Let the people decide future of Point Molate
Friday, November 12, 2010
While the 2010 election was seen as a setback by some, for Richmond it marked a tidal shift in a seven-year battle to protect Point Molate, the last large undeveloped headland on the bay, long targeted for an Indian gambling casino. Last week's election demonstrates that even poor communities can assert their right to control their own shorelines and perhaps destiny, despite outside pressures.
On the winning side were the local activists of Citizens For a Sustainable Point Molate and the Richmond Progressive Alliance, which includes the Green Party mayor of this low-income predominantly African American and Hispanic city of just over 100,000.
On the side that didn't win was a Berkeley developer with plans for a $1 billion casino resort, a small band of Pomo Indians hoping to break into urban gaming and an even smaller band of environmentalists. Also, there was Chevron Corp., which has a refinery in Richmond. It put $1 million behind three City Council candidates who were pro-Chevron and pro-casino (though one who had voted for the development while on the council opposed the casino in the election). Upstream LLC, the consortium put together by Berkeley developer Jim Levine, promised to build the most eco-sustainable "destination resort" casino this side of Vegas.
After years of delays, the council finally agreed to let the citizens of Richmond vote on the casino plan. They rejected the pro-casino Measure U by a vote of 57.5 percent to 42.5 percent. Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, despite being outspent by her opponent almost 2 to 1, was re-elected, and two anti-casino council candidates were elected, too. None of the Chevron candidates won. The new City Council majority will probably be voting 5-2 against the casino. "People want to see something better there," explained Jovanka Beckles, one of the two new members.
Meanwhile, Citizens for a Sustainable Point Molate has begun working with a pro-bono group of young urban planners to design what a working park on the headlands might look like. Of course, it will be a long hard path turning that vision into a jewel of Bay Area waterfront parks that provide jobs, recreation and natural wonder for all.
Outsiders, including those who tried to predetermine the outcome in Richmond, are welcome to join the effort, but with respect.
David Helvarg is a Richmond resident, an author and president of the Blue Frontier Campaign, a marine conservation and policy group. His latest book is "Saved by the Sea - A Love Story with Fish."
This article appeared on page A - 16 of the San Francisco Chronicle