On Monday, July 18, 2022, John Gioia and Norman La Force are hosting a virtual conversation about the future of Point Molate. You could not find two worse flip-flopping, hypocritical double-dealing persons to talk about Point Molate, but is a good chance to ask questions.
Tomorrow, Monday, 7/18, 6-7 pm, Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia and Sierra Club SF Bay Chapter Legal Chair Norman LaForce will have a conversation about the history of fighting for open space in the Bay Area.
This event is part of the Speaking UP for Point Molate speaker series that meets every Monday from 6-7 pm on Zoom.
Here’s the address to register for the Zoom meeting link:
Questions? Email email@example.com
Figure 1 - The deed for Point Molate is in escrow to Point Molate Futures LLC, a Delaware limited liability company managed by the Guidiville Rancheria of California, a federally recognized Indian Tribe”)
Now that Point Molate has been sold by the RPA City Council members (McLaughlin, Martinez, Jimenez and Willis) to a casino developer and the Guidiville Rancheria Indian Tribe for $400, you might want to tune in to the Point Molate Alliance Zoom meeting on July 18, 2022, at 6:00 PM (https://tinyurl.com/fdm7eeu6) to find out exactly how Supervisor John Gioia, the RPA and the Point Molate Alliance plan to turn Point Molate into a regional park.
You might want to ask Supervisor Gioia, who lives in a waterfront house worth over $1 million in Marina Bay, a former WWII Industrial Complex and a remediated Brownfield just like Point Molate, why he gets to enjoy that lifestyle, but potential future residents of Point Molate should be denied the same privilege. Incidentally, the approved master plan for Point Molate has many times the proportion of open space to development as Marina Bay and does not have any waterfront homes like Gioia’s.
You might want to ask Supervisor Gioia, the RPA and the Point Molate Alliance what their plans are for the hundreds of thousands of square feet of endangered historic buildings at Winehaven, a historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places and once the world’s largest winery. We hear a lot from this Save Point Molate group about the flora and fauna of Point Molate, much of it inaccurate, but we don’t hear a peep about cultural resources, except those that are no longer visible – the Native American middens and the Chinese Shrimp Camp. What is the plan, if there is one, for rehabilitation and reuse of the Winehaven buildings – a project that will cost as much as $100 million dollars, if not more? These building continue to be looted and vandalized and are increasingly subject to deterioration and decay, making them even more extensive to rehabilitate – if they can be saved at all.
Figure 2 - Supervisor John Gioia will share his thoughts on Point Molate June 18 at 6:00 PM.
Figure 3 - Supervisor Gioia lives in a waterfront home on the bay Trail at Marina Bay but opposes residential development at Point Molate
In a recent Facebook post where Gioia bragged about his vision for a regional park at Point Molate, he wrote:
The Bay Area has a long history of hard fought open space battles where those favoring development provoke fear and scare tactics like bankruptcy. Those tactics have usually been proven unsuccessful. Thank you to East Bay Regional Park District and San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission - BCDC for maintaining the vision that Pt Molate should be a regional park for all and not 1500 luxury homes up against the Chevron Refinery fence line
Yet in 2009, Gioia voted at a Contra Costa County Board of Supervisor’s meeting in favor of a casino at Point Molate in exchange for a promise of $10 million a year (County unanimous in support for casino - Richmond Confidential and https://www.eastbaytimes.com/2009/11/01/county-ready-to-back-point-molate-casino-plan/?fbclid=IwAR1wap_A3ysqKKg0bi5tuqMarUpY7JiaTtncQSCxIARCtZhPWMfHBLjLzd0&fs=e&s=cl).
Diminishing revenues played a large role in the board’s volte-face. Gioia said the county needs money for health, law enforcement and other services. If the 266 acres of shoreline property are given to the Guidiville Band in trust, the tribe guarantees the county $12 million a year, with a possibility to increase that by another $10 million.
At a time when public services are being scaled back, supervisors want to reap the benefits of a possible cash cow. Moreover, they do not want a repeat of what happened with Casino San Pablo. The county’s opposition to that casino led to “zero” dollars for the county, Gioia said, while its services are being drained.
