Following is a pretty well researched story about Point Richmond, which has recently been an object of criticism by Corky Booze for allegedly receiving more than its fair share of City projects and services (see Equity in City of Richmond Projects and Spending , September 20, 2012).
However, simply because journalists have a word limit, there is more to the story, and I would like to point out the following:
- For a part of the City that is essentially a peninsula and surrounded on three sides by water, I submit that Point Richmond is more of a hub and a crossroads than an enclave and is, in fact, remarkably well connected, considering its geography. Point Richmond has two freeway interchanges on I-580, and even the sign at the I-80/I-580 split in Albany reads “Point Richmond.” Back in the day, councilmembers used to complain about that, the same way Booze bashes it today. They tried unsuccessfully to get Caltrans to change it. In any event, Point Richmond is connected by (1) The Richmond Parkway West, (2) The Richmond Parkway East – Garrard, (3) Canal Boulevard, and (4) Cutting Boulevard. That’s four of Richmond most highly traveled corridors – not exactly isolation. Then via Canal, there is Seacliff Drive, which joins Brickyard Cove Road making five if you count it.
- Point Richmond hosts a significant array of businesses and services that make it a hub rather than an enclave. Washington School is largely attended by kids from the Richmond flatlands, not Point Richmond. The restaurants draw from all over west County and Marin – days, nights and weekends. The Masquers Theatre is Richmond’s only community theatre and draws regionally. The Richmond Yacht Club is Richmond’s largest yacht club; both it and the Point San Pablo Yacht Club (on the Santa Fe Channel) draw regionally. See below for a discussion of The Plunge. There is the Point Richmond Summer Music Festival series and Miller Knox Regional Shoreline, the Golden State Model Railroad Museum. And Point Richmond Acoustic. The Bay Trail goes through Point Richmond, and you can almost always find a gaggle of bicyclers stopping in at Starbucks. In the summer, there is a farmers market every Wednesday, and it’s not just locals who come to shop and enjoy the ambiance. The office of the Richmond Convention and Visitors Bureau is located in the Point. While we have a lot of restaurants, they are all struggling. They need all the help they can get.
- Point Richmond does have significant economic diversity. On the view side of the hill, homes cost $1 million, and on the city [Chevron view] side of the hill, homes were recently down in the $200,000 range but are now inflating, like everything else. Point Richmond has the only SRO hotels in Richmond, where parolees are routinely sent because they have to be sent back to the city they came from, and Point Richmond is seen as a safe place.
- Point Richmond really belongs to all of Richmond because it is where Richmond began. It is “Old Town Richmond.” And it plays host very well. Just check out the diverse crowds at The Plunge, the Point Richmond Summer Music Festival and Miller Knox Regional Shoreline. Have you ever been to the Baltic on Saturday night when a rhythm and blues band is playing? This is the one place in Richmond where people from all over Richmond can come together safely and feel welcome. It should be celebrated for this, not condemned.
- Point Richmond is the embodiment of “new urbanism.” Communities all over the country are trying to recreate what we have here.
- The sewage treatment plant is the only one run by the City of Richmond. If Point Richmond is so special, why is it here??? If it were anywhere else in Richmond, people would also complain, and they would probably get the attention of the City Council. Why should Point Richmond be picked out because people complain? Point Richmond should be thanked for hosting the plant and sparing other neighborhoods the burden.
- Just because three of seven council members live in Point Richmond does not make Point Richmond politically powerful. There is no evidence that there is a connection between place of residence and City policy as enacted by the City Council. Point Richmond does not get 43% of Richmond’s resources because it houses 43% of the City Council – nor anything even remotely close to it. In fact, it’s probably just the opposite. All council members are elected at large, and they serve all of Richmond. If anything, Point Richmond gets a disproportionately low share of resources compared to its population. Point Richmond has the oldest infrastructure in Richmond, much of which is over 100 years old. The reinforcement of the 100-year old tunnel project that Booze complained about and tried to stop probably averted a massive cave in that could have killed someone. The sewers are frail; the streets are bad (Have you ever been on my street – its barely passable). There are almost no sidewalks once you get up on the hill.
- The article quoted Booze: "(Point residents) can go down to the coffee shop and get the ear of their elected officials," said Councilman Corky Booze. "My people in other neighborhoods barely have any voice, but Point Richmond has a megaphone." They go to Casper’s instead. What’s the difference?
- Other neighborhoods have lots of Restaurants, like all along San Pablo Avenue. Point Richmond has only two corner groceries, not out of proportion with many neighborhoods in Richmond. Some grocery stores, like Ranch 99 and Williams Whole Foods, people think are in El Cerrito, but they are actually in Richmond.
