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  Casino Four Hands Out 11-Month Extension of Point Molate Casino LDA
May 19, 2010

With a rambling and multifaceted motion, the actual details of which are still being debated, Maria Viramontes emerged last night as the new champion of the controversial Point Molate mega casino and leader of the “Casino Four.” Joined by Bates, Rogers and Lopez, the “Casino Four” gave Upstream Point Molate nearly another year’s extension of the Land Disposition Agreement (LDA) that expired in January of this year without specifically attaching any of the conditions that have been the subject of intense negotiation over the last several months.

I believe the following story in the Contra Costa Times may include some errors. My recollection is that the extension is through April of 2011, not July of 2010. The revenue from the Municipal Services Agreement is a function of the area of building constructed and begins to flow only when the facility opens for business. Upstream has made it clear that they plan to phase the project, building only a casino, hotel and a 4,000 car parking structure in Phase 1, which in the best case scenario would be 5 ½ years from now. The $16.6 million estimated revenue is based on a full build out, which Upstream has said would not occur under even the most optimistic scenario for nearly eight years. Under the MSA, most of the revenue would have to be spent providing infrastructure, services and maintenance for Point Molate, leaving little to spend in the rest of Richmond.

Critics suggest that the construction trade unions got to Viramontes and persuaded her into reversing her last two votes that were not in support of extending the LDA. The clamor for jobs by the hard-hit construction trades was almost the only support Upstream had at the meeting where nearly 60 speakers offered testimony. The fact is that in the best case scenario, any construction jobs are at least two years away and could be even further or non-existent, depending on the success of legal challenges that are almost a certainty.

Unfortunately, the construction trades didn’t learn much from the Chevron project. They supported a project based on a flawed EIR and got the majority vote they wanted from the “Viramontes Five” (also known as the “Chevron Five”), but the jobs evaporated when the courts threw out the EIR. With Point Molate, they are exercising the same political muscle to secure votes for an even riskier project instead of supporting an effort to make sure the approval, if it takes place, is bullet proof.

Even with the razor thin support from a divided City Council, the casino project faces many hurdles, including a key decision from the Department of the Interior on whether or not Point Molate constitutes legitimate ancestral lands of the Guidiville Band of the Pomo Indians. The fatally flawed EIR must be certified by the City and receive a record of decision from the Department of the Interior. The Department of the Interior must decide to take the land into trust. And finally, the City Council must decide to go through with the actual sale.

The move led by Viramontes will conveniently stifle public debate about Point Molate in the City Council Chamber until after the November 2010 election and after a new City Council is sworn in January 2011. Viramontes wants to be a part of that City Council, possibly as mayor, and be joined by like minded successful candidates that suck up to Big Oil, Big Business and Big Gambling.

Richmond grants extension for Point Molate casino deal

By Katherine Tam
Contra Costa Times

Posted: 05/18/2010 10:19:54 PM PDT
Updated: 05/19/2010 06:36:29 AM PDT

A proposed $1.2 billion casino-hotel resort pitched for Richmond's waterfront lives on.
Supporters and opponents of the project packed the City Council chamber on Tuesday night, alternately applauding and condemning it ahead of a key decision on whether to extend the closing date on its $50 million deal to sell the former Point Molate Naval Fuel Depot to developer Upstream.
The City Council voted 4-2 to grant the extension after lengthy public testimony and council discussion. The deal was to expire Thursday; it now ends July 20.
Not extending the contract would open up the city to a potential lawsuit, said Councilwoman Maria Viramontes, who was the swing vote.
Councilman Tom Butt, who backed earlier extensions, said he was frustrated by the pace of negotiations and voted against Tuesday's extension.
"Written commitments were elusive. "... I've run out of patience," Butt said.
Council members Nat Bates, Jim Rogers, Ludmyrna Lopez and Viramontes voted yes. Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and Butt voted no. Vice Mayor Jeff Ritterman was absent.
The proposed casino-hotel resort would hold 124,000 square feet of gaming, a conference center, nearly 1,100 hotel rooms, restaurants, shops, a tribal headquarters, a shoreline park, trails and a ferry service station. Upstream and the Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians, with the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation that operates the Cache Creek Casino as an investor, are seeking federal, state and local approvals to build it.
The city would receive at least $16.6 million annually under a 20-year municipal services agreement with Upstream if the project is built.
Supporters embrace those figures and the short-term and long-term jobs.
"Point Molate provides jobs for people to get off the streets and be productive citizens," said Richmond resident Shirley Phillips. "I can't see it doing anything but help."
Opponents fear the developer is pitching a pipe dream. Richmond needs jobs, they say, but economic development is possible without a casino.
"Is this really the best we can do or can't we find something else for Richmond to be known for?" Richmond resident Bruce Kaplan said.
Casino opponents want the city to consider alternatives and they say officials have the right to do it. McLaughlin points to a letter sent to Butt from deputy assistant attorney general Janill Richards clarifying a 2005 settlement agreement her office negotiated in the lawsuit between the Citizens for the East Shore Parks and the city over the land development agreement. Richards stated that the city can pick an alternative use or non-use of Point Molate.
Tuesday was the fourth time the closing date has been extended so the parties can continue negotiating changes to the contract such as the design and financing.
Upstream has been paying $90,000 a month to the city to cover costs. Those payments will continue and may be adjusted as costs rise.