|Save Winehaven Historic District at Point
Molate - An Endangered Historic Place in Richmond
September 20, 2009
Please circulate this as you see fit and please help save Winehaven.
Historic Preservation has been big news in Richmond lately with activities at the rehabilitated Ford Building drawing tens of thousands of visitors and Richmond’s historic Civic Center being restored as the seat of municipal government. With help from millions of dollars in grants, the venerable Richmond Plunge is nearing completion, and across the street the restored Santa Fe Reading Room tripled Mechanics Bank’s business shortly after they moved in . These are just a few examples of how historic preservation has brought civic pride, grants, visitors, revenue and jobs to Richmond.
At one time or another, each of these buildings was to be torn down. Fortunately, people with vision saw the future value in preservation, and these previously endangered buildings become icons of Richmond’s success stories in turning historic resources into engines of economic development.
That successful and consistent trend, however, may hit a roadblock at Point Molate.
What can you do? Read on, but if you want to see the Winehaven Historic District preserved intact, click on “reply to all,” and send your message to dozens of Richmond officials, legislators, California preservation officers and preservation organizations asking them to intervene, insist on conforming to CEQA regulations and, finally, to preserve the Winehaven Historic District intact.
As the comment period for the EIS/EIR nears its conclusion, most of the public attention on this project has been focused on two issues: (1) the perception that increased traffic will have a significant impact and that this impact has been underestimated and improperly evaluated, and (2) the perception that gaming (gambling) in a casino that is proposed as the economic engine of the project will have adverse impacts, including crime, on Richmond as well as society in general that have been underestimated. See “Sides still divided over Richmond casino-hotel plan's potential impact” and “Site of Proposed Casino Has Rich History.”
However, there is one issue - historic preservation - that because of its subtlety and the relative obscurity of the site itself has received little attention. The existing buildings at Point Molate, originally known as Winehaven when it was constructed in 1907, are collectively designated as the Winehaven Historic District and are listed as such on the National Register of Historic Places.
The current plan calls for demolishing the second largest building in the Historic District (100,000 square feet) simply because it is in the way of a proposed hotel. Click here for photos of Building 6.
The deadline for public comments on the Point Molate EIS/EIR has been extended to September 30, 2009. For a summary of the project and Internet access to documents, including the EIS/EIR, see http://www.ci.richmond.ca.us/index.aspx?nid=1863, or click here.
In 2004, I voted for the Land Disposition Agreement (LDA) entered into between the City of Richmond and what is now Upstream Point Molate, the proposed developer, which included the following provisions related to the historic buildings of the Winehaven Historic district:
2.6 “All historic preservation activities shall follow the United States Secretary of the Interior’s Standards and Guidelines”
Exhibit H – Historic Preservation
“The project will reuse and redevelop the Winehaven Historic District in a way that will preserve its unique historic character, at the same time providing an economic reuse option that will provide the funds necessary to preserve and restore the Winehaven building, cottages and ancillary structures. Winehaven will be developed into an integrated gaming and entertainment complex, with a range of restaurants and small retail shops. The cottages will be restored and used as guest suites and related facilities for one of the luxury hotels.”
Exhibit H – Hotels
Other lodgings and related facilities will be located on the hill above the hotel nearest the pier and within the historic Winehaven District, where the existing cottages will be restored and adaptively reused as suite type guest facilities. The traditional cottage streetscape will be restored and a centrally located house will be converted to a central common facility overlooking new recreational facilities.
It was my perception that the historic buildings of the Winehaven Historic would be preserved and adaptively reused.
In 2005, the EIS/EIR process began, and the Notice of Preparation of a Joint Draft environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement for the Point Molate Resort and Casino Project included the following statement:
The project will reuse and redevelop the existing Winehaven Historic District in a way that will preserve its unique historic character and at the same time provide an economic reuse option that will provide the funds to preserve and restore the Winehaven building, cottages and ancillary buildings.
