E-Mail Forum – 2023  
  < RETURN  
  The Sad Plight of the Historic Shipyard 3 General Warehouse
February 5, 2023

Figure 1 - The iconic Moderne style General Warehouse at historic Shipyard 3

Figure 2 - Deteriorated entry to General Warehouse
The General Warehouse is the most iconic of the extant historical buildings from the historic WWII Shipyard 3. For almost a decade, the City of Richmond has been trying to get the building rehabilitated but has made little progress due to poor evaluation and selection of lessees, poorly drafted contracts and poor asset management.

Today, the iconic General Warehouse sits graffiti-covered and all but abandoned, a testament to the RPA-controlled City Council and an incompetent and corrupt city attorney.

Figure 3 - The General warehouse is the second from the left of the yellow highlighted buildings from the original Shipyard 3

From Historic American Engineering Record, Kaiser Richmond Shipyards with Special Emphasis on Richmond Shipyard No. 3 (Fredric L. Quivic for the National Park Service 2004)

General Warehouse

The building with the most impressive facade yard 3 during World War II, the General Warehouse, is still most impressive.  Because the plate shop is gone, the General Warehouse now is also the most massive. A four-story structure of reinforced concrete in the Moderne style, the building features projecting central bays along the front and rear elevations. Those bays extend above the roofline of the main body of the warehouse and give the warehouse facades a classical, symmetrical composition. The bays also represent the location of the freight elevators, so the portion of each bay that extends above the roofline houses the elevator mechanisms.

Typical of the Moderne style, the bays are unadorned with features like pedestals, columns, cornices, or pediments. The only semblance of embellishment is the pair of vertical rows of circular windows that flank the bay on the front (east) elevation. Although there are large, roll- up doors throughout the perimeter of the warehouse, there is a concentration of doors at the base of each of the projecting bays. For each bay, there is a centrally-located door to the freight elevator flanked by a set of double pedestrian doors. The elevator doors are the kind that part in the middle horizontally, so that the top half raises and the bottom half drops as the doors open.

The front and rear bays provide the only vertical elements to a building that is otherwise dominated by horizontal lines. A loading dock with cantilevered canopy surrounds the entire building, defining the first floor. Each of the upper three floors are defined along the facades by six horizontal rows of small rectangular vent openings, one row near the floor and one near the ceiling for each floor. Additionally, there are three bands of horizontal grooves cast into the concrete between pairs of vent rows around the front half of the building (the front half comprising the front elevation and the front half of each side elevation). The rest of the facade is smooth, unfinished concrete exhibiting nothing more than the texture of the concrete forms. The interior of the warehouse is largely open storage space. All floors are poured-in- place concrete and are supported concrete columns with spread, inverted pyramid caps. The dimensions of the columns in section decrease progressively from the first to the second to the third floors. The columns on the fourth floor are wood, rather than concrete, and they support a conventional wood roof structure of beams, joints, flat roof deck, and built-up roofing.

Like the other structures in historic Shipyard 3, it comes under City Council adopted Resolution 100-07, which directed the city manager to:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the City Council directs the City Manager to prepare and implement a plan for the rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of the four vacant or underutilized historical buildings that will result in meeting the following long-term objectives: 1. Beneficial occupancy by paying tenants 2. Positive cash flows that exceed existing cash flows 3. Opportunities for new jobs, particularly for Richmond residents 4. Uses consistent with Resolution 129-99, Resolution 46a-00, Goal OSC-E of the General Plan and Policies LU-A.5, CF-K.2, ED-C.3 and OSC-E.2 of the General Plan and the adopted General Management Plan for Rosie the Riveter WW II Home Front National Historical Park and the updated Richmond General

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the City Council directs that such plans to include consideration of public-private partnerships, grants, tax benefits and other creative incentives to achieve these objectives.

It is also subject to Richmond Municipal Code15.04.303.140.E, which addresses prohibition of Demolition by Neglect:

Prevention of Demolition by Neglect. 1. General Obligation. The owner, lessees and any other person in actual charge or possession of an historical resource shall prevent demolition by neglect.

There are consequences (15.04.303.150):

  1. Any person who violates a requirement of this article or fails to obey an order or permit issued pursuant thereto shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
  1. Any person who constructs, alters, removes or demolishes a historic resource or Landmark in violation of this article shall be required to restore the building, object, site or structure to its appearance or setting prior to the violation to the extent such restoration is physically possible. Any action to enforce this provision may be brought by the City or any other interested party. This civil remedy shall be in addition to, and not in lieu of, any criminal prosecution and the penalty or other remedy provided by law.

