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  Richmond: Historic ship to be moved by end of August
August 5, 2015

Richmond: Historic ship to be moved by end of August

By Karina Ioffee
Posted: 08/05/15, 12:56 PM PDT | Updated: 2 hrs ago

RICHMOND -- The SS Red Oak Victory, a historic cargo ship and one of the central landmarks of the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park, will be moved to Basin 1 by the end of the month before being relocated again to Basin 5 later this year.

The decision caps weeks of heated debate over the most appropriate location for the tourist destination, currently docked at the Point Potrero Basin in the Port of Richmond. The ship will first be relocated to Basin 1, about 750 yards away from where it is now, to free up bay views for the Riggers Loft Wine Company, which is opening a tasting room this September.

Moving the ship will cost the city $350,000, most of which will be for hookups of potable water, a sewer and electrical system, required by the Richmond Fire Department. New pavement and fencing will also be installed, along with soil remediation work to remove polychlorinated biphenyl or PCBs from the concrete of the berth caused by a leaking transformer.

The decision to relocate the historic ship, the last of 747 built in the Kaiser shipyards during World War II and now an attraction that drew 8,000 visitors last year, was reached at Monday's special City Council meeting. The vote was 5-1 with Councilman Eduardo Martinez dissenting. Councilman Nat Bates abstained from the vote, saying he was concerned about the cost to taxpayers, since the Red Oak pays the city just $1 a year to berth at the port. The ship is owned by the Richmond Museum Association, which also runs the Richmond Museum of History.

"Why should the taxpayers be responsible for the ship's relocation?" Bates said. "When we signed the contract with the Red Oak Victory, the contract stipulated that they would move the ship at their own expense."

But after the association said it had no money to relocate the ship, the city took it upon itself to carry out the operation, said Port of Richmond Executive Director Jim Matzorkis.

"We knew the marketability of the building was significantly less without the view," Matzorkis said. "So from the beginning we were telling the Riggers Loft people that we could do that for them. The view is the greatest asset of the building."

The Riggers Loft Wine Company is projected to generate $100,000 a year for the city in lease fees, along with sales tax revenue, Matzorkis said.

Meanwhile, the port is in negotiations with Foss Maritime, a towing company now located in Basin 5, to relocate to Basin 2. The company's contract expires in October, but is expected to be renewed, Matzorkis said. The Foss lease generates $14,000 a month for Richmond.

"I think it's a win for all the stakeholders involved," he said.

The relocation of the ship has caused tensions among some council members who said they were concerned that Mayor Tom Butt, the only person to vote against relocating the Red Oak to Basin 1 last month, had exerted pressure on Riggers Loft Wine Company and Foss Maritime.

Butt has advocated for the ship to be berthed at Basin 5, where it can be close to other historic shipyard structures including the General Warehouse, the Whirley Crane, and the Riggers Loft building, a former ship parts assembly plant that was recently restored.

On Monday, Martinez, Bates and Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles accused the mayor of trying to bully the winery.

Butt last month said he would seek a new location for an upcoming mayors' conference, set to be held at the winery.
Butt has since said he would write a letter to the winery apologizing for any ill feeling toward the city.

"For reasons I don't totally understand, this issue has gotten very personal," Butt said. "The upshot is that all the key players are all satisfied with the final outcome and in agreement that this is the best thing to do."

Contact Karina Ioffee at 510-262-2726 or Follow her at