Tom Butt
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  Millions of Dollars Diverted from Underserved Richmond Neighborhoods in Broad Conspiracy to Fund Point Molate Acquisition
July 19, 2022

With no transparency and no public notice or participation, and certainly no notice to the elected mayor of Richmond, Senator Nancy Skinner conspired with Supervisor John Gioia, East Bay Regional Parks District Manager Sabrina Landreth and Director Elizabeth Echols, and RPA City Council members to obtain $36 million of State of California funds intended to start the process of purchasing the remaining 30 percent of Point Molate to become a regional park. Why 30 percent? Because the other 70 percent is already designated as open space for park use. For more, see “Point Molate – saved or Sold – The faces of Hypocrisy,” July 17, 2022, and “$$ for Point Molate,” July 18, 2022.

Figure 1 - Coconspirator Elizabeth Echols, East Bay Regional Parks District director

Figure 2  Coconspirator Senator Nancy Skinner

Figure 3 - Coconspirator Supervisor John Gioia

Point Molate is land that was transferred by the Navy to the City of Richmond for $1.00, and California taxpayers are now stuck with making a down payment to buy it back for $36 million. What a deal for taxpayers!

The move by Senator Skinner is particularly egregious because the $36 million was at the expense of several projects in Central Richmond that would have largely benefitted underserved neighborhoods populated by people of color. The City of Richmond had submitted funding requests to Senator Skinner for $42,450,000 to fund the following:

  • Richmond Wellness Trail - $11,000,000
  • Richmond Intermodal Transportation and Neighborhood Transformation - $3,850,000
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Hub Rebuild - $27,600,000

Other than the $36 million for Point Molate, the only other Richmond allocation was $2,000,000 for a community center, far from enough to actually fund it. Instead of honoring our requests, and without exercising the professional courtesy of even informing us, Senator Skinner proceeded to persuade the governor to place $36 million in the budget for Richmond, directed to the East Bay Regional Park District for the acquisition of Point Molate.

There are so many needs in Richmond that $36 million would have helped in the underserved neighborhoods of Central Richmond, including alleviating homelessness, upgrading streets, cleaning up junk and maintaining the Richmond Greenway. But Skinner did not consider that.  She pandered to a group of Point Molate obsessed activists, most from Alameda County, and ponied up $36 million to help make it a regional park.

$36 million could have been used to help support and subsidize affordable housing in Central Richmond, something the RPA City Council members and Point Molate Alliance point to as a better idea than housing at Point Molate. There are actually multiple projects planned for Downtown Richmond, but they are struggling with financial challenges and stalled out, like the project at 12th and Macdonald by SAA/EVI (Ernst Valery). These projects could use a financial boost. Senator Skinner sees herself as a housing advocate, but she hypocritically conspired to kill a project with up to 2,000 Units, including dozens of affordable units, at Point Molate. Senator Skinner even authored SB 330 the Housing Crisis Act of 2019, saying at its signing:

“Our failure to build enough housing has led to the highest rents and home ownership costs in the nation,” Skinner said. “My bill, SB 330, gives a greenlight to housing that already meets existing zoning and local rules and prevents new rules that might limit housing we so desperately need.”

It is ironic that the move to make Point Molate a regional park and eliminate housing, including affordable housing that is already entitled and provided or by the general plan and zoning, appears to be contrary to the provisions of SB 330, which, among other things, prevents local governments from downzoning unless they upzone an equivalent amount elsewhere within their boundaries.

Senator Nancy Skinner is chair of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee and the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, very powerful positions when it comes to the appropriation of State funds.

For many years, I have been told by our California Assembly and Senate representatives that, unlike other cities they represent, Richmond seldom, if ever, submits requests for unsolicited State funding. I shared this more than once with whoever was city manager at the time. When I became mayor, I resolved to be more proactive and make sure Richmond was fully utilizing opportunities for unsolicited State funds.

About three years ago, a staff member of Senator Skinner’s office provided a tutorial to the mayor’s staff on how to seek such funds. In August of 2021, Audrey Momoh of Senator Skinner’s staff reminded us to get our requests in.

Hi everyone,

I spoke with Audrey Momoh from Senator Skinner’s Office an hour ago and she wants to know if the City of Richmond has any budget priorities for any of the categories in the email below. For those like me who aren’t familiar with the acronym GGRF, it’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. 