- Nat Bates (a Point Resident) and Corky Booze have played endless political games with The Plunge and its bulkhead, but the fact is that the City actually has two new pools, the Richmond Swim Center and The Plunge. While the Plunge was rotting away and closed for years, the City Council majority insisted on building the Richmond Swim Center rather than rehabilitating the Plunge, because the Plunge was seen as elitist and Richmond Swim Center as serving a more diverse community. It was only years later that the Plunge was able to be funded. In fact, most of the Plunge patrons are actually from the Iron Triangle and the poorest areas of Richmond. The purpose of the bulkhead was to allow the Plunge to be used competitively, and now a large volunteer program, Richmond Swims, operates there and provides activities for hundreds of residents. The bulkhead was a great investment for young people in Richmond. Meanwhile, the Richmond Swim Center will be getting a $5.2 million rehab.
- Point residents are not disconnected with the rest of Richmond. Point residents are well represented on City boards and commissions, perhaps as good or better than any other single neighborhood. They are not loath to get involved.
- Point residents are no more reluctant to visit the Civic Center than residents of any other neighborhood. In fact, if you look at the results of the last two semi-annual City surveys, residents of all neighborhoods in Richmond feel much after in their own neighborhoods than in others. Overall, 70% of Richmond residents felt safe in their own neighborhoods during the day, but only 34% felt safe in Richmond’s downtown. At night, it was 42% to 5%. It’s not just Point residents who have a thing about safety. See http://www.ci.richmond.ca.us/index.aspx?nid=2427. I went to a few Rockets games, and there weren’t many people there from anywhere. Point people were about as well represented as anyone. It’s not fair to pick them out. Unfortunately, the Rockets just didn’t catch on. It’s too bad; it was good basketball.
Point Richmond: A thriving neighborhood that's part of a long-struggling city
By Robert Rogers
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 02/13/2013 01:24:02 PM PST
Updated: 02/13/2013 03:24:09 PM PST
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RICHMOND -- For much of its history, this town of 105,000 has grappled with unemployment, crime and poverty.
But a different reality greets Point Richmond, an upscale waterfront enclave of historic buildings and cafes that looks like a movie set -- and often has served as one. Tucked amid the rolling slopes abutting the Chevron refinery, the more than 3,000 residents here tend to be older, whiter and wealthier than those in the rest of the city.
They also tend to have more political power. As recently as last year, it was the home of four of the seven members of the City Council, an imbalance that some think allows the Point to gain attention and even municipal services out of proportion to its comparatively
The Point Richmond area is viewed from a hilltop in Richmond, Calif. on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013. (Kristopher Skinner/Staff)
"(Point residents) can go down to the coffee shop and get the ear of their elected officials," Councilman Corky Boozé said. "My people in other neighborhoods barely have any voice, but Point Richmond has a megaphone."
While much of Richmond struggles with a dearth of grocery stores and restaurants, the Point is home to so many popular cafes and eateries that it's pushing for the power to bar chain restaurants such as Subway from setting up shop there. At the urging of the Point Richmond Neighborhood Council, the city is crafting legislation that would empower Point Richmond and other small neighborhoods to decide whether to permit chain restaurants.
"We'd rather not have any more big corporations," said Margaret Jordan, president of the Point Richmond Neighborhood Council. "We want to keep our historic atmosphere, to be a unique destination. People will not come here for a Subway."
That isn't the only example of the influence Point Richmond wields with city leaders. When residents complained about odors from a nearby sewage-treatment plant, the council cracked down hard on the plant operators. While much of the city is without aquatic facilities, Point Richmond has a world-class pool, featuring a $350,000 divider, thanks in part to city taxpayers.
The economic and ethnic differences between Point Richmond and the rest of the city are stark. Point Richmond is nearly three-quarters white, compared with only 31 percent for the entire city, according to U.S. census data. Median household income in the Point is about $80,000, compared with $54,000 for all of Richmond. Many of its residents are older professionals or retirees; the median age is 51, compared with 35 for the city as a whole.
The result is a district largely separate from the rest of the city culturally and economically, with its own interests and priorities.
While poverty and crime have long gripped much of the city, Point Richmond is home to a flourishing arts community, well-groomed dogs, a renowned yacht club and dazzling bay views.
The Point's rustic charm has attracted directors of major Hollywood movies such as "Patch Adams," and it was once home to Pixar Animation Studios.
"It's a vibrant village where people talk and come together," Jordan said. "The spirit is open and inviting, but we have work to do to bring it more into contact with the larger city."
Councilman Tom Butt has been a force in the city for years, largely thanks to better than 80 percent approval within his high-voting district of Point Richmond, where he owns a business, other properties and his home.
He dismisses the notion that there is a divide between the Point and the rest of the city, or that his constituents have better representation. He says Boozé is just the latest in a long line of politicians pitting other neighborhoods against Point Richmond.
The "Indian Statue" welcomes visitors to the Point Richmond area of Richmond, Calif. on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013. (Kristopher Skinner/Staff)
"It's a bunch of bull, old-fashioned race-baiting," Butt said while munching on a sandwich named in his honor at local favorite Little Louie's. "I'm really tired of Point Richmond being used as a foil for their divisive agenda. Richmond is a city of neighborhoods, a city without a center, and Point Richmond is not the only place that's thriving."
There hasn't been a homicide in Point Richmond in a decade, a period in which more than 300 people have been killed in the rest of the city.
