With Richmond’s premier event venue, the Craneway, slated to become a pickleball court, another prized waterfront venue, the Riggers Loft, is under pressure by the City Council pay up or go away to make way for the wind energy industry. Mayor Martinez and Councilmember Jimenez are convinced that future of the Port of Richmond is manufacturing and servicing offshore wind farms. They sponsored a presentation at the June 6, Richmond City Council meeting that showed how well positioned Richmond is to capitalize on future offshore wind farming. See https://pub-richmond.escribemeetings.com/filestream.ashx?DocumentId=50316.
The presentation was by Matt Trowbridge of Moffatt & Nicholl, a port consultant who would love to have a fat contract with the City to begin planning.
Of course, there are no offers, and nothing is being negotiated for the Port of Richmond to transition to a wind farm support hub, but, hey, you have to be ready. Martinez and Jimenez want to show momentum by kicking the Riggers Loft Wine Company out of the Riggers Loft to make way for the wind industry. The Riggers Loft, positioned next to the Red Oak Victory, is an attraction that brings people from far and wide to Richmond to enjoy wine, food, music, weddings and various events – the kind of thing that most cities would be proud of and promote. The City Council, however, seems to favor the bird in the bush over the bird in the hand.
Although doing quite well now, The Riggers Loft has struggled in the past. When they were preparing their initial business plan, the former port director introduced them to an alleged wealthy Chinese investor, Zhenwu Wu and urged the Riggers Loft to work with him, (Tom Butt E-FORUM – The Mysterious Mr. Wu). Wu became an investor pledging $1 million. Unfortunately, Wu turned out to be a fraud and declined to meet his investment commitment, throwing the Riggers Loft Wine Company into a cash flow pinch. This is the same Mr. Wu who was going to bankroll the Terminal One project managed by Laconia. He pulled out of that one too, leading to confusion and continuing litigation.
Figure 1 – Riggers Loft Wedding
Ironically, Mayor Martinez, who has made multiple city-financed trips to China, has bragged more than once about bringing Mr. Wu and his money into Richmond.
Shortly after Zhenwu Wu stiffed the Riggers Loft project, it was hit, like many restaurants and bars, by the second whammy -- COVID-19. Instead of working with the Riggers Loft, which struggled for a while to pay full rent, the City, right in the middle of the pandemic, went to court to have them evicted, even though the Riggers Loft had paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent as well as generating taxes and jobs.
Ultimately, the City stayed the eviction and entered into an agreement for temporarily reduced rent and a recovery of past due rents. Business picked up, and the City and Riggers Loft agreed to a rent increase and an accelerated payback of past rents. Everyone seemed happy until Martinez and Jimenez smelled wind.
Maybe the wind industry will like Richmond, and maybe it won’t, but there is already plenty of competition from ports much better positioned and much further along than Richmond. See “Old lumber port preps for new life as California offshore wind hub” and “Californian Port Unveils Concept for USD 4.7 Billion Offshore Wind Turbine Assembly Hub.”
Figure 2 - A presentation at the Riggers Loft
Now, Martinez and Jimenez, along with the city attorney, are bent on hounding the Riggers Loft Wine Company out of Richmond to free up the building so as to be ready for the stampede of wind industry companies that are surely just waiting for the space.
Humboldt Bay, the second-largest bay in California after the San Francisco Bay, is ideally suited to become the final assembly port for the massive turbines. The models expected to be used off the California coast should have more capacity and be larger than the ones currently in use in Europe, and including the blades, they can rise as high as 1,100 feet above the water — about the height of the Eiffel Tower.
The port at Eureka has a deep navigation channel, no bridges that would hinder towing the tall assemblies out to sea, and hundreds of acres of vacant industrial land along the shore that was once used by the timber industry, said Larry Oetker, the executive director of the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation, and Conservation District.
The Port of Long Beach has released plans to build an offshore floating wind facility, known as Pier Wind, that would support the manufacture and assembly of offshore wind turbines. The offshore wind facility would span up to 400 acres of newly built land located southwest of the Long Beach International Gateway Bridge within the Harbor District.
Construction could potentially start in January 2027, with the first 100 acres operational in early 2031, the second 100 acres operational in late 2031, and the last 200 acres coming online in 2035.
It turns out that Chevron is investing in offshore wind, but the chances of the City Council doing business with them are less than nil.
Unlike Eureka and Long Beach, the Port of Richmond has almost no space available for wind industry support. The City doesn’t even have a port director. The RPA-controlled Richmond City Council is not known for its business acumen, demonstrated by selling Point Molate for $400, entering into lease with an empty shell company for the General Warehouse and spending more on litigation than business development.
Figure 3 - Party time at the Riggers Loft
If you have enjoyed the Riggers Loft and want to see it remain a waterfront attraction, let your City Council representative know.