Tom Butt
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  Rational Approach to Point Molate Future
January 16, 2018

Tonight’s closed session agenda includes the following:

CONFERENCE WITH LEGAL COUNSEL - EXISTING LITIGATION (Subdivision [a] of Government Code Section 54956.9):
Upstream Pt. Molate vs. City of Richmond

Both the City of Richmond and Upstream have compelling reasons to want to settle this lawsuit that has been dragging on for years and could go on for years more. Litigation is both risky and uncertain. The reason most parties to litigation settle lawsuits rather than going to trial is to replace uncertainty with certainty. The solution you know is better than the solution you don’t know.

The biggest impediment to a settlement that is beneficial to the City of Richmond is the insistence of RPA City Council members that planning for the future use of Point Molate must start from a blank slate. If the City Council had a plan right now rather than waiting for yet another public process to play out, it would be much easier to negotiate a settlement agreement that is in the best interest of the City.

At the end of the day, it is the City Council who will make the final decision about land uses at Point Molate, not self-selected members of the public. The current plan for yet more public meetings and Planning Commission hearings, all with the hope of some new plan for Point Molate that no one has ever thought of before makes no sense. We all know and agree that there will not be a casino there, but people are still debating a casino on social media as if it were a realistic option.

There have been multiple plans developed for Point Molate over the last 20 years, and they all have the following in common:

  • Approximately 70% open space, including a shoreline park, the Bay Trail and upland open space. Contrary to what some are saying, the East Bay Regional Park District is on record offering to manage the open space, including investing resources in improvement for public use. All they have asked is for the City to designate the boundaries, and they are ready to move.
  • Approximately 30% developed, including rehabilitation of the historic buildings in the Winehaven Historic District.

The only really contentious and hot button issue for some is the possibility of housing. There is a small group of largely RPA members, but also some others, who are obsessed with the proposition that there should be no housing at Point Molate. Mentioning housing to these people is like fingernails on a blackboard. I have heard several reasons for this from various housing opponents:

  • Point Molate is near Chevron. If Chevron blows up residents could be at risk.
  • Vehicle access is limited. Housing would result in too much traffic. Residents would be isolated and have to use cars to get to jobs and services.
  • Housing would have rich people as occupants, and we don’t like rich people.

There are others, but they are mostly subsets of these three.

Each of these can be countered, as follows:

  • The risk from Chevron has been evaluated in past EIRs and is acceptable. Point Molate is no closer to Chevron, including petroleum product storage tanks, than is Point Richmond. It is also upwind from Chevron most of the time.
  • Vehicle access is not ideal, but it is no worse than Treasure Island where there are approved plans for 8,000 dwelling units, hotels and commercial space. Ongoing work is improving traffic flow on the Richmond San Rafael Bridge, and if funded by RM3, additional work will be done. Point Molate will have access to the Bay Trail and to ferry service, providing alternatives to cars. Residents, ideally, would have access to jobs at Point Molate and some services.
  • Pretty much everyone agrees that housing at point Molate is the only use (other than a giant cannabis farm) that will create enough cash flow to pay for the infrastructure needed to revive the historic district and provide funds to settle the lawsuit. Even high end housing has substantial benefits; for example, the Terminal 1 project will generate $5 million in inclusive zoning in-lieu fees that can leverage dozens, or even hundreds, of affordable housing units. Good planning for smart growth, like the Ahwahnee Principles embedded in our General Plan,  calls for co-locating housing and job-generating uses. Without housing, Point Molate will become a day-use facility with a gate locked at sundown. There will be no “eyes on the street” at night, inviting vandalism and theft.

Below are samples of emails I am getting:

  • Dear Richmond City Council Members:

We are writing to urge you to keep Point Molate public. 

Allow the people to speak to this issue--closed door sessions on the future of Point Molate suggests suspicious dealings. I respectfully request open and transparent discussions. Point Molate is a jewel for the keeping. Protection of this special place should be the proud legacy of our city government not a giveaway to a developer 

I oppose a land giveaway to Jim Levine to settle the lawsuit. Settlement should come from the general fund or if not feasible then do not settle. 


  • -No closed-door decisions on the future of Point Molate

-No offer of land to land to Jim Levine as part of a settlement.

-No offer to sell land to Jim Levine at a reduced rate as part of settlement.

-Settlement should only be for money, and if the amount is above what can be appropriated from the General Fund, then it is not in the City’s long-term best interest. In this case, just stay the course on the lawsuit.  Do not settle!

I submit that these individuals are well-meaning but naïve. You cannot negotiate settlement of a lawsuit in public – it just doesn’t work. Ask your lawyer. These people are obsessed with Jim Levine and not looking out for what is best for Richmond in the long run. They are willing to pay millions out of the General Fund rather than looking for a win-win solution. Where is that money going to come from? It would have to come from public safety, libraries, parks code enforcement, trash cleanup and other things we desperately need.

Please let the RPA City Council members know that you want them to act rationally.