There’s money in the state budget coming down to cities and Senator Skinner wants to make sure that Richmond has a chance to bring some of these funds home. This opportunity is in line with the relationship-building work that the mayor and I have been leading at the state and federal level, including a state budget proposal meeting we had with the senator’s office a few weeks ago. 

The catch, though, is that I need to submit recommendations to Audrey by tomorrow, so any projects that you have on your funding wishlists need to be sent to me ASAP. 

Because of the short turnaround, we are not being required to submit fully thought out proposals for funding. All we need to do is submit some bulletpoints or short sentences about projects that fit in one of the categories below and a ballpark of funding we’re looking for. Audrey and I will figure out the rest later. 

Here’s one example of how a budget priority can be presented (this is a made up example):

Priority: City of Richmond Wildfire Preparedness Plan
Description: Richmond Fire Department and City Manager’s Office are stepping up the city’s wildfire preparedness plan to better protect against wildfires in the May Valley and Carriage Hills neighborhoods of the city, both of which are at high risk of wildfire. To better ensure wildfire management and protection for residents and critical infrastructure in May Valley and Carriage Hills, the City of Richmond is proposing to do X. 
Cost estimate: $200,000

Please send any priorities to me by 4:30 p.m. tomorrow. Hopefully we can take advantage of this opportunity while we have it!

Thank you,

Sent from my iPad

Begin forwarded message:
From: "Momoh, Audrey" <>
Date: August 24, 2021 at 5:31:31 PM PDT
To: Christopher Whitmore <>
Subject: Budget Priorities
Hi Chris, 
Nice to connect just now. As discussed, let me know tomorrow if you have any priorities, projects, or recommendations around the following budget areas: :

  • Wildfire
  • Water/Drought
  • Climate Resiliency  
  • GGRF
  • Transportation
  • Energy
  • Higher Education Infrastructure
  • Other trailer bill issues also need to be finalized, including in areas of:
        • Health
        • Human Services

Feel free to call with any questions.
Audrey Momoh
Pronouns: She/Her
District Director
Officer of Senator Nancy Skinner
California State Senate
District Office: (510) 286-1333
Capitol Office: (916) 651-4009

Keep up with the Senator on her Website  and follow her on Facebook & Twitter. Sign up for the Senator's newsletter

On August 8, 2021, I emailed City Manager Laura Snideman:

‘You need to get your staff to make these asks!

By September 9, 2021, the following requests had been made to Senator Skinner:

  • Resilience planning for sea level rise, tsunami, and flooding for City. We have done vulnerability studies but need to consider mitigation options ($500k)
  • Municipal fleet conversion to electric and charging stations ($500k)
  • bike lane striping and ped/bike facilities. ($5 million)
  • resources to address digital divide in disadvantaged areas such as free community wi-fi. ($5-10 million)
  • open space and wildland area management ($600k)
  • converting city buildings space and water heating systems to all electric and solar ($5-10 million)
  • Support for closing basic needs gaps (food access, digital access, housing, childcare services, transportation, etc.) for postsecondary students ($1 million)

None were subsequently funded.

On March 4, 2022, the Mayor’s Office submitted the following funding requests for $34,850,000, later increased to $42,450,000, to Senator Skinner’s Office:

  • Richmond Wellness Trail - $11,000,000
  • Richmond Intermodal Transportation and Neighborhood Transformation - $3,850,000
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Hib Rebuild - $20,000,000

In early April of 2022, I was contacted by Audrey Momoh of Senator Skinner’s Office requesting an “update” on Point Molate, which I provided. I was advised that she was being lobbied to provide state funding to purchase Point Molate for a park. I provided a summary of events related to Point Molate and concluded with:

Putting aside any of my personal preferences, there are the following issues with a park purchase:

  • No one has a solution for preservation, rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of some 300,000 SF of 100+ year-old historic buildings (Winehaven Historic District) listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There is no way that adaptive reuse is economically feasible without new infrastructure, which would be provided by the proposed development. The buildings would simply deteriorate.
  • The proposed development would be required to pay to develop and maintain the 70% open spaces and parks. Without a developer, these costs would have to be borne by public agencies, but no commitment has been made.
  • There could also be an SB330 issue if a park is pursued. Point Molate is currently zoned for some 2,000 homes
I never heard back from Senator Skinner or her staff about either Point Molate or our funding requests. Apparently, they were too busy throwing Richmond under the bus and scheming how to appropriate money to buy Point Molate.