E-Mail Forum
  Who is the Northshore Coalition and What Do They Want?
August 28, 2010

I’m back from a week of camping, fishing and hiking in Plumas and Sierra Counties, mostly without email or cell phone.

I have emails from several people inquiring about a mailer they received about the North Shoreline. Some examples:

  • What's the story concerning this fancy brochure I got from Josh Genser and Jerry Overaa complaining that the Mayor, Jeff Ritterman and you want to change the zoning on their property near Richmond Parkway into open space that will eliminate future jobs, without consulting them? Is it true and if so, what are the reasons for wanting to do that? (Do they want to build a casino there or something?)


  • What's the skinny on the mailing I received today from the North Shore Coalition? I noticed they did not say what the business is they are promoting so I went to the website, which gave out no further information than that already on the mailer. Weird.
  • I received a flyer today asking me, as a Richmond resident, to "protect jobs and open-space."  It seems there is a proposal before the Richmond City Council to downzone a property along the North Richmond shoreline from Commercial to Open Space, and the property owners are upset that it is being proposed without the owner's permission.  (Of course, if the Council had to ask the owner's permission to change the zoning, then the Council essentially cedes their zoning authority to the landowners, but the landowners conveniently ignore that fact.) The landowners have established a website at . www.northshorecoalition.org/Does anyone know who these guys *really* are or what their development proposal is really all about? The site is identified as being along the Richmond shoreline, on the bay side of the Richmond Parkway as seen at http://www.northshorecoalition.org/jobsite.html.  It is located to the northwest of the intersection of Goodrick Avenue and the Richmond Parkway, adjacent to an area identified as tidal marsh in the San Francisco Bay Plan.  With climate change and sea level rise, this site does not appear to be an appropriate location for development (which is what I wrote on the business reply card included in their flyer; may as well tell them what I think on their dime). Their flyer appears to be greenwashing.  This is something we, as citizens …….. need to be on the lookout for.


  • I am a Bay Area native and a homeowner in the Richmond Annex.  I have lived in the Richmond Annex for 12 years, and have consistently voted in City Council elections.  I am writing to you regarding the proposal to down zone industrial properties in the vicinity of Freethy Boulevard and Mass Avenue, northwest of the intersection of the Richmond Parkway and Goodrick Avenue. On Wednesday, I received a flyer from the "North Shore Coalition" asking me, as a Richmond resident, to "protect jobs and open-space."  Thursday evening I received a call from someone asking if I had received the flyer and asking for my support.  What they wanted was for me to oppose the proposal to down zone the industrial properties referenced above, and to support the idea that the City council get the property owner's permission prior to making any zoning changes. I vehemently oppose this idea,  If the Council had to get the property owner's permission prior to change the zoning, then the Council essentially cedes their zoning authority to the landowners. The landowners claim to be protecting jobs and open space.  What types of jobs are they talking about, and when might they come into existence?  There is already vacant warehouse and office space in Richmond; there is no need to develop more warehouses and offices when there is no demand for it.  And when the economy improves and demand for commercial and industrial space picks up, there are other sites in Richmond which would be far more appropriate for this type of use. I support the proposal to re-zone the property as open space.  The site is adjacent to tidal marsh and could potentially be restored as either marsh or upland habitat.  Given climate change and the potential for sea level rise, this site could either be inundated or require public subsidies, in the form of levees and other shoreline protective measures, to protect it from inundation. Does Richmond expect to have the funds to spend on this type of project? In conclusion, I have no sympathy for land speculators who expect to be able to build a project in an inappropriate location.  I urge the Council to not give in to the owners phony "Coalition" and to do the right thing to protect Richmond's shoreline and re-zone the area for open space.

This is about a controversy that has raged for a decade about the future of what has become known as Richmond’s North Shoreline. It involves undeveloped parcels of land west of the Richmond Parkway, south of Point Pinole Regional Shoreline and north of Parr Boulevard owned by four groups of investors, including Josh Genser and Jerry Overaa who are featured on the website http://www.northshorecoalition.org/.

2004 was the beginning of the battle over preservation of the North Shoreline. I went against the Council majority and encouraged EBRPD to acquire Breuner Marsh. Ultimately, the Park District acquired all but a 20-acre portion of the former Breuner property that was zoned for light industrial use. The San Francisco Chronicle wrote:

More meetings are scheduled and city staff is working on possible zoning changes - to residential or open space - as part of revamping the city's general plan.

Not everyone thinks open space is the best use of the shoreline. Richmond City Councilman Nathaniel Bates says the city already has too many parks.

"We need jobs and economic development," he said. "Instead of just buying more land, I'd like to see the park district spruce up the parks they already have."

Point Pinole, which is an undeveloped expanse of eucalyptus forest, grassland and marsh, should have a skate park, soccer fields, horse stables and more paths, he said.
"Richmond is a deprived city," he said. "We need jobs, taxes and large-scale development more than we need the park district to just grab a bunch of land and sit on it."

But Richmond City Councilman Tom Butt says that open space is exactly what the city needs. He's been working with developers and park advocates to arrange a deal.

"A city is defined by its parks and open space," he said. "What would San Francisco be without Golden Gate Park and Crissy Field? The value of land in San Francisco would be a lot less without parks."

The issue revolves around Richmond’s seemingly endless General Plan update process and a previous Shoreline Study that preceded it.

In the simplest terms, the purpose of a General Plan is to describe the character of the City’s  growth for the next 10-50 years. While most components of the draft general Plan are the result of consensus, land use in several shoreline areas has become contentious. As a City Council member, my duty is to do what I believe is best for the city as a whole, and that includes preserving shoreline areas for the use of future generations wherever possible. The property owners, on the other hand, see these same areas as investments to be maximized. The conflict is not surprising. I am doing my job, and they are doing theirs. Unfortunately, however, it has become personalized.

I have never advocated stealing their investments or depriving them of a fair return. Changing the vision for the future use of the land is simply a planning decision. Presumably, they will find a profitable use for it within its new designation or sell it to a public agency or non-profit at a fair return. In any event, the City Council has consistently balked at such a move, so there presently is no action. Most recently, the City Council even rejected my proposal of July 27 to put an advisory measure on the ballot to get public opinion about the future land use. See below:

L-3. CONSIDER directing staff to prepare a plan to preserve the North Richmond Shoreline Development in order to permit all stakeholders to work together to save the shoreline for recreational shoreline uses by developing a workable plan to achieve a voluntary relocation of the Richmond Rod and Gun Club - Councilmember Rogers (620-6581).

L-5. CONSIDER submitting to Richmond voters at the November 2010 Election an advisory measure on whether the city should incorporate community low-intensity commerce and recreation land uses for the North Shoreline into the General Plan - Councilmember Butt (620-6581).

Presently, the entire area remains unimproved and unoccupied, except for some horses. It’s really a stretch to maintain that this area represents 550 jobs when there is no project proposed and apparently no one interested in buying it for any kind of development. The claim that a City requires a property owner’s permission to change a land use designation or zoning is also specious. It is neither legally required nor is it typically done, although extensive public input, including that of property owners, is and has been an essential part of the general plan process.

For some of the history on this area, see the following as well as the links above:

It seems that the current owners are concerned that one more City Council member in favor of preserving the north Shoreline might be elected, thus reversing the thin 4-3 majority that has been favorable to the property owners. The Northshore Coalition campaign is really a part of the current City Council and mayor campaign.