When I voted for this project, that’s what I expected. But that statement in the Notice of Preparation turned out to be a lie.
In early 2008, I first became aware that Upstream planned to demolish Building 6, the second largest historic building on the site. On February 12, 2008, I attended a Richmond Historic Preservation Advisory Committee (HPAC) meeting where Upstream and its consultants presented a plan that called for the demolition of Building 6.
Although I had misgivings at the time, I figured the NEPA/CEQA review and the EIS/EIR would either provide clear justification for the demolition of Building 6 or find it unnecessary and propose mitigations that would preserve it.
The EIS/EIR did not become public until over a year later in July 2009, and it did neither. Discussion of cultural resources in general and historic preservation in particular is in the following sections of the EIS/EIR:
· 4.1-2 and 4.1-3
· 4.6-3 through 5
· 4.6-7 through 10
· 4.6-12 through 15
· 4.6-16 through 20
· 5-23 through 27
· 3.9-21 through 23
The EIS/EIR includes four alternatives (A, B, C and D) that anticipate development, including the preferred Alternative A. All of these include the demolition and removal of historic Building 6 and the introduction of incompatible new construction. I find this clearly contrary to the LDA Scope of Development described in Exhibit H and the representations made by Upstream at the time of approving the agreement.
I also believe it is a clear violation of CEQA, which requires evaluation of reasonable alternatives. No alternative that provided for the preservation of Building 6 were presented or evaluated.
Here is how the EIS/EIR summarizes the treatment of historic resources, glossing over and failing to even mention the demolition of a 100,000 square foot historic building:
The project will reuse and redevelop the Winehaven Historic District in a way that will
preserve its unique historic character, at the same time providing an economic reuse
option that will provide the funds necessary to preserve and restore the Winehaven
building, cottages and ancillary structures. Winehaven will be developed into an
integrated gaming and entertainment complex, with a range of restaurants and small retail
shops. The cottages will be restored and used as guest suites and related facilities for one
of the luxury hotels.
I am appalled that the EIS/EIR included no development alternative that retained Building 6. The EIS/EIR states for all the development alternatives that they would “…result in physical destruction of a contributing element (Building No. 6) of the Winehaven Historic District (CA-CCO-422HH). This would be a significant impact” and “…the impacts would be significant and unavoidable.” Yet there was no attempt to consider or evaluate a design, even for the comparatively modest alternative D that would avoid removing Building 6. Clearly, the four alternatives do not “preserve its unique historic character,” but instead result in a significant impact.
The demolition of Building 6 is characterized as “unavoidable,” yet the building condition evaluation included in Appendix E of Volume 2 concludes “The original building appears to be salvageable as an adaptive reuse” and estimates a relatively modest rehabilitation cost of $84.50 per square foot, is significantly below the cost of a new structure, and with Historic Preservation tax Credits, could be 20% less.
The EIS/EIR even quotes federal and state preservation policy yet provides no suggestions for conforming to these policies:
· “If a historic property would be adversely affecetd by development, then prudent and feasible measures to avoid or reduce advesre impacts must be taken.” (3.6-1)
· “NEPA requires all federal ageencies to take all practical measures to ‘preserve important historic, cultural and natural aspects of our national heritage’” (3.6-2)
Section 3.6-4 discusses Richmond’s Code Chapter 6.06 but is not clear if demolition of a historic structure would have to follow the prescribed procedure.
Alternative F has the significant impact of continued neglect and detrioration of historic buildings but no proposed mitigation. It is not clear how Alternative E would “preserve all known cultural resources.” How much would this cost, and who would pay for it?
It is inconceivable to me that a case can be made that the proposed demolition of Building 6 will “follow the United States Secretary of the Interior’s Standards and Guidelines” and “…reuse and redevelop the Winehaven Historic District in a way that will preserve its unique historic character, at the same time providing an economic reuse option that will provide the funds necessary to preserve and restore the Winehaven building, cottages and ancillary structures.”