There is also a requirement for the Zoning Administrator to take a proactive role (15.04.303.140.D):

  1. Notice to Comply. If the Zoning Administrator determines that a historic resource or any other property in an -H District or any designated Landmark is being neglected and subject to damage from weather or vandalism, the Zoning Administrator shall meet with the owner or other person having legal custody and control of the historic resource or Landmark to discuss with them ways to improve the condition of the property. If no attempt or insufficient effort is made to correct any noted conditions thereafter, the Zoning Administrator may issue a Notice to Comply requiring the owner or other person having legal custody and control of the historic resource or Landmark to take action to require corrections of defects in the subject property in order that such historic resource or Landmark may be preserved in accordance with this section, except if the property owner can present clear and convincing evidence to the Zoning Administrator that his/her ability to improve the condition of the property is constrained by limited financial resources of other immediate and substantial hardship. If a financial or other hardship is found to exist, the Zoning Administrator shall make a written finding to that effect which specifies the facts relied upon in making such a finding and withdraw the order to comply until such time that the work needed can be accomplished.

The first attempt to lease the General Warehouse was in in 2014 through a lease with an organization called Golden Solar Power Group, a California Limited Liability Company. The lease only required a payment of $1,000 a year for the first two years, and Golden Solar was supposed to completely rehabilitate the building. The Golden Solar Power Group was a shell company with no assets. City staff did not perform due diligence and did not draft a lease that required Golden Solar Power Group to have any skin in the game. After three years with no activity, the Golden Solar lease was terminated. They paid a total of $2,000 in rent.

In 2017, the City again circulated a Request for Proposals (RFP). There were five proposals shortlisted by City Staff and presented to the City Council. The City staff committee consisted of Jim Matzorkis, Alan Wolken, Gina Baker and Lucy Zhou. Some proposals were from substantial experienced and well-financed developers, like Orton Development, Inc., which successfully rehabilitated the Ford Assembly Building. All the others were from cannabis businesses.

Figure 4 - The City Council reviewed proposals on June 6, 2017

Once I found out that one of the proposers, Richmond Grown, was affiliated with 7 Stars Holistic Healing Center, a local cannabis business for which Interactive Resources designed a dispensary, I had a conflict of interest and had to recuse myself from any subsequent meetings or votes involving the General Warehouse.

One of the pitches made by Richmond Grown In 2017 is that their project would be complete and up and running by 2018, which was five years ago. The City subsequently entered into an Exclusive Right to Negotiate with Richmond Grown and on July 25, 2019, entered into a 20-year Lease with Richmond Grown, LLC, with options to expend to 34 years.

Richmond Grown was required to provide the following deliverables by January 15, 2020:

(a) Approved Final Plans and Specifications;
(b) Project Cost Statement;
(c) Approved Construction Contract;
(d) A clear and demonstrated financing plan for the Base Building Project; and
(e) A schedule of construction of the Base Building Project.

By early 2020, Richmond Grown was making little progress, and on January 17, 2020, wrote to the City requesting, “an extension of time to the date upon which Richmond Grown is required to provide certain Construction Deliverables required pursuant to Section 2.1 of the Construction Agreement due to reported delays attributable to the requirement for Historic Preservation Commission review.” They claimed they were unaware that their plans had to be approved by the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC).

On October 11, 2019 we were informed that our redevelopment plan would be subjected to a full review by the HPC. This decision was contrary to guidance we were given more than a year prior, when we were told to expect that the historic review and approval for our planned building exterior repair work would be processed administratively. The change in direction was delivered approximately two months after our initial kick-off meeting, into the slowness of the holiday period, when our consultant was not available to complete this work on an expedited schedule.

The City Council approved the four-month extension on February 18, 2020. The deadline was extended to May 25, 2020.

Richmond Grown missed the May 25, 2020, deadline, and on August 19, 2020, Matzorkis emailed that they had made a $100,000 payment required to push back the deliverable date to February 24, 2021.

