Tom Butt
  E-Mail Forum – 2022  
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  Terminal 1 Developer Proposes Single Family Subdivision
February 15, 2022

After seven years of review, one settled lawsuit and multiple public hearings, the proposed Terminal 1 project by Laconia was approved by all agencies and fully entitled by the City of Richmond in 2020. Shortly thereafter, Laconia was obligated to pay the City the balance owed on the $10.5 purchase price and take title to the property.

But Laconia has not paid the City, not closed on the property and now wants to propose an entirely different project, claiming the one entitled in no longer economically feasible.

The currently approved site plan, shown below in Figure 1, consists of 316 units, 21 of which are single-family homes. The remainder of units is located in multistory buildings over podium parking. There is lots of green space, a gently curving shoreline drive, and a view of the water from most units. in these times of fighting climate change, residential density is prized for its conservation of resources and sustainability.

Figure 1 - Currently entitled Terminal 1 project

What Laconia is now proposing is the single-family home subdivision shown below. The unimaginative plan by a southern California architect could be in Fresno or Modesto. Instead of green spaces, the site is mostly asphalt. Only the outer 34 of the proposed 215 dwelling units have water views – a tragic plan for a world class waterfront site. Each home has a two-car garage that faces the street. What is driving this decision? Laconia claims that the downtrodden real estate market in Richmond will not support multi-family homes, particularly those over podiums, although thousands of such units have been and continue to be constructed all over the East Bay, including neighboring cities of Hercules, El Cerrito, Albany and Berkeley.

What Laconia is doing is “fighting the last war,” looking back at demand driven by COVID where so many people were compelled to work from home and started looking for single-family homes where they never had to come face to face with a neighbor and risk being exposed – even if it meant moving to Idaho. By the time this new plan goes back through the approval process, which will take years, COVID will be just a memory. But there will continue to be a market for single family homes, and Laconia wants to cash in on it at Richmond’s expense instead of building sustainably.

Laconia’s Terminal 1 plan looks a lot like the Richmond Riviera plan that was soundly defeated 65.65% to 34.35% in Measure N (ballot box planning) of 2016. Instead it was reborn as the new Terminal 1 plan. Like a bad penny, these poorly designed projects keep showing up in Richmond.

Contrary to Laconia’s claim, the residential real estate market is strong and growing stronger in Richmond, with Zillow showing a 15.1% 1-yrear change and a typical home value in Richmond of $775,552.

Figure 2 - Home value trend from Zillow


Figure 3 - Laconia's proposed single-family subdivision at Terminal 1

Figure 4 - Laconia's proposed single-family subdivision looks like this subdivision in the Central Valley, except there are no yards

Figure 5 - Richard Poe's single-family "Richmond Riviera" project was defeated in Measure N of 2016. Although the site is smaller, the plan is the same as Laconia’s new terminal 1 plan.