Richmond dives into fast-tracked planning process around Point Molate
June 20, 2018 at 1:33 pm
The site where the Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians wereproposing a casino at Pt. Moloate in Richmond, Calif. on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2008. The historic Winehaven District at Point Molate, which includes the century-old Winehaven Building and a collection of historic cottages, (Sherry LaVars/Contra Costa Times File)
RICHMOND — After a few snags, the city and its residents are diving headlong into crafting a community vision for one of its most important pieces of land — culturally, environmentally and economically — on a tight, court-imposed deadline.
After an eight-year court battle that ended in April, the city has finally received a judgment clearing the way for a community visioning process for Point Molate, the 270-acre former Navy fuel depot. However, as part of the settlement with developers, the city is on a tight timeline to reach consensus on a community plan for one of its most important pieces of land.
“It’s an opportunity as much as it is a burden,” said Councilman Ben Choi at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. “We have a tight schedule here and we should use that tightness for effectiveness… I’m actually predicting this will be the most publicly engaged project in this city. Unless we screw it up.”
On Tuesday night, City Council members voted unanimously to include four tours of Point Molate, additional advanced notice of community meetings and to place community input on zoning and amendments before developer proposals.
Vice Mayor Melvin Willis and council members Eduardo Martinez and Ada Reckons proposed the modifications.
The reason for the timeline modification, according to the three council members who proposed it, was concern from the community that no details or announcements were made of the first community visioning meeting 10 days before to the event.
“I just heard about the Saturday meeting while I was sitting here,” said resident Elaine Dawkins who spoke up at Tuesday night’s meeting.
The first full community workshop around planning a vision for Point Molate will be held on Saturday, which was news to several residents at the City Council meeting on Tuesday night.
“More than anything, I’m really critical of the first planning meeting being this Saturday and not having appropriate time to have that engagement,” said council member Ada Recinos.
The City Council voted to require that all meetings, tours and forums be widely publicized 30 days before the event and that special topic forums on public uses, equity and sustainability, natural resources, and site infrastructure also be held.
The city is hoping to reach a consensus on the zoning and planning for the land in three to four months.
On April 12, a federal judge resolved the lawsuit brought by Upstream Point Molate, LLC and the Guidiville Rancheria, a Pomo tribe based in Mendocino County, after the city denied their plans to build a casino in the area, arguing that the city had no legal grounds to do so. The judge’s ruling denied the casino builder’s claims, but requires that the profits from any land sold for development be split between the city and the casino developers.
The judgment included numerous requirements that are now governing both the timeline and aspects of the potential development.
The most pressing aspect of the judgment was that within two years, the city needs to offer discretionary approvals, including entitlements, zoning, general plan amendments needed for development. Within four years, or two years after the discretionary approvals, the city needs to market the development areas for sale to developers.
If these properties are not marketed for sale within that time, then Upstream and Guidiville Rancheria can purchase any of the three development areas for $100 apiece.
As part of the settlement, 70 percent of Point Molate’s 270 acres of upland area will remain open space and 30 percent will be designated development areas. The Core Historic District, which includes the Winehaven Castle and other structures, must be preserved for adaptive, new uses.
U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzales Rogers pointed to the city’s environmental impact report for the requirements in her judgment. View that court ruling online at bit.ly/MolateJudgment
At the May 29 City Council meeting, the council approved a $250,000 contract with WRT, LLC, to work on the process for creating a vision and planning document for land use at Point Molate. The firm is known for designing the landscape around the Richmond Civic Center, redesigning Lake Merritt’s boathouse and park in Oakland, and Mariposa Park in San Francisco.
As part of the process, WRT will engage the public in-person and through digital platforms and started the process on June 7 by registering a website: www.richmondpointmolate.org
The first community visioning meeting will be held on Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Point Molate Building No. 1, 2100 Stenmark Drive. Free shuttle service will be available from Richmond City Hall, 450 Civic Center Plaza on Nevin Avenue, between 25th and 26th streets between 9 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. Anyone interested in attending is encouraged to register for the event on Eventbrite by visiting bit.ly/PointMolateVision1
Alongside the visioning process is a lawsuit brought by several residents and groups in Richmond that hopes to throw out the court judgment. The groups allege that the city violated the Brown Act when it conferred in closed-door sessions on a settlement in the court case.
The city filed a motion of opposition to the suit, arguing that cities are within their rights to keep a settlement confidential until its ruled on in court.