“Clearly there is a split in the community, and I respect both positions,” he said, referring to the animated public debate surrounding the construction of a large casino complex just outside Richmond; a city afflicted with “crushing unemployment,” But I believe that the county has the most to lose if we oppose this project any longer,” Gioia said.
To those who say the county was bought, Gioia said, “It’s our job as elected officials to continually assess. We believe we can turn a project to the benefit of the community.”
In 2021, SunCal sought to initiate a potential San Francisco Bay Plan Amendment (Application 1-21) to align the approved development plan for Point Molate with the decades old San Francisco Bay Plan. The application came before BCDC on July 17, 2021, and the action item was not approval of any changes to the plan but simply to study and report on the application. This was a routine item that typically is approved, and the staff report recommended:
- adopt the attached Brief Descriptive Notice to initiate the process of considering a possible amendment to San Francisco Bay Plan Map 4 and Bay Plan Map policies to modify the Waterfront Park, Beach Priority Use Area designation at Point Molate;
- authorize the Executive Director to enter into a contract to recover the Commission’s costs for reviewing and acting on the proposed amendment application, and;
- schedule a public hearing November 4, 2021, to consider the proposed amendment.
I expected the routine item to be approved by BCDC commissioners, but the RPA was out in force. Speakers arguing against initiating the study included Shirley Dean, Jeanne Kortz, Norman LaForce, Janet Johnson, Jim Hansen, Pam Stello, Arthur Feinstein, Paul Carmen, Dorothy Gilbert, and David Helvarg,
Supervisor Gioia, who serves with me on BCDC, made the following statement (Minutes of BCDC meeting of July 17, 2021):
As some speakers mentioned, and I have also been in contact with several parties who have indicated that there are informal, settlement discussions occurring with regard to the litigation. Now, the Applicant will say there are no official, settlement discussions and that is what Applicants say; but there have been some informal discussions.
Also as has been noted, this area has been identified in the East Bay Regional Park District Master Plan for a park. There has been interest recently expressed by Park District Directors into looking at acquiring this site, but obviously they don't want to interfere with Richmond's contractual agreements that were approved last year or prior.
So, my concern would be if we move forward with initiating this process, that we may be jeopardizing the outcome or success of informal negotiations, informal, settlement discussions that would lead to then official settlement discussions and the larger protection of this open space along the shoreline.
So while we could argue that well, a number of the issues that were raised today will get analyzed and discussed as part of considering whether the Bay Plan should be amended, that the mere initiation of it may compromise the ability for there to be a settlement of all concerned, given where the Richmond City Council is today, given the discussions, and the sizable opposition that exists in the community.
Gioia was referring to the SPRAWLDEF lawsuits (which eventually lost) challenging Point Molate on the Brown Act and CEQA issues. There were no settlement discussion going on and none planned. There are still none going on. Gioia flat out lied to BCDC commissioners, giving them what seemed like a reasonable excuse to delay the study.
I had heard others say that Gioia had, for all practical purposes, joined the RPA, but that BCDC meeting was the moment it all came home for me. He was an integral part of the plan to stop development of Point Molate! This had all been orchestrated, and John did not have the guts to alert me to what he intended to do beforehand. It was a total ambush. After that, I knew I could never trust him again.
Gioia continues to say he has a plan for Point Molate, but he won’t reveal it. Maybe he will spill it on July 18.
The Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) City Council members (McLaughlin, Jimenez, Martinez and Willis) and their partner, the Point Molate Alliance, continue to pretend that they have “saved” Point Molate and that they have some influence over its future. They hold frequent events there like they own it, even though a deed to the Guidiville Rancheria (technically, “Point Molate Futures LLC, a Delaware limited liability company managed by the Guidiville Rancheria of California, a federally recognized Indian Tribe”) sits in escrow.
