Tom Butt
  E-Mail Forum – 2023  
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  Craneway in a Pickle?
July 4, 2023

There is an announcement at that the Craneway will open this fall as a membership venue that offers, “16 dedicated indoor pickleball courts, a premier pro shop, and a wellness lounge.”

This is a substantial and significant departure from the previous uses, which included community events, such as the 3rd of July fireworks and symphony, performances, festivals, trade shows, celebrations and meetings. For the current calendar, see The Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park and Rosie the Riveter Trust have used the Craneway on numerous occasions in the past for various events associated with the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park and WWII historical events associated with the Craneway.

Figure 1 - The Craneway, set up for an event

There is a concern that the proposed use of the Craneway is inconsistent with restrictions placed on its use in 2004 when the City was in the process of rehabilitating the Ford Assembly Building and conveying ownership. A dispute about State lands Commission jurisdiction was resolved with a settlement agreement that defined public trust uses allowable in the Craneway. The pertinent passage is shown below:

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The State Lands Commission agenda document drafted when the agreement was adopted, states:

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The Agenda item description of the State Lands Commission also listed, “overnight accommodation, restaurants and cafes, water-related industry, museums regarding waterfront history, visitor-serving retail, boating and ferry service.” It does not include membership private sports clubs.

Rosie the Riveter National Historic Park wins back Guinness title
Figure 2 - Rosie the Riveter rally at the Craneway

Many people are raising the question about whether the proposed Pickleball venue, operating as a private membership club, is consistent with the public trust uses regulated by the State Lands Commission.

Because of the public trust issues, the City leased the Craneway to the transferee, Orton Development, instead of selling it as with the rest of the Ford Assembly Building. The lease includes the same use limitation listed in the Settlement Agreement.

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Pickleball has become a very popular sport, and demand for new pickleball courts is high, but is this the most appropriate use for what has become Richmond’s premier event venue – a significant part of Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park and a great source if civic pride?

Apparently, the Craneway has not met the leaseholder’s performance expectations and the lease is up for sale. The Craneway as an event venue is slated to close December 22, 2023.

The common law Public Trust Doctrine protects sovereign lands, such as tide and submerged lands and the beds of navigable waterways, for the benefit, use and enjoyment of the public. These lands are held in trust by the State of California for the statewide public and for uses that further the purposes of the trust (

It is interesting that the City is The City is required by Section 6306 of the Public Resources Code to complete an annual financial statement and standardized reporting form for trust lands on or before December 31 of each year. Despite many grants of public trust lands to the City of Richmond, the City continues to report that there is no financial activity ( In 2022, I asked the city manager to explain this more than once, but I never received an answer.

The City of Richmond was granted sovereign tidelands in trust in 1913 for purposes of commerce, navigation, and fishing. In 1935, the City was granted two additional parcels of sovereign salt marsh, tide and submerged land for use as a harbor or for the promotion and accommodation of commerce and navigation. In 1959, the City was granted four additional parcels of sovereign tide and submerged land for use as a harbor or aviation facility, for the promotion or accommodation of commerce and navigation by air or water, for public recreation purposes or the promotion or accommodation of public recreation. In 1971, the City’s 1959 grant was amended, in part, to include additional trust uses for the protection or enhancement of unique environmental values of land, preservation and maintenance of open space, biological reserves and wildlife sanctuaries, and the development of nature study trails and areas, exhibits and research projects (

Calendar • Richmond • CivicEngage
Figure 3 - Oakland East Bay Symphony at he Craneway on July 3

I have contacted both the State Lands Commission and the City of Richmond for comment but have received no responses.