This is not a matter of the City spending money on the Red Oak Victory, and it’s not a choice of charging rent or laying off some City employee.
It’s a matter of the City foregoing potential rent that might speculatively be derived from the berth if it were available for other uses. I have gathered the pertinent documents and placed an item on the agenda that would formalize the berthing arrangements for the Red Oak Victory. Click the hyperlink below.
PROVIDE policy direction regarding entering into an agreement between the City of Richmond and the Richmond Museum of History that recognizes mutual benefits and confirms the City's obligation to provide long term free berthing in exchange for the Museum's obligation to continue maintaining the ship and making it publicly accessible. The City, at its discretion, may use internal accounting to offset the value of berthing by reducing the loan balance owed to the General Fund by the Port - Councilmember Butt (620-6581).
How much rent, if any, the Port could derive from the Red Oak berth is highly speculative at best. The Port currently has thousands of feet of berthing available at Terminals 1 and 3, Point Molate and the basins at PPMT that are not rented out, presumably because there is no demand. Also, because the Port does not have an approved security plan, it cannot layberth vessels with active USGC certification.
The Red Oak Victory, which is a part of the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park by an act of Congress, belongs to the non-profit Richmond Museum of History, which does not have the resources to pay berth rent and continue restoring it and making it available for public access.
If the Port wants to make money, I would suggest that it rent out the unused buildings it has at PPMT – the Riggers Loft, the General Warehouse and the Cafeteria, all of which are currently unused. When the Riggers Loft is rehabilitated, it will become leasable and can actually bring revenue to the General Fund. That is one reason why I have advocated for the project.
Finally, the decision of what to do about the Red Oak Victory berthing is one of those value judgments about how we use public assets. Do we sell off the Gettysburg Battlefield for a Wallmart, or de we maintain it as a sacred reminder of a turning point in U.S. history? Do we rent out Yellowstone Park for gold mining, or do we maintain it as a public treasure? Do we build a tank farm at Ferry Point, or do we (EBRPD) acquire it as a public park? Do we sell the Richmond Museum of History Building (owned by the City) to the highest bidder, or do we maintain it as a repository of Richmond culture and history?
Not everything that is valuable in life (or in a City) can be or should be turned into dollars. I think most people see that. The Red Oak Victory was born in Richmond, and we are lucky to have it back to help future generations learn about our Richmond history and honor those who sacrificed in WWII to preserve our freedom.
Backers of Richmond's historic ship rally in response to call for it to pay rent
By Robert Rogers
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 07/09/2012 11:11:13 AM PDT
Updated: 07/09/2012 11:25:20 AM PDT
After weeks of buildup, the battle over Richmond's most famous boat is set for Tuesday night's City Council meeting.
The SS Red Oak Victory, a World War II cargo ship built in Richmond in 1944, is a beloved floating museum and among the popular sites of the city's Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park.
And the Richmond Museum of History, which owns the ship, has never paid the city rent since docking the Red Oak at the Port of Richmond in the late 1990s, thanks to a deal struck between the then-council and the museum. Museum leaders say the Red Oak draws tourist dollars and other economic and social benefits to the city.
But now, with the city facing a $2.9 million budget shortfall, Councilman Corky Booze wants the boat to cough up some cash. His proposal has mobilized fierce opposition.
"What a slap in the face to these citizens that a man elected to represent them and stand for what is good and best for all would propose such a consideration," reads a call-to-action letter on the museum website. "Please attend the City Council meeting on July 10th, make your voices heard -- stand up for justice and integrity ..."
Internet chatter has been heating up on the issue for weeks, with other neighborhood groups distributing their own denunciations of Booze's proposal.
But Booze is undeterred. He says the spot at the port is worth $10,000 per month, and estimates the city has lost out on more than $1 million over the past decade by not charging rent. Booze notes that the USS Iowa, a larger ship that was docked in Richmond until leaving for Los Angeles in May, paid the city $30,000 per month to dock.
"How can we give away free rent when we are looking at cutting back jobs and basic services to our communities?" Booze said.
Opponents of Booze's proposal have also noted that the port has significant unused docking space, suggesting that if the Red Oak were not there, another rent-paying vessel would not replace it.
There appears to be little support among the rest of the council for Booze's agenda item, but a lengthy debate in the council chamber Tuesday is likely.
Contact Robert Rogers at 510-262-2726. Follow him at Twitter.com/roberthrogers
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Richmond City Council meeting
WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: Community Services Building, 440 Civic Center Plaza