Joining Supervisor Gioia at the July 18 meeting will be Norman La Force, representing SPRAWLDEF (Sustainability, Parks, Recycling, and Wildlife Legal Defense Fund), a serial litigant and a serial loser against the City of Richmond on Point Molate issues. So far LaForce and SPRAWLDEF have lost all of their recent Point Molate lawsuits, but with the RPA majority running the City Council, they were able to stop the SunCal plan politically.
Figure 4 - Quitclaim Deed to Point Molate
Before losing both the Brown Act and CEQA lawsuits, La Force boasted (https://www.sierraclub.org/san-francisco-bay/blog/2020/10/environmental-groups-community-members-sue-city-richmond-over-illegal):
“It is clear that the City violated CEQA in approving this luxury development,” said Norman La Force, an attorney representing the petitioners in this case and a member of the Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter Executive Committee. “The project’s Environmental Impact Report was completely inadequate, ignoring significant impacts to rare ecosystems and failing to respond to serious concerns raised by many members of the Richmond community and responsible agencies.”
In addition to violating California environmental law, the City also violated California planning and zoning law by approving a project inconsistent with the City’s own General Plan policies intended to protect the environment — namely, that future development in Richmond should be concentrated downtown and near public transit in order to reduce vehicle miles traveled and associated pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
Figure 5 - Norman LaForce - Serial litigant and serial loser
Like Gioia, La Force was once a staunch supporter of the casino at Point Molate (Norman La Force, a post mortem – Conservation Sense and Nonsense (milliontrees.me)). He brokered a deal to receive $40 million in return for support of the casino by environmental organizations.
La Force and the Sierra Club are opposed to building any new housing in the Bay Area, whether it is urban infill or suburban open space. La Force’s original strategy in preventing this project was to promote the building of a huge gambling casino and resort on the property. He and his allies made a deal with the developers of the gambling casino that they would fund the removal of “invasive species” and the installation of native landscape in exchange for Sierra Club support for the gambling casino.
La Force has a history of supporting parks, but only if they are off limits to people.
The City of Richmond held a voters’ referendum to prevent a gambling casino from being built and developed a new plan for housing that would have preserved 70% of the land for parks and open space. La Force and his allies were forced to develop a new strategy. Now they claim that the site is a fire hazard with insufficient exits to evacuate in the event of fire. There was no fire hazard when La Force advocated for a gambling casino with parking for 7,500, a hotel with 1,100 rooms, entertainment complex and retail stores, but now there is, according to La Force and the Sierra Club. This is the subject of yet another La Force/Sierra Club lawsuit, filed against the City of Richmond, less than a month before the November 3, 2020 election.
La Force’s use of fear of fire as a tool to get what he wants is not new. He has used the same argument to justify the destruction of all non-native trees in the Bay Area. Anyone who is paying attention knows that virtually all the wildfires in California occur in native vegetation. Flammability of tree species has nothing to do with nativity of the species and everything to do with the characteristics of the species. For example, native bay laurels are more flammable than eucalyptus.
The SF Chronicle recently reported the new strategy of “environmentalists” of using fear of fire to prevent new housing from being built in suburban open space. The article quite rightly points out that the same people are equally opposed to building dense housing in urban transit corridors.
La Force was defeated in his bid for an East Bay Regional Park District because of his contrarian views about parks and people:
Norman La Force has a long track record as an aggressive—often litigious—opponent of traditional park uses. La Force prefers parks behind fences, with no public access and he frequently sues the Park District to impose his personal preference that public parks be reserved for wildlife in which people are not welcome.(Norman La Force, a post mortem – Conservation Sense and Nonsense (milliontrees.me)).
Recreational users of the parks probably deserve the most credit for Echols’ victory. La Force has spent decades trying to prevent kitesurfing, kayak launches, biking, and dog walking in the parks in the district he wanted to represent. These recreational users of the parks weren’t having it.
I learned a lot about La Force during that campaign and everything I learned confirmed my judgment that he is an enemy of our urban parks with a fundamentally misanthropic view about the role of humans in nature. (Norman La Force, a post mortem – Conservation Sense and Nonsense (milliontrees.me)).