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Media Coverage
Moratorium Vote Put Off For El Sobrante Valley
April 22, 1999


Thursday, April 22, 1999
Section: news
Page: A09
Shawn Masten

RICHMOND - The City Council postponed a vote Tuesday on a proposed building moratorium in the El Sobrante Valley, despite a proposal that would have developers voluntarily agree not to seek approvals for their projects until at least Jan. 15.

The delay came with word that the city had yet to obtain a ruling from the Fair Political Practices Commission on a possible conflict of interest by Councilwoman Donna Powers.

The council opted not to vote on the developers' agreement.

Councilmen Alex Evans and Tom Butt opposed the postponement, saying they felt the agreement would achieve the objectives of a moratorium without the eight votes a formal ban would require.

"This is a specific agreement that spells out exactly what can and can't occur," Evans said before the vote. "It is very doable. If five people on the council pass this, we can say that no development can take place.

Faced with uncertainty over the city's ability to muster the votes needed to pass a moratorium, Evans and Supervisor John Gioia negotiated the agreement with developers late last week.

"Some of us felt it was important to bring about this process as quickly as possible," Gioia said before Tuesday's vote.

The moratorium effort was spearheaded by Gioia early this year. It gained momentum with support from Councilman Nat Bates, who sent cards to more than 2,000 El Sobrante Valley households soliciting input on the moratorium.

But Bates pushed for a postponement, criticizing Evans and Gioia for failing to include him or Mayor Rosemary Corbin in negotiations for the developers' agreement.

"This deal was made not in concert with communicating with the mayor," said Bates. "None of us were even considered."

To pass a moratorium, the council must have a four-fifths majority. Richmond's council has nine members one seat is vacant and would need eight votes for plan approval.

Powers has abstained from the past two council discussions on the moratorium, raising doubts about its passage.

Her husband, real estate broker and former county Supervisor Tom Powers, has a client interested in buying land in the area for possible development, she has told the Times.

The state Political Reform Act allows a member with a minor conflict to vote on matters if the vote is legally required. It's unclear whether that law applies in this case. City Attorney Malcolm Hunter said he expects a ruling from the FPPC by next week.