Reason miraculously but barely prevailed at last night’s City Council meeting as the City Council on a 4-3 vote, with Willis, Beckles and Martinez voting no, reversed its previous decision to add restrictions to development proposals that would essentially make development at Point Molate economically unfeasible. The two previously adopted restrictions, now removed, banned any development at Drum Lot 2 and required 2/3 of any housing to be affordable.
A special thanks goes to RPA members Ben Choi and Ada Recinos who voted in favor of the changes.
A Request for Proposals (RFP) for development of Point Molate was approved for issuance to a short list of six developers on October 23, 2018, and was issued on October 26, 2018 with City Council directed changes restricting development on Drum Lot 2 and adding minimum housing requirements.
On December 4, the City Council was informed that four of the six developers had declined to submit a proposal, and the two proposals submitted were unresponsive to the RFP, including the new City Council-imposed conditions.
The purpose of the special meeting last night was to consider eliminating the two most restrictive conditions and recirculate the RFP.
New proposals are now due January 28, and will be reviewed by a slightly different city council that has two new members, Demnlus Johnson, III, and Nat Bates.
Other than the 2018 elections that didn’t go so well for the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA), Point Molate has pretty much been the sole obsession of the RPA for the past year.
Just yesterday, RPA stalwart Marilyn Langlois circulated an email intended to fire up the faithful and intimidate RPA City Council members: “The Richmond Progressive Alliance Steering Committee considers this a matter of fundamental importance and expects all its members to support the current requirements in the RPF for Point Molate. RPA councilmembers should vote No or abstain on the elimination of these requirements.”
Last night, for the first time in a City Council meeting, public comments were not dominated by RPA members and their out of town allies. I counted at last sixteen speakers who urged the City Council to allow a development plan along the lines envisioned by the Settlement Agreement.
The RPA is so focused, so disciplined and so persistent that they and their allies have dominated the multiple “visioning” sessions held over the last several months, outnumbering, shouting down and intimidating those who disagree with them. This domination has been turned into a narrative that their vision is the “community” vision. But now, people are finally beginning to see through this and challenge it.
Both City Council members and public speakers opposing development echoed many of the same irrational claims that have dominated the Point Molate discussion for months.
- Drum Lot 2, also referred to as the Southern Development Area, or even euphemistically the “south watershed” is a highly disturbed, extensively graded former brownfield dominated by acres of concrete. To the RPA, it is a sacred and pristine natural habitat and the crown jewel of Point Molate (But it would be okay to turn it into a sports field).
- The RPA is also obsessed with housing. Several RPA members, including at least two Council members argued that building housing at Point Molate would result in “displacement” of low income people and gentrification. How building new housing, including affordable housing as required by the Settlement Agreement will displace anyone defies reason, but reason is not the strong point of some City Council members.
Here’s hoping that the New Year will bring continuing progress toward a mixed use Point Molate development that has something for everyone – a goal that is now in its 23rd year.