Richmond may give voters say on Point Molate casino
By Katherine Tam
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 07/14/2010 02:52:50 PM PDT
Updated: 07/14/2010 05:04:39 PM PDT
An advisory measure on whether a casino should be part of development plans on Richmond's waterfront could go before voters Nov. 2.
The City Council is scheduled to consider Tuesday night whether to place a measure on the ballot. It would be advisory only, meaning the city would not be legally bound by it.
Supporters and opponents have floated polls that seem to suggest public opinion is almost evenly divided, Councilman Tom Butt said.
"When something is that close, it's good for the City Council to know where the Richmond electorate is on this before they make a decision," said Butt, who is proposing Tuesday's agenda item.
Upstream Investments and the Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians want to build a $1.2 billion casino-hotel resort with as many as 4,000 slot machines, 1,100 hotel rooms, a conference center, restaurants, shops, tribal headquarters, open space and a shoreline trail.
The city extended its land development agreement with Upstream to April 2011 to allow continued negotiations. Meanwhile Guidiville is seeking approval from the Secretary of the Interior to place the land in trust and needs a state gaming compact, both required to open the casino.
Jim Levine of Upstream and Guidiville spokesman Michael Derry could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
A public vote appears to have support from a council majority. Butt's agenda item is co-sponsored by Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and Vice Mayor Jeff Ritterman.
Councilwoman Maria Viramontes has also proposed a public vote. She could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but wrote in a letter earlier this month: "The consideration of expanding urban gaming into the Richmond community has created controversy and legitimate concern within and around the Richmond community. ... It would seem appropriate for an alternative as significant as 'urban gaming' that the Richmond City Council should place an advisory measure before the people of Richmond to obtain their serious reflection on the matter."
City leaders said they have the right to consider alternatives to a project with a casino. A 2006 settlement agreement among the city, developers and Citizens for the East Shore Parks over the Point Molate land development agreement gave the city discretion to choose an alternative project.
Last year, Butt sought clarity from the Attorney General's Office, which helped negotiate the settlement, and received a letter that reads in part: "any interpretations of the 2004 LDA that would restrict the city's ability to consider alternative uses of the site, or alternatives that would not involve lease or transfer to Upstream, ... must be rejected."
IF YOU GO
The Richmond City Council is scheduled to consider placing an advisory measure on the Nov. 2 ballot on whether a casino should be part of Point Molate's future. The council meets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Community Services Building, 440 Civic Center Plaza, Richmond.