With little or no elaboration in the EIS/EIR, there seems to be a presumption that demolition of building 6 is necessary for at least three reasons:
1. It is deteriorated
2. It stands in the way of the only economically feasible way of designing the project
3. It is “ugly.”
The last time I checked, “ugly” was not a justification for demolishing a historic building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There is no detail in the EIS/EIR about the alleged deterioration and what technical or economic impediment it imposes to rehabilitation. There is just a statement in Table 3.6.1 that summarizes the condition of the historic buildings:
“Poor - Significant roof deterioration / partially collapsed; significant water damage to exterior concrete walls.”
According to the footnote, the source for this is “Lionakis Beaumont Design Group, 2008; Historic American Buildings Survey, 1995.” The Lionakis report is in Appendix E of Volume 2. First of all, it states that Building 6 is made of three buildings, an original building and two additions. Only the original portion has a “’partially” collapsed roof. The remainder of the roofs remain functional.
The portion of the Lionakis Report pertaining to Building 6 is copied below. A conclusion that Building 6 is infeasible to preserve is not supported by the report. In fact , the report recommends further investigation, which apparently has not occurred. It also notes that the suggested roof repair is simply to “remove and replace the existing roof structure with a roof structure that meets current code” and concludes that “The two additions meets this requirement.” For the concrete, further investigation is also recommended, but it notes that the deterioration is “localized” and recommends “The suggested repair is to remove and replace the damaged concrete and sandblast or remove and replace the existing reinforcing.”
The report concludes “The original building appears to be salvageable as an adaptive reuse” and reaches the same conclusion for the other buildings.
Finally, the Report projects a rehabilitation cost of $84.50 per square foot, which is significantly below the cost of a new structure, and with Historic Preservation tax Credits, could be 20% less.
Lionakis Report pertaining to Building 6:
Alternative E and F presumably would result in demolition by neglect of Building 6, if not all the buildings, because there is no funding source proposed to address stabilization or rehabilitation. The roofs of all the buildings are failing, and eventually they will collapse without funding for stabilization. I beg to differ that a reasonable range of alternatives has been evaluated. All of the alternatives would result in demolition of Building 6.
What is Demolition by Neglect?
From 6.06.070 of the Richmond Municipal Code: Alterations, additions and demolition require discretionary approval.
No exterior addition, alterations or demolition shall be made by any
person to a historic resource without review and approval by the Design
Review Board or on appeal by the Council. Nor shall the Building
Official grant any permit to carry out such work on a designated
historic resource without approval by the Design Review Board or on
appeal by the Council.
6.06.077 Duty to keep in good repair.
Demolition by Neglect. The owner, lessees and any other person in actual
charge or possession of an historical resource shall prevent demolition
In 2008, I asked City Attorney Louise Renne why the deterioration of Building 6 described by Upstream in the HPAC meeting did not constitute “demolition by neglect” as prohibited by Richmond Municipal Code Chapter 6.06. Her response:
No evidence has been presented suggesting that the condition of the property has deteriorated significantly since the City acquired it.
Apparently, Renne never visited Point Molate. The fact is that the City of Richmond has been a poor steward of the buildings at Point Molate. Under the City’s watch, virtually all the copper wire has been removed from the larger buildings, and there have been partial roof collapses on both Building 1 (north addition) and Building 6. This is despite that fact that the Navy paid the City millions to maintain the property for several years, and later Upstream paid $15 million toward an option to purchase.
I am not sure the intent of the demolition by neglect in 6.06 means that the City is exonerated because deterioration somehow was magically suspended when the City acquired it, which is not an accurate statement by Ms. Renne. Even if it were accurate, that presumption strains reality. Isn’t that what “neglect” is? If the “neglect” of this and other buildings is continued by Upstream,
presuming the property is conveyed, would they also be exonerated?
Please help us save the Winehaven Historic District Intact.
· Click here for Historic American Buildings Survey report on Winehaven.