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Bates Plays the Economic Development Card

In a campaign mailing piece dated August 11, 2008 (Click here), Nat Bates engages in the Richmond version of swiftboating by reprising a familiar theme of trying to pit economic development against preservation of Richmond’s last shoreline open space. Bates writes:


There is also an attempt to gain control of the council by Mayor Gale (sic) McLaughlin together with Councilman Tom Butt who has stated his intent to defeat me at the November election. In working with the mayor the past two years, I have observed her strong dislike for big business. She has a no growth philosophy and want as much land designated for open space with little regards for economic development that create jobs and tax revenue for city services. That is one reason why this election is so important to the community.


Mayor McLaughlin is not up for re-election for two more years, but I am, and to the extent that Bates has tried to lump us both into an anti-business and anti-growth philosophy, these charges require a response.


First of all, by even broaching the issue of control, Bates is acknowledging that he is part of a faction, the Chevron Five, which already controls the City Council. Unlike Bates, neither McLaughlin nor I are about control; what we both want to see is a City Council that is independent of special interests and makes decisions based on rational consideration of the facts and what is best for Richmond. If that means breaking the grip of the Chevron Five, then so be it.


The mayor’s suspicion of Big Business (read “Chevron”) is consistent with that of the majority of Richmond residents. In a recent poll (see Poll Indicates Widespread Suspicion of Chevron Project Approval, July 14, 2008):


  • A majority of Richmond voters (54%) feel Chevron and its refinery has a negative contribution on their quality of life. Only one-third say the impact is positive, with the remainder unsure.


  • An overwhelming majority of voters (73%) support the City Council delaying a decision until the environmental and health impacts of refining heavier, dirtier crude oil are fully reviewed.


  • A majority of voters (57%) would become more favorable towards the City Council were the council to seek to limit pollution from the proposed refinery project by aggressively limiting the processing of heavier, dirtier crude oil. Only 11% would become less favorable, while the remainder is unsure.


  • Three-fourths of voters say it is extremely or very important that negotiations over which projects to be funded by Chevron through an agreement with City Council be determined in an open public process.


Neither the mayor nor I have a no-growth philosophy. What the mayor and I both believe in is smart growth, a way of expanding our city through well-designed infill development that not only result in economic development and job creation but also improve the quality of life. As chair of the Local Government Commission, I have assumed a leading role in both California and the nation showing cities how to grow as much as they want but in a way that creates real economic opportunities while improving the health, safety and welfare of residents.


As I have said many times, I make my living as an architect. Without growth, I am out of a job. I am not only an architect; I am a general contractor and have also engaged in successful real estate development for many years in Richmond. I have rehabilitated several residential and commercial buildings, including the Hotel Mac, putting them to more productive use, creating jobs and increasing their value on the tax roles. I both designed and built Baltic Square and Mariner Square in Point Richmond – all successful infill projects that result in well-paying permanent jobs for many people while increasing Richmond’s tax base.


The mayor, in particular, has been a champion of green industry for Richmond, one of the fastest growing economic sectors. Mayor McLaughlin helped initiate the East Bay Green Corridor Project with four mayors, U.C. Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. In the ensuing press conference at Sunpower in Richmond, News Center wrote:


From a new solar-energy facility on the Richmond waterfront where workers once assembled Ford autos, the leaders of UC Berkeley, four local cities and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab announced on Monday a collaborative effort to turn San Francisco Bay's east shore into an engine of a 21st-century "green" economy.


The mayors of Berkeley, Oakland, Richmond and Emeryville joined forces with UC Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau and LBNL director Steve Chu for the Dec. 3 launch of the East Bay Green Corridor Partnership - aimed at "establishing our region as one of the world's leading centers" of environmental innovation, alternative-energy research, and green business and industry, Birgeneau said.


There is plenty of room in Richmond for development and economic growth without squandering Richmond’s last vestiges of undeveloped shoreline, a treasure that we should be passing on to future generations. With 32 miles of shoreline, Richmond can well afford to preserve some of it for the enjoyment of our children and their children. For more thoughts on this, see:



In fact, the market has not generated sufficient interest in development of any of the currently undeveloped North Richmond shoreline for years even though properties are currently zoned for development. Criticizing proponents of shoreline preservation for standing in the way of economic development is a genuine red herring and either represents a fundamental ignorance of real estate economics or simply cynical political posturing.