Tom Butt
  E-Mail Forum – 2024  
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  Report from the Pickleball Front
March 23, 2024

On my birthday yesterday, I visited the Craneway to check out the opening of the pickleball operation. I have to say, it was impressive. On a rainy and windy day, the Craneway and Assemble Restaurant were both packed with at least a couple hundred people. With 12 courts, some 48 people were actively playing – for free. The rest were wandering around or just sitting and watching. The bar and pro shop were open.

Next door, Riveter days were being celebrated at the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front Visitor Center.

If the pickleball operation were a one-off event, it would have been a perfect use of the Craneway. As a permanent event, however, it precludes any other use of the iconic space and permanently limits its participants to a relatively small but enthusiastic subset of the public who are willing to pay for the privilege, a substantial departure from its use over the last couple of decades. This is one reason people are upset.

Pickets opposing the permanent pickleball use showed up as promised and made their complaints known at the Craneway entrance.

Even more troubling is the in-your-face attitude of the arrogant Craneway lessor and the pickleball promoters who have defied and broken every permit, agreement, regulation and law regarding the use of the space. Equally troubling is the City of Richmond’s and other agency’s inaction in enforcing these permits, agreements, regulations and laws. No City Council member has expressed a public opinion on the issues, although there will be a discussion on the March 26 City Council meeting Agenda.

There may have been a way to accommodate a variety of uses, including some pickleball, but that window seems to have closed for now.

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There are 12 pickleball courts with maximum four players each
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There are more people standing and sitting around than playing
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The bar is open but not finding many patrons
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Like the bar, the pro shop is open but not many buyers

This area and a few tables scattered around in the court areas is the extent of the “restaurant” that the lessor claims is 70% of the operation

A few people were playing ping pong.

Protestors picketing at the front entrance

At the Visitor Center next door, 98-year-old Rosie Marian Sousa is interviewed by KRON4
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Riveter Days visitors at the National Park Visitor Center
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Riveter Days visitors at the National Park Visitor Center

So, what’s the problem? Many of these issues have been covered in previous E-FORUMs (See, but I want to point out a few more that represent the scofflaw arrogance of the Craneway lessor. There are historic train tracks that run just inside the south wall of the Craneway. These were supposed to be preserved as historical feature of the building, but in preparing it for pickleball use, they have been covered over.

The wharf area south of the Craneway is a big part of the lessor’s claim that the restaurant extends onto the wharf making it part of the 70% of the Craneway use, but there are no tables or other evidence of restaurant use and few people, making a it simply a fraudulent claim designed to circumvent the public trust restrictions.

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Train tracks entering the giant east door to the Craneway. Inside, they have been covered up.

Train tracks now paved over

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Historic train tracks shown on Exhibit B of BCDC Permit have been paved over.

The BCDC permit also required a number of enhancements to the wharf area to accommodate public use of the Bay Trail, including seven benches, six trash receptacles, two bike racks, four interpretive signs, railings, bollards, lighting and landscaping, none of which has been provided, except for railings, which do not comply with the California Building Code and present a risk to the public and a liability to the City. 

South side of Craneway at wharf has none of the BCDC required public access improvements.

The BCDC Permit for the Ford Building and the Craneway is jointly held by Ford Point LLC (Orton) and the City of Richmond. It was first issued in 2003 and has been revised at least four times, the most recent being Amendment Four dated January 5, 2018.

Orton has a history of flagrant violations of the BCDC permit, including completely closing off the Bay Trail on the Wharf. Back then, we had a tough city attorney, who wrote Orton on February 25, 2009:

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