"People work hard at it," Butt said of the Point's safety. "Successful neighborhoods should be used as examples, not as punching bags."
Like many cities that do not have a ward or parish system of government, the political leadership in Richmond tends to come from a concentrated area that bears little resemblance to most of the city it represents. With three current council members (Butt, Jim Rogers and Nat Bates) living in the Point, some critics worry that such a political arrangement puts other neighborhoods with more pressing needs at a disadvantage.
Jeff Ritterman, a former councilman who lives in the Point, acknowledges the concern.
"I felt I represented all of Richmond, not Point Richmond," he said. "But it's true that the concentration of elected officials (in Point Richmond) could raise the question of district elections and whether that should be debated in the city."
In the early 1990s, a ballot measure proposing a City Council ward system was rejected by voters.
The Rev. Andre Shumake, a longtime anti-violence advocate, said political representation from Richmond's poorer neighborhoods would change the policy dynamic for the better.
"We've done it this way for so long, and we've seen that it favors affluent neighborhoods," he said. "District elections should at least be part of the dialogue. To ensure representatives have their hands on the pulse of poorer neighborhoods and bring that perspective to our council, wouldn't that be powerful?"
Critics of Point Richmond's influence have been handed cudgels in recent years to pound home their attacks. Perhaps the biggest was the bulkhead -- the high-priced divider for the new world-class pool at Point Richmond's sparkling, restored Richmond Municipal Natatorium, known as "The Plunge" -- that Butt shepherded through a tight council vote in 2009.
Opponents were aghast at the purchase, which they characterized as a luxury borne by taxpayers from poorer areas of the city. Proponents note that another pool facility, the Richmond Swim Center, was financed by the city and that "The Plunge" draws residents from outside the Point.
Jordan, the neighborhood council president, said that last year she began a concerted effort to connect Point Richmond residents with the larger city, prodding members to get involved and volunteer in other Richmond civic programs. When she tried to get a band of Point Richmond residents together to attend home games for the Richmond Rockets, the American Basketball Association team that played in the downtown municipal auditorium, she didn't get much participation.
"Many people here still have some old-fashioned ideas about the safety of going to the Civic Center or other parts of the city," Jordan said. "But I think that's lessening and that those barriers are going away."
Contact Robert Rogers at 510-262-2726. Follow him at Twitter.com/roberthrogers.
BY THE NUMBERS
Point Richmond is a waterfront enclave and designated historic district in Richmond. The neighborhood is affluent and sophisticated, with demographics that stand in stark contrast to the rest of the city.
Population: Point Richmond, 3,435; Richmond, 103,701
Median age: Point Richmond, 51; Richmond, 35
Ethnicity: Point Richmond -- 74 percent white, 8 percent black, 14 percent Latino; Richmond -- 31 percent white, 27 percent black, 40 percent Latino
Median household income: Point Richmond, $80,500; Richmond, $54,554
City Council members-to-constituent ratio: Point Richmond, 1 per 1,145; Richmond, 1 per 34,567
Point Richmond a bastion of relative political, economic wealth
By Robert Rogers
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 02/13/2013 01:23:39 PM PST
Updated: 02/13/2013 01:26:03 PM PST
Point Richmond is a waterfront enclave and designated historic district in the city of Richmond.
In the 1970s, Point Richmond was a dusty outpost, shrouded in soot from the nearby Chevron refinery -- emissions have been drastically cut since then -- and bustling with bare-knuckle biker bars and beer-soaked bungalows.
But today, the neighborhood is affluent and sophisticated, with demographics that stand in stark contrast to the rest of the city.
· Population: Point Richmond, 3,435; Richmond, 103,701
· Median age: Point Richmond, 51; Richmond, 35
· Ethnicity: Point Richmond -- 74 percent white, 8 percent black, 14 percent Latino; Richmond
Hillside homes look toward the bay in the Point Richmond area of Richmond, Calif. on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013. (Kristopher Skinner/Staff)
-- 31 percent white, 27 percent black, 40 percent Latino
· Median household income: Point Richmond, $80,500; Richmond, $54,554
· City Council members-to-constituent ratio: Point Richmond, 1 per 1,145; Richmond, 1 per 34,567
Point Richmond is also a cultural and commercial hub in the city. Washington School is largely attended by kids from the Richmond flatlands, not Point Richmond. The restaurants draw from all over West County and Marin. The Masquers Theatre is Richmond's only community theater and draws patrons from the region.
The Richmond Yacht Club is Richmond's largest yacht club. The Point Richmond Summer Music Festival series and Miller Knox Regional Shoreline, the "Plunge" indoor swimming facility and the Golden State Model Railroad Museum are all draws, as is Point Richmond Acoustic. The Bay Trail cuts through Point Richmond, and throngs of bicyclers stop in and refuel.
In the summer, there is a farmers market every Wednesday.
"At the end of the day, Point Richmond should be celebrated as a community that works, that invites all to participate in its ambience, its services and its attractions," said Councilman Tom Butt, a resident and business and property owner in Point Richmond.