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Residents 'Outraged' At Loss Of Bay Views
July 15, 2001
Contra Costa Times

Richmond planners and attorney for the developer say the office is being built to the height approved by the panel

RICHMOND -- The city has opted not to intervene in the dispute between a developer and nearby residents over the height of a city-approved office building under construction in Richmond's Brickyard Cove enclave that residents say is blocking their Bay views.

A group of Point Richmond and Brickyard Cove residents had asked the City Council for a hearing in front of the Planning Commission because the building is nearly a full story higher than they expected. But a council majority tabled it Tuesday, which means the issue can't be brought up again unless it is raised by one of five council members who voted to table it.

"I am outraged," said Kay Walker. "The request by the Point Richmond Environmental Defense Fund was simply that there be a hearing. Who could find that objectionable?"

Ronald Clausen, an attorney for Cove Investments, the building's developer, argued that such a hearing would be inappropriate because the project isn't subject to city laws that require such hearings.

"We were granted a controlled-development plan by the Planning Commission," Clausen said. "The modification and termination provisions of the zoning ordinance only deal with the granting of a permit or a variance. What we were granted was a plan, which is neither a permit nor a variance. The modification and termination provisions are inapplicable to our project."

A council majority agreed.

"It went before the Planning Commission," said Councilman Nat Bates, who made the motion to table the matter. "Everyone was satisfied. We have done everything we were expected to do, and if we continue along this course, the developer might have to tear it down."

After hearing complaints from Brickyard Landing condominium owners that the building is several feet higher than they agreed to when endorsing the plan, the council in April asked City Attorney Malcolm Hunter to mediate the dispute.

The building blocks residents' views of the Bay Bridge, but they say they were led to believe it would not.

Clausen and city planners both said the building is being constructed to the height approved by the Planning Commission.

Despite the council's decision, mediation will continue, Clausen said.

"We have a signed agreement with the residents," he said. "It doesn't exceed the height we agreed to. There has been a terrible misunderstanding."

The matter was put on the agenda by Councilmen Tom Butt and John Marquez, who voted against tabling it. Councilman Richard Griffin abstained.

"I thought that a revocation hearing was a good way for both sides to put their cards on the table and see where it goes," Butt said. "Now there's no longer any motivation to resolve this. The only way is through civil litigation, which I think is regretful."

"The information that I've gotten makes me uncomfortable," Marquez said. "The city staff, the Planning Commission and the community were led to believe that the building was to be a particular height. It's not. People felt that they were misled."

Walker plans to ask the council to reconsider at its Tuesday meeting.

"We want a hearing," Walker said. "We want an investigation of how come the building got to be taller than it was supposed to be."