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Media Coverage
Point Molate At Standstill
September 1, 1996



Sunday, September 1, 1996
Section: Opinion
Page: A14
Column: Editorials

Plans for developing Richmond's Point Molate, the old naval fuel depot site, are dead in the water at the moment on the political and official level.

Below the surface, however, largely unseen by the public, progress is being made by volunteer citizens committees and city staff.

Mired almost from the start in controversy personal and procedural the project needs this breather. The time-out could profitably be used to reassess Point Molate, back off rigid stances, and see if other approaches might not work better. Anything would be better than the present impasse between the Richmond City Council, city administration and the federal government.

Councilman Tom Butt, one of the first to complain about the selection process for a design consultant for the reuse plan, has some positive ideas on possible ways out of the present standstill:

1. Call off the pursuit of funds from the federal Office of Economic Adjustment. The agency and the city can't seem to communicate clearly enough to settle their differences about whether city procedures meet federal standards. Meanwhile, the $150,000 the federal agency agreed to give Richmond for redoing Point Molate has been put on hold.

2. Make use of work the citizens' committees have done on essential parts of the overall reuse plan: data and recommendations relating to environmental concerns, development standards, the economic mixture, and its impact. These are substantial issues on which the various subcommittees have made "quite a bit of progress," Butt says.

3. At this stage, put the hiring of a master-plan consultant on hold and let city staff shape the project, using data and advice from the citizens' groups.

4. Look at the work done to prepare Mare Island for peacetime uses. "Mare Island," says Butt, "was done entirely by the city staff of Vallejo. And that was a bigger job than Point Molate."

Some of these are easy steps bringing the advisory groups and city staff together, for instance.

Some are harder, such as foregoing $150,000 from Washington. At some time, Richmond will have to pay somebody to pull together this complex and desirable project. Without federal funds, the money will have to come out of the city budget, perhaps the general fund.

5. Stop belaboring the City Council's consultant selection. The five council members who ignored staff recommendations and reached down the list of seven consultant hopefuls and picked the next to last aren't likely to reverse themselves.

They have already had that chance and didn't back off. Charges of lobbyist influence still abound. The council members deny it. At this point, further pursuit of this side issue is unproductive and immaterial. The present imperative is to get going again.

An old Chinese proverb with my own twist comes to mind: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. But if that first step lands you in a quagmire, pull out, pull back and start over.