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Chevron 5 Backpeddles From Control of Chevron Fund; City Attorney Concedes Brown Act Violation

In the face of a torrent of public criticism, including an editorial in the West County Times (See Contra Costa Times Skewers Viramontes Five For Chevron Agreement, August 22, 2008), the Chevron Five are trying to salvage what is left of their reputation by dismantling the vote they so cleverly manipulated to place themselves in charge of distributing funds under the Chevron “Community Benefits Agreement.” The West County Times called it a “payoff.”


Click here for a copy of the Agenda request. Three of the Chevron Five, Bates, Marquez and Sandhu, are up for re-election and knew they had made a terrible mistake that would follow them all the way to election day.


In related news, the Richmond City Attorney, responding to a demand letter from Earthjustice, has implicitly conceded that there was, in fact, a violation of the Brown Act when the Chevron Community Benefits Agreement was approved by the Chevron Five on July 15 without notice to the public and without preliminary distribution of the agreement. Click here for the city attorney’s letter.


The July 15, City Council Agenda item, which follows, included no mention of a Community Benefits Agreement:


Hold a public hearing on the appeals filed by: (1) Communities for a Better Environment and (2) Chevron of the Richmond Planning Commission's certification of the Environmental Impact Report and approval of combined Conditional Use Permit 1101974 and Design Review Permit 1104423 relating to the Chevron Energy and Hydrogen Renewal Project, and determine whether to uphold, modify or reverse the Planning Commission's decisions in light of the two appeals - Planning Department (Richard Mitchell 620-6706).


The city attorney’s letter notes that the “alleged” Brown Act violation will be cured by holding a duly noticed hearing on September 2.  In other words, the previous adoption of the Community Benefits Agreement was illegal. See below:


We have enclosed a copy of the agenda for the City Council’s meeting of September 2, 2008. Please note that, as reflected by Item L-1 of that agenda, the City Council will be considering approval of a resolution to approve the Community Benefits Agreement. Members of the public will be provided a full opportunity to express their views about whether the Council should approve that Agreement prior to the Council voting on the item. This action by the Council cures and corrects any alleged violation of the Brown Act.


Unfortunately, the horse is out of the barn on this one. Regardless of how anyone characterizes it as “voluntary” and “unrelated,” the Community Benefits Agreement is an integral part of three actions taken by the City Council to approve the Chevron project. Two of those actions, the EIR certification and the Conditional Use Permit (which are all Chevron needs to proceed), are a fait accompli, leaving the City Council zero negotiating leverage for a better Community Benefits Agreement. The Chevron Five have totally painted the City into a corner on this one. There is no way out. They have truly sold out the people of Richmond, first by engaging in an illegal act and second by leaving no means of undoing it.


The City Council has only two courses of action: approve a fatally flawed Community Benefits Agreement or vote it down and go home with nothing. A sad choice, indeed. Next time you see them, remember to thank the Chevron Five for what they have done to you.