Tom Butt
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  Point Molate Continues to be a Money Pit for the City and a Huge Bonus for the City Attorney
May 3, 2024

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On May 7, 2024, the City Council will,  “ADOPT a Resolution setting aside City Council Resolution No. 97-20 and Ordinance Nos. 22-20 and 23-20 for the Point Molate Mixed Use Development Project in compliance with the Writ of Mandate issued in North Coast Rivers Alliance, et al. v. City of Richmond, et al., Contra Costa County Superior Court Case No. N20-1528 (Consolidated With Case No. N20-1474) – City Attorney’s Office (Dave Aleshire 510-620-6509).”

This follows a decision by the California Court of Appeal on November 27, 2023, which disposed of the long standing challenge to the Point Molate SEIR (Subsequent Environmental Impact Report) by the Point Molate Alliance and the North Coast River Alliance by directing the trial court to, “set aside its certification of the final SEIR and to issue a peremptory writ of mandate directing the City to set aside its certifications of the final SEIR and related project approvals.” Click here for the decision.

The City could have appealed the decision, or it could have amended the SEIR to address the two narrow aspects that the Court found insufficient. But the City Council will now wipe out years of work and millions of dollars invested in creating a shoreline park, housing and preserving Winehaven.

First of all, let’s analyze the decision.

The Plaintiffs who challenged the EIR did so on multiple fronts, some of which were programmatic and some of which targeted specific impacts. The Appeal Court found that the EIR was adequate in all but two narrow areas, both of which could have been easily corrected. More on that later.

  1. The Plaintiffs argued that objectives and purpose of the project were framed too narrowly and should have considered a “total parkland.” Option. The Court found no error in the City’s statement of objectives.
  2. The Plaintiffs argued that the SEIR applied an improper baseline. The Court disagreed.
  3. The Plaintiffs argued that the investigation of tribal cultural resources should have been expanded. The Court agreed.
  4. The Plaintiffs argued that analysis of impacts on Ospreys was insufficient. The Court disagreed.
  5. The Plaintiffs argued that the analysis of potential impacts from wildfire were inadequate. He Court found only that the SEIR mitigations should have included an actual Wildfire Emergency Response Plan (WERP) rather than deferring it until the start of construction.
  6. The Plaintiffs argued that analysis of impacts on eelgrass was insufficient and hat a deferred monitoring plan was inappropriate. The Court found no error.
  7. The Plaintiffs argued that deferral of an Open Space Plan is an unallowable deferred mitigation. The Court disagreed.
  8. The Plaintiffs argued that development of Design Guidelines for the Winehaven Historic District released after public review was improper. The Court disagreed.
  9. The Plaintiffs argued that the project was inconsistent with the general Plan. The Court concluded the City did not err.
  10. The Plaintiffs argued that the SEIR did not examine a range of feasible alternatives, including a regional park. The Court found that, “The SEIR was not required to consider a regional park alternative because it did not meet the project objectives. Nor was it required to accept alternatives that did not meet the minimum housing objectives.”
  11. The Plaintiffs argued that the development was inconsistent with the General Plan. The Court disagreed.
  12. The Plaintiffs argued that the City, “violated its duty under Article 11, section 5 of the California Constitution to exercise its independent land use discretion over use of the Project site unfettered by purported land use restrictions imposed by private development agreements with Winehaven and its predecessors and parties aligned with them.” The Court rejected this claim.

Of the twelve challenges to the SEIR, the Court upheld only two. Had the Richmond Progressive Alliance controlled City Council not barred the city attorney from defending the case, the two challenges ultimately upheld by the Court could have been easily removed by amendments by the City. But they weren’t, and now the previously approved General Plan change, Zoning and Final Map will also go away. This will substantially diminish the potential value of the 30 percent of Point Molate now owned by Point Molate Futures, LLC, (the tribe and Upstream) but it will also potentially increase the value of the Winehaven legacy, LLC, (SunCal) lawsuit against the City – bad news for the City of Richmond.

The Plaintiffs in the Point Molate Alliance and the North Coast River Alliance appeal can also recover attorney fees from the City of Richmond – more bad news for the City.

At the end of this day and 29 years after this saga started, what is the status of Point Molate?

  • The City of Richmond acquired Point Molate from the Navy for $1.00.
  • The City of Richmond sold 30 percent of Point Molate in 2022 to Point Molate Futures, LLC, for $400.00.
  • The Winehaven Historic District buildings, which were once the crown jewel of the California Wine Industry continue to deteriorate from gross neglect. (Ironically, the mayor and two councilmembers placed on the May 7 Agenda, “PROCLAMATION recognizing May as Historic Preservation Month and encouraging residents to explore our landmarks, engage with history, and support preservation efforts – Mayor Eduardo Martinez (510-620-6503), Councilmembers Doria Robinson (510-620-6593) and Soheila Bana (510-620-6743).”)
  • There is no public access to Point Molate except for the small shoreline park at the south entrance.
  • The Richmond Progressive Alliance dream of a regional park at Point Molate remains just that – a dream.

The City of Richmond continues to spend millions of dollars annually securing and maintaining Point Molate and on Point Molate litigation, money that could be spent on streets, homelessness, crime prevention, dumping mitigation and other City services. On the same May 7, 2024,Agenda is an item approving a $515,000 increase for security, bringing the total for Universal Protective Services, LLP, top $1,103,229.

Three of the five agenda items on the closed session Agenda deal with Point Molate, good news for the city attorney, whose law firm rakes in millions defending these lawsuits.

  • Winehaven v. City of Richmond
  • Guidiville Rancheria of California, et al. v. United States of America, et al.
  • North Coast Rivers Alliance et al./Point Molate Alliance et al. v. City of Richmond

The Richmond Progressive Alliance and the Richmond Shoreline Alliance have proven themselves adept at killing projects, but they have never replaced their destruction with any positive developments.