The February 24, 2021, deliverable date was also missed. On March 17, 2020, Richmond Grown emailed Jim Matzorkis:

This email shall serve as my formal Notice that we will be looking for relief under the Force Majeure provision of the Agreement. I have included the language below. ‘13.7 Force Majeure. If either party shall be delayed in performing any obligation under this Lease, except any obligation to pay Base Rent, Additional Rent or any other sums of money payable hereunder, the time for such performance shall be extended by a period of time equal to such delay, and the party shall not be deemed to be in default where such delays or defaults are due to war; insurrection; strikes; lock-outs; riots; floods; earthquakes; fires; casualties; acts of God; epidemics; quarantine; restrictions; freight embargoes; acts or failure to act of the City or any other public or governmental agencies or entity that cause a significant portion of the Premises to be unusable in accordance with this Lease; or any other reasonable cause relating to this Lease beyond the control or without the fault of the party claiming an extension of time to perform; provided that the party whose performance is delayed shall have commenced and is assiduously pursuing all reasonable and available means and measures necessary to minimize or eliminate such delay resulting from any such causes or conditions. Each party shall give written notice of any such delay to the other party within five (5) days of such party’s knowledge of the occurrence of such event.’ We are continuing with our planning and design work, but our progress has been significantly delayed by a shelter-in-place order that makes it difficult for our architect and engineers to complete their work. Also, I expect there will be a delay reviewing our Historic Resource Evaluation as soon as that is completed (it’s nearly done) and presented to Roberta and her team. I never in life would have expected I would point to “epidemics” or “quarantine” as a legitimate obstacle to performing my contractural obligations. But here we are. lease acknowledge receipt of this message. We can discuss anytime.

By September of 2021, Richmond Grown’s plans had been approved by the HPC, and they had submitted a building permit application (#B21-01186, #B21-01186 - CONVERSION OF AN EXISTING 4 STORY TYPE III-A WAREHOUSE TO AN F1 INDUSTRIAL BUILDING - SHELL AND CORE ONLY. 145,000 SQ FT TOTAL WORK AREA). According to eTRAKiT, The building permit was approved on May 6, 2021, and expired on November 11, 2022.

Graphical user interface, application    Description automatically generated
Figure 5 - eTRAKiT record of building permit

By 2022, three years into their lease, Richmond Grown had not made any substantial progress in rehabilitation of the General Warehouse, and they had reconsidered their original plan to use the building for cannabis activities other than cultivation, such as manufacturing, testing labs, etc. On March 17, 2022, Richmond grown went to the Planning Commission to apply for a Conditional Use Permit to operate a “commercial adult-use cannabis cultivation facility.” The Planning Commission approved the application, Resolution N0. 22-02.

However, in late 2022, there was no evidence of construction activity, and vandals had begun placing graffiti on the building.

Figure 6 - Photos from 9/15/2022

Figure 7 - Photos from 9/15/2022

Figure 8 - Photos from 9/15/2022

In 2022, Richmond Grown was clearly having trouble meeting the terms of their lease and approached the City Council for relief. As the City Council was considering the request, it became known that a subcontractor, RMR, had claimed to have provided $716,000 in construction services on the building but had not been paid by the general contractor, NOVO. RMR had moved to foreclose a mechanics lien on the City.

Several mechanics liens have been filed for the General Warehouse:

Document No.

Filed by:

Filed Against






Mechanics Lien





Mechanics Lien







Mechanics Lien





Mechanics Lien





Mechanics Lien





Mechanics Lien





Mechanics Lien


As of January 29. 2023, the General Warehouse still stands abandoned and vacant, covered with graffiti.

A picture containing building, outdoor, stone, cement    Description automatically generated
Figure 9 - Photo 1/29/2023
Graffiti on a wall    Description automatically generated
Figure 10 - Photo 1/29/2023
Among other things, Richmond Grown is required to pay “a nuisance fee of $10,000 annually for neighborhood beautification projects to the Point Richmond Neighborhood Council,” which was incorporated into the conditional use permit. No payment has been received by the Point Richmond Neighborhood Council.

What went wrong? In a word – incompetence. First of all, you have a gullible City Council with no real estate economic and development experience. Then, you have a staff also lacking real estate management experience. Add to that a city attorney’s office that not only cannot draft a lease with conditions favorable to the City but has no backbone when it comes to enforcing the lease – as bad as it is.

So, here we are, stuck again with a bad lease, a bad tenant, a deteriorating historic building that is producing no revenue, and no one willing to do anything about it.