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Design Review, Chevron and the Bay Trail

The Chevron Energy & Hydrogen Renewal Project includes over 100 separate items of demolition, alteration, additions and new structures and equipment spread out over a mile in the existing 2,900 acre refinery property. This is a major project by any stretch of the imagination.


When the Design Review Board meets tonight, one of the issues they could take up is the Bay Trail Route through the refinery. For more information on this topic, see Lawsuit Promised Over Bicyclist's Death, January 27, 2007, Long Wharf EIR Dashes Hopes for Bay Trail Link, March 11, 2007, City Council Says Yes to Bay Trail, No to Chevron, March 25, 2007, Bay Trail Access Article in Today's Berkeley Daily Planet, March 27, 2007, Bay Trail to Point Molate Pits Everyone Against Chevron, April 2, 2007, SF Chronicle Editorializes Chevron Trail Impasse, April 3, 2007


In reviewing this project, the Design Review Board …”shall provide a recommendation to the Planning Commission, approve, or conditionally approve, a design review application, if on the basis of the application, plans, materials, and testimony submitted at the public hearing, the Design Review Board finds:”

1. The proposed design is suitable for its purpose, is harmonious with and relates properly to, the surrounding neighborhood, contiguous parcels, and the site itself.
2. The location, size, design, and characteristics of the proposed project will be compatible with and will not be detrimental to the public health, safety, or welfare of persons residing in or working in or adjacent to the proposed project.
3. The overall design will be of a quality that will preserve the integrity of, and upgrade, the existing neighborhood.
4. The design of the proposed project is in accordance with the general plan of the City of Richmond and all applicable provisions of the zoning ordinance.


The Richmond General Plan has several provisions that address the objective of shoreline access and providing a route for the Bay Trail:


Shoreline Areas


1.     Promote more effective movement of people to and within the shoreline areas by: (1) increased public transit service to BART; and (2) development of convenient bicycle and foot trails.

2.     Promote circulation facilities in the shoreline areas that will assist inland residents in taking advantage of the shoreline. Stress that design of these facilities should not block access to the waterfront.

3.     Encourage development of a system of hike/bike trails throughout the shoreline area as shown on Circulation Plan Map, 2.


·         Goal OSCS-1.1 City will require all new commercial, industrial, and residential developments to provide public access where a local or regional (e.g., Bay Trail and Bay Ridge Trail) is planned or located.


·         Goal OSC-O.3 City will encourage the development and designation of bicycle, hiking and horse trails both leading to shoreline access points and extending along the shoreline where feasible.


·         Goal OSC-O.4 City will, through the Zoning Ordinance and the Development Review Organization, control the siting and design of new development to ensure a reasonable degree of free permanently guaranteed access to the shoreline with adequate links to inland areas for public use. Such control may require the dedication of free title or easements where appropriate at no public cost.


The Chevron Energy & Hydrogen Renewal Project sprawls over a significant area of the refinery and involves perhaps $1 billion of construction, including many new facilities and structures (See Goal OSCS-1.1). The Design Review Board would be remiss not to require Chevron to dedicate a Bay Trail easement as a condition of approval for the Chevron Energy & Hydrogen Renewal Project. Without that Bay Trail dedication, the project would not conform to the General Plan. The Design Review Board routinely incorporates project approval conditions that include the Bay Trail, most recently for the Point Richmond Shores project.


Chevron’s objection, for security reasons, to the Bay Trail location where it crosses I-580 east of the Richmond San Rafael Bridge toll plaza was resolved several months ago. The City Manager’s Weekly report of October 26, 2007, states (Chevron serves on the “committee” discussed in the following):

Update on the Bay Trail Gap Closure from Point Molate to Point Richmond

As you may recall, City Engineer Rich Davidson is participating on a multi-agency committee that is working to close the Bay Trail gap from Point Molate to Point Richmond.  You may recall that Mr. Davidson attended a site meeting several weeks ago to visit three of the gap closure options outlined in the Point Molate to Point Richmond Bay Trail report prepared by Questa Engineering.   The main focus of this meeting was to come up with a trail location that addressed everyone’s concerns related to safety, security, trail continuity, and providing an enjoyable trail experience.  The committee agreed that a modified version of “Option 2” would work the best. This option would take the trail user, starting in Point Richmond at the end of Tewksbury Avenue near Marine Street, through Chevron’s undeveloped area known as “office hill” and then along a proposed cantilevered bike path section off of the I-580 overpass over Chevron’s Long Wharf to the existing trail that takes users under the freeway to Western Drive.

The advisory committee reconvened this past week to meet with representatives of Questa Engineering to discuss how they envisioned the trail to be constructed along the I-580 segment.  After much discussion, the committee members determined that cantilevering the trail along the I-580 support structure is still the preferred option.  Caltrans stated that this portion of the support structure and deck is slated for an upgrade in the FY 2010-11.  Caltrans agreed to discuss with their structural engineers any impacts that this upgrade would have on the proposed cantilever plans.  The next scheduled meeting for the committee is November 14th, and we will continue to keep you informed.

Unfortunately, Richmond City staff, including the legal staff of the City Attorney’s Office, have largely been co-opted or intimidated by Chevron and will likely concoct whatever legal opinions and policy interpretations that can in order to intimidate the Design Review Board into narrowly focusing their jurisdiction on items of little consequence.


The Design Review Board needs the support and encouragement of the public to implement the broad powers granted to them by the Richmond Municipal Code and do the right thing.


The Design Review Board meets tonight at 6:00 PM in the City Council Chamber. Click here to find out more about the broad powers of the Design Review Board.