Council Hears Plan on Point Molate Rehab and Ups Ante in Race for Call Center
by Sean Greene | March 7, 2013 — 11:01 AM
The City Council approved a plan to reopen Point Molate Beach Park, which has been closed for almost 10 years.
After 10 years behind lock and key, the Point Molate Beach Park could re-open as early as this summer, a city official told the Richmond City Council Tuesday night.
The council unanimously approved a two-part plan to rehabilitate the park, which would cost up to $115,000. In a relatively short three-hour meeting, the council also agreed to loan the developer of the proposed site for the Affordable Health Care Act call center $1 million in a tactical effort to secure 200 jobs for the community.
Reopening Point Molate Beach Park
Chris Chamberlain, the city parks and landscape superintendent, unveiled a two-part plan to reopen Richmond’s only beach to the public. The area – located just north of the San Rafael Bridge – encompasses more than 11 acres of parkland along one third of a mile of shoreline.
“It really is a shame to have such a neat spot so close to the heart of our city and have it closed,” Chamberlain said in an interview after the council vote. “It would be great to use it as an environmental education facility, as well as just basic picnics and walks on the shoreline.”
Point Molate used to be a naval fueling depot before it was converted to a park in the 1960s. Its unmatched views of Mt. Tamalpais, Marin and San Francisco made the area a popular recreational area, until budget woes led the city to close the park in 2004.
Since then, Chamberlain said the park has remained relatively unchanged and in relatively good shape, thanks to the work of several area nonprofits that have staged cleanup days there over the years.
In Phase One of the improvements, the city would make some bare bones improvements, including Americans with Disabilities Act upgrades, installing new signage and clearing some plants to improve sight lines.
Down the line though, the city would develop a master plan for the park, which would deal with shoreline erosion and consider new uses for the park, including a designated swimming area or kayak launch facility, an education program about the site’s physical and ecological history and building a public fishing pier.
The first phase will cost about $74,000, and the money would be covered by settlement funds from the 2007 Cosco Busan oil spill, for which the city received $600,000. Last August, the council approved using $115,000 of the funds for the Point Molate project, and allocated the rest toward closing two Bay Trail gap closures – near the Plunge and Kaiser Shipyard 3 – and $60,000 for a shoreline lighting rehab project at Marina Bay.
The remaining $41,000, plus money to be fundraised later, would go toward developing a master plan.
At the meeting, Richmond residents expressed excitement for the opening. “We’re kind of champing at the bit in the public to get out there [and] spend time with that really beautiful setting,” said Marilyn Langlois.
“Looking at the security reports, we can see that there’s a great interest in using the park. Every month, somebody had to be asked to leave,” Eduardo Martinez said to the council.
Making ‘an offer they can’t refuse’ on the call center
In an attempt to convince the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors to pick Richmond over Concord in the ongoing race to see which city gets the Affordable Care Act call center and the 220 jobs that go with it, the council agreed to loan the proposed Richmond site’s developer $1 million to furnish the building.
Richard Poe, the developer and a Richmond resident, agreed to pay up to $1 million for 200 cubicles needed at the proposed site at 1450 Marina Way South, rather than have the county buy them, in an effort to lower the overall cost of turning the site into a call center. (That price tag would likely be less than half that, a city staff report notes.) The move would bring Richmond’s bid for the call center $1.8 million below that of Concord’s, assuming the rival city does nothing to lower its own bid.
“Remember, this is a chess move against Concord. And I think this is the one that can put us in position to say ‘Checkmate,’” said Councilman Jael Myrick. “I think if we do this, it’s going to make it really, really hard for [the board of supervisors] to rationalize … spending more for the Concord site.”
“We need those 200 jobs … and we can ill afford to lose them,” Councilman Nat Bates said.
Councilman Jim Rogers said that Richmond’s bid must come in much lower than Concord’s. If the difference between the bids is relatively minor, he said, Concord will get the call center and the jobs.
“We have to make them an offer they can’t refuse,” he added after the meeting.
Myrick, Rogers and Councilman Tom Butt engineered the loan deal in a meeting with Poe, County Supervisor John Gioia, the city manager and the city’s training and employment director. At the council meeting, Butt recused himself from the discussion after he discovered that his company, Interactive Resources, has done business with Poe in the last year, according to the staff report.
There are some conditions that come with the council’s loan. It must be paid back within 25 years, and Poe would still be on the hook for the $1 million, even if the city loses its bidding war.
Poe remained silent during the council meeting, but council members spoke up to praise his effort to help the city. “This is a loss leader for him,” Rogers said of Poe, who Rogers said won’t make money off this center for three years. “This is the type of business person we need to have in the city.”
This post has been edited to clarify the nature of the loan.