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  Get to Know Your Local Northshore Land Speculators
March 13, 2010

This is the first in a series of pieces intended to engender empathy for Richmond shoreline property owners who are threatened by proposed general Plan changes.

In her recent Guest Editorial, Maria Viramontes suggested the Northshore General Plan change strategy of what she called “manifest destiny” would “unfortunately… result in reducing the middle class in Richmond and driving low income families out of town.”

I thought it would be helpful to find out exactly who these landowners are to make sure they are not just hard working middle class and low income Richmond families trying to find a piece of the American dream on the Richmond shoreline.

Let’s start with JHS properties, which, according to the Planning department staff report, owns 26 acres and has submitted an application for a “live-work” community next to the Richmond Rod and Gun Club. Presumably, each purchaser would be issued a lifetime supply of earplugs.

Based on information available on the Internet, JHS properties appears to be one of many business entities owned by a wealthy Tiburon family, Joe and Haidy Shekou  (JHS). Among other things, the Shekous apparently own the San Rafael Airport and other real estate investments. As a developer, Joe Shekou has a history of litigating against environmentalists and public agencies that have obstructed his development plans.

Apparently, Shekou filed a SLAPP suit (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) in 2006 against local activists who opposed a commercial sports facility on Shekou’s Smith Ranch property adjacent to Gallinas Creek, a sensitive wetland home to several endangered species.

In Marin, the Shekous are well-connected philanthropists. In an auction benefitting the Marin Symphony, you could have bought for $125 a seat at a “memorable afternoon of music and wine in the exquisite home of Joe and Haidy Shekou. Acclaimed by a subscriber as one of the highlights of his Marin Symphony membership, it is an afternoon not to be missed.”

You can read much more about the Shekou’s by Googling “Joe and Haidy Shekou.”

However, in Richmond, the Shekous have invested not in local charitable causes but much more pragmatically in local politicians. Records reflect that Shekou doled out the following:

  • $2,500 to Friends of Ludmyrna Lopez
  • $2,500 to Friends of Maria Viramontes
  • $1,250 to Friends of Nat Bates
  • $2,500 to Jim Rogers for City Council


I am not suggesting that these contributions influenced any votes. At least some City Council members remember who Jesse Unruh was and what he said about money and politics. Hint: go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesse_M._Unruh and look under “Famous Quotes.” I also expect that at least one of them will honor Jesse Unruh’s legacy and support Northshore open space.