Molate Decision Hinges On Housing Plans
March 6, 1997
WEST COUNTY TIMES
RICHMOND The City Council grappled with proposals to develop the Navy's old fueling station at Point Molate at a marathon session Tuesday, sticking on plans that would add housing to the 300-acre property.
Council discussion stretched late into the evening as members attempted to decide whether to accept a recommendation from a blue-ribbon advisory committee on the property. The council was scheduled to vote on the plan Tuesday, but no action had been taken as of press time.
Consultants, using input from the advisory committee, say the land could be used for a winery, retreat center, outdoor classrooms, a shoreline park and 544 new homes. A historic district revolving around the old Winehaven winery should be the centerpiece, they have said.
But Chevron officials whose refinery is located just west of Point Molate oppose adding houses so close to their property. They say they can't guarantee the safety of Point Molate residents should a disaster occur.
Councilman Alex Evans, who supports Chevron's position, questioned the housing proposals at length. He said he was concerned that the plan did not give enough detail about the relationship between the residences and the refinery.
"I think we should take housing out of this; that's no secret," Evans said.
Supporters of the plan said Chevron's opposition was based less on actual contents of the reuse plan and more on keeping distance from potential political foes. They argue that housing is critical to the financial success of the property.
"What Chevron wants is a buffer in perpetuity to their refinery," Councilman Tom Butt said.
Residents and city officials who've worked on the blue-ribbon committee said the plan can be modified in the future if city officials decide the housing is too close to the refinery.
They argue that the city must submit a plan to the Department of Defense by March 28 or face the potential of losing the property. The military requires a reuse plan before it will transfer property to a local government agency.
Former Councilman Lonnie Washington, a member of the advisory committee, said the city would miss a rare opportunity to develop shoreline property if it fails to submit the plan.
"What will happen is that the Department of Defense will put this on a surplus list and somewhere along the line a private developer will pick it up," Washington said. "Then it will be up to them to determine if the public will have access to the shoreline."
Former Councilman Jim McMillan also urged the council to pass the plan and challenged Chevron to come up with a marketing strategy for the property if housing is removed. Officials argue that housing developers will help pay for sewers and roads.
Without those improvements, city officials say it will be hard to sell the area to commercial or industrial developers.
"I'm sensitive to Chevron's concerns, but if they want housing out, then they should help market the property," McMillan said.
Evans and Councilman Nat Bates are backing a land swap that would exchange Point Molate land for nearby beachfront property. They say the land can be used to create a new park.
In return, housing would be removed from the reuse plan, and Chevron would have a buffer between it and commercial and industrial development on the property.