, reports that Ms. Tarnel Abbott, Reference Librarian at the Richmond Public Library, has been awarded the California Library Association’s “Zoia Horn Intellectual Freedom Award,” and will be so honored at the CLA Conference in November. 

Tarnel Abbott is passionate about intellectual freedom has worked tirelessly to promote such freedom in her community.  In addition to developing the annual Banned Books displays, she has partnered with organizations to provide films and lectures regarding freedom to read.  For example, she organized the recent "2nd Tuesdays Civil Liberties Film Series," co- sponsored by the Richmond Public Library and the American Civil Liberties Union + PLUS Chapter  (Berkeley, Albany, Richmond, Kensington PLUS Crockett, El Cerrito, El Sobrante, Hercules, Pinole, San Pablo).  This series featured four films from the ACLU's collections, followed by guest speakers and panel discussions.  Ms. Abbot also helped start Librarians for Intellectual Freedom, and has previously addressed the City Council regarding the dangers of the Patriot Act.  She was instrumental in convincing the Council to speak out against such invasions of privacy.

Ms. Abbott also represents the City of Richmond as a delegate to Regla, Cuba, one of Richmond’s sister cities, and has solicited donations of new children's books to present to them as gifts.

This is clearly a very well-deserved award for Tarnel Abbot, and I offer my congratulations on behalf of the entire City of Richmond staff.

 10.       Library Website Upgrades

Monique le Conge was officially notified this week that the Richmond Public Library has been accepted to participate in Infopeople’s (http://www.infopeople.org/) “Local Library Website Improvement Project.”  The program will provide the Library with free online learning courses, access to professionally-designed website templates, and 20 hours of consulting assistance.  In the Library’s original application to this program, the focus was on developing a web interface that would appeal especially to teenagers, serving them through additional pages and online services that are not available through the current site.  The online learning course will include assistance with various “Web 2.0” features such as blogs, wikis, podcasts, etc., and a planning component to help staff figure out what a Richmond “virtual branch” or “virtual presence” might include and how to get there.

The program requires as a condition of participation that the City make at least one improvement to its website by June 30, 2007.

 11.       More Library Upgrades

The University of California recently launched its free primary source Web site, Calisphere (http://www.calisphere.universityofcalifornia.edu/).  This site offers public access to more than 150,000 digitized primary sources from the libraries and museums of the 10 UC campuses and cultural heritage organizations across California, including photos from the Richmond Collection at the Richmond Public Library.  Photographs, documents, newspapers, political cartoons, works of art, diaries, transcribed oral histories, advertising, and other unique cultural artifacts reveal the diverse history and culture of California and its role in national and world history.

 12.       RichmondWORKS Job Fair for Doctor’s Hospital

RichmondWORKS participated in a job fair this past week held at Doctor’s Hospital for staff that have been laid off or could be laid off due to the Hospital’s financial trouble.  The following hospitals had recruiters in attendance:

·        Kaiser Richmond

·        Kaiser NCAL Region Lab Recruiters

·        Alta Bates

·        Washington Hospital (Fremont)

·        St. Frances Home Health Care

·        St. Mary’s Hospital SF

·        Catholic Home Health Care

·        Sutter Home Hospital/Clinics

Nurses and certified staff are in demand for vacancies throughout the industry.  However, the entry level jobs, like Health Aides and maintenance staff, will require more intense assistance for re-connecting with the job force.

42 impacted employees signed up for services with RichmondWORKS and staff has initiated follow-up services to explore job placement assistance and to offer job training services to up-grade skills. 

 13.       Richmond Plunge and The Maritime Child Care Center (Have You Voted Today?)

As reported previously, the renovation of the Richmond Plunge and the Maritime Child Care Center are two of 25 projects that qualified for a grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  This grant has a different twist to it in that the public can vote to select the winners, with the winning projects dividing $1,000,000.  The public can vote for a project on line by logging onto http://www.partnersinpreservation.com/index.php and following the directions.  Please remember that you may cast one vote per day for these projects until the end of October.  As of today, the Plunge was in 6th place in the voting (up from 7th place last week), and the Maritime Child Care Center was in 20th place (up from 21st last week).

 Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments about these or any other items of interest to you.

Have a great week.