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Comment Period for Point Molate EIS/EIR Extended to October 23

The comment period for the Point Molate Resort and Casino has been extended to October 23. To access documents, click on http://www.ci.richmond.ca.us/index.aspx?NID=1863. For comments, be sure to read A Primer on How to Make Effective Comments on an EIR, September 22, 2009.

Following is some now stale but still useful press I neglected to post previously:

Sides still divided over Richmond casino-hotel plan's potential impact

By Katherine Tam
Contra Costa Times

Posted: 09/18/2009 04:07:57 PM PDT

Updated: 09/18/2009 06:47:11 PM PDT

 

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The battle over whether a $1.2 billion hotel-casino resort should go up at Point Molate comes down to divergent views on what is best for Richmond and how to get there.

For some, the resort would generate thousands of jobs and millions in revenue in a city hungry for both.

"Nothing stops a bullet faster than a job, and these are excellent jobs," said Rafael Madrigal, head of the 23rd Street Merchants Association.

Others say that projections of how many jobs the project would create are inflated and the traffic impacts downplayed. A casino would become an economic and social drain for Richmond, and there is no reason Point Molate can't have a viable development without gaming, many say.

"Where there is no vision, the people perish," Richmond resident Michael Beer said. "I don't want to gamble with the future of the city where I live and which I love."

The Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians and developer Upstream Point Molate LLC want to build a resort at the old Point Molate Naval Fuel Depot just north of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. The complex would include a conference center, two hotels, restaurants, shops, tribal headquarters and trails.

But the project must survive big hurdles if it is ever to be built. The tribe needs federal approval to take the land into trust and an exemption to a ban on tribal casinos on land acquired after 1988. It would then need to reach a gaming compact with the governor.

A hearing Thursday that drew about 130 people to the Richmond Memorial Auditorium was the last of two before the public comment period on the draft environmental impact report closes Wednesday.

Opponents have pointed to deficiencies in the report, particularly when it comes to traffic; the resort is expected to draw about 17,000 vehicle trips on a typical weekday. It is "extremely optimistic" that 25 percent of people would come to Point Molate by ferry, as the report projects, said Rock Miller, who has been analyzing traffic for 30 years and was commissioned by the opposition group Coalition to Save Point Molate. Even if the project were located at a major ferry terminal such as San Francisco, ferry commuters might account for 10 percent during the peak hour.

In addition, the environmental document miscalculates or ignores locals who would likely drive to Point Molate just to board the ferry; how much traffic the 3,000-seat showroom would draw, particularly the hour before an event; traffic generated by employees; and traffic generated by people visiting the restaurants and shops, Miller and others said. Job projections lack sufficient study, and the Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians' proposal to build a casino in unincorporated North Richmond should have been taken into account, opponents said.

The project would bring crime, they added, and the casino would tempt those who cannot afford to gamble.

"For those who are underresourced and undereducated, I don't want to see them victimized in this," said Jim Heden, senior pastor at the Hilltop Community Church of Richmond.

Such fears are unfounded, supporters said. People gamble; they just leave town to do it. No one else has proposed a project that would generate jobs and revenue of this magnitude, supporters said.

"Yes, I'm craving those jobs and opportunities," said the Rev. Andre Shumake, an anti-violence activist who has tended to families affected by homicides. "We have an opportunity to do something real, something tangible in Richmond. This is more than just a casino. Let's stop doing it a disservice by calling it a casino."

According to the draft environmental impact report, the hotel-casino resort would generate 12,000 mostly entry-level jobs and nearly 5,000 more from a ripple effect on other industries.

The city would receive $17 million to $19 million a year, under an agreement with the developers. As part of that contract, at least 40 percent of the initial, nonmanagement hires would come from a pool of qualified Richmond residents. Some residents say "good-faith" language in the agreement is not strong enough to guarantee locals get a good chunk of the jobs.

This week, five U.S. senators, including California's Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, penned a letter to the U.S. secretary of interior that states: "We have serious concerns about the recent practice of tribes and municipalities seeking advantageous gaming opportunities on lands that are not traditionally tribal lands." The letter adds that consideration should be given to local concerns.

Reach Katherine Tam at 510-262-2787. Follow her on Twitter: @katherinetam.

PROPOSED HOTEL-CASINO RESORT

  145 acres of hillside open space with trails, picnic areas and restrooms

  35-acre Shoreline Park and construction of a 1.5-mile segment of the San Francisco Bay Trail

  240,000-square-foot casino with 124,000 square feet of gaming

  122,000-square-foot conference center

  48,000-square-foot entertainment center

  1,100 rooms in two hotels, of which up to 50 units would be reserved for tribal housing. Historic Winehaven cottages would be converted into luxury hotel guest suites.

  300,000 square feet of restaurants and shops connecting the two hotels

  Eight-story parking structure for 5,000 cars, plus a 2,500-space underground parking structure incorporated into one of the hotels.

  The Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians would have offices, dance grounds, a roundhouse and housing.
For previous coverage and an interactive map of the proposed casino-hotel resort, go online to www.contracostatimes.com/richmond and click on the link with this story.
The project's draft environmental impact report is available at www.pointmolateeis-eir.com/documents/draft_eis-eir/report.htm.