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  Final Draft General Plan and FEIR
August 21, 2011

The final Draft General Plan and the Final Environmental  Impact Report (FEIR) for the Richmond General Plan were released for public review on August 15, 2011 and are now available for public review. Learn more...
The current schedule calls for Planning Commission review September 1, 2011 and City Council Action October 18, 2011.
Probably two-thirds of the two-inch bulk of comments in the FEIR consist of letters and exhibits from owners of property on the North Shoreline making it to continue to be the most controversial component of the Draft General Plan. These property owners have probably spent well over $100,000 on political contributions, lobbyists, lawyers and public relations to keep future development options of the currently undeveloped shoreline open. The Draft General Plan continues to show the North Shoreline area changes from its current Industrial/Office Flex designation to a less intensive Open Space designation.
Because of a complex and convoluted business relationship I have with one of the North Shore property owners, Richmond Development Company (Josh Genser and Jerry Overaa), the FPPC has determined that I have a conflict of interest that precludes me from voting on the North Shore Land Use designation.
Not content with barring my vote on the North Shore, the owners of the 23.3 acre “Freethy Industrial Park” on the North Shore (adjacent to the Richmond Rod and Gun Club), Richmond Development Company LLC (“RDC”) and Joe and Heidi Shekou now maintain that the City’s  Consideration of the North Shoreline Land Use Designations have been “unlawfully tainted by Councilmember Butt’s conflict of interest,” and they are demanding that the city revise the “… Draft General Plan 2030 to reflect the existing land use designations for
the North Shoreline Area. For the Freethy Industrial subdivision that would mandate that the Draft General Plan 2030 reflect the Property’s longstanding Industrial/Office Flex designation.”

The SSL law Firm LLP, attorney for the “Freethy Industrial Park” owners writes:

Councilmember Butt’s role in directing the proposed General Plan land use designation for the North Shoreline Area has infected the entire General Plan update process – at least as it relates to the North Shoreline area. The draft General Plan (and EIR’s) current proposal is, without doubt, Councilmember Butt’s proposal. Even if Councilmember Butt were to avoid any future official vote on this land use designation, his past behavior has gone too far to be remedied by his simple recusal this late in the process. The City’s only hope to salvage the General Plan is to reverse the course set by Councilmember Butt.

The most efficient, and lawful, manner by which the City can accomplish this is by revising the Draft General Plan 2030 to reflect the existing land use designations for the North Shoreline Area. For the Freethy Industrial subdivision that would mandate that the Draft General Plan 2030 reflect the Property’s longstanding Industrial/Office Flex designation.

Importantly, we note that this change would not require substantial revisions or recirculation of the Draft EIR. It is our understanding from City staff that the Draft EIR’s impact analysis assumed that North Shoreline Area would continue with its Industrial/Office Flex designation. The Draft EIR’s traffic analysis is consistent with that information – with anticipated future trip rates consistent with built out industrial and office flex uses. We understand, and are sympathetic, that this will require additional administrative and processing work by City staff. However, our suggested approach would minimize that added burden to the greatest extent feasible and protect the City and General Plan from significant legal exposure.

Should the City continue on the course set by Councilmember Butt and adopt an Open Space designation for the North Shoreline area, JHS/RDC will be faced with no option but to pursue its legal remedies to ensure compliance with the PRA and other laws (as set forth in detail in our March 31, 2011 letter). One of those remedies is to seek an order voiding the General Plan as a whole. Specifically, the PRA provides that “if it is ultimately determined that a violation has occurred and that the official action  might not otherwise have been taken or approved, the court may set the official action aside as void.” Gov’t Code §91003(b). In addition, Councilmember Butt will be exposed to civil penalties for his past violations of the PRA. See Gov’t Code §91005.5.

Our goal is to avoid having to take those steps, and to ensure the fair, legal and adequate adoption of a valid and rational land use designation for the North Shoreline area. We submit the best and most appropriate designation for this area, at least with respect to the Property, is the continuation of the Property’s longstanding Industrial/Office Flex designation.

Thank you for your time and attention to this important matter. We welcome the opportunity to discuss this further with you as well as City staff, Planning Commissioners and members of the City Council. In addition, we ask that you provide us with information as to the City’s intended course of action, including the proposed process and timeline, as it relates to City’s consideration of the General Plan as a whole and the North.

I wish I had the level of influence claimed by the North Shore property owners, but I don’t. Without my vote, it is unclear what the City Council majority will do with respect to the North Shore. Mayor McLaughlin and Jovanka Beckles appear to have been solidly in support of the open space designation. A proposal for a campus of the Salvation Army on the “Freethy Industrial Park” parcels reportedly has garnered the support of Jeff Ritterman. Corky Booze had expressed support for the Hispanic themed soccer/shopping center concept on the adjoining Murray parcel, but that project has reportedly been abandoned. Presumably, Ritterman and Booze will oppose the open space designation. Jim Rogers continues to pursue a complex compromise designation that would result in open space unless a “home run” project appears that provides so much in the way of jobs, taxes or other benefits for the community that it would be allowed with a significant residual open space contribution. Nat Bates has solidly supported development of the North Shore for years.

Bottom line, the votes don’t appear to be there to preserve the North Shore as predominantly open space.

As far as the remaining areas of controversy in the Draft General Plan, the Council of Industries remains single mindedly obsessed with protecting a buffer between industrial uses along Harbour Way South from threats of residential uses and multiple user roadway improvements such as medians and bikeways.

The remainder of the comment letters are from organizations questioning if it adequately addresses various environmental concerns.

Take a look at the documents for yourself, and let us know what you think