Peaceful Point Molate

Tuesday June 29, 2004

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Richmond City Council’s award of Point Molate’s exclusive development rights to Levine-Fricke is an outrage. It’s no wonder that developer James Levine wanted the Daily Planet to keep the story out of public view until after it’s a done deal; I hope that it’s possible to “un-done” it. The land should be preserved as a public park—all of it. Meanwhile, I’m wondering which constituency the councilmembers are working for; there’s muck to be raked in Richmond; the press has not done all that it could. I’m grateful that the Planet aimed a searchlight here and I hope for more “daylighting” of the Richmond government sausage factory. 

I invite readers to experience Point Molate for yourselves; driving, you take the last exit just before the San Rafael Bridge toll plaza and just meander to the north (the only way you can go). After you pass a small run-down city park on your left, you’ll find the old Navy fuel terminal area, Winehaven and other buildings, and the supporting village of abandoned Navy housing. The waterfront location is wooded, calm and peaceful; it’s a badly-needed respite from urban noise and reckless out-of-control developers and their casinos. If you continue onward, you may find a few people fishing quietly amidst bits of organic bayside surroundings, before you arrive at an industrial property. Beyond that area, there are signs that the East Bay Regional Park District has been at work. 

The area has seen spotty public use even while it was under U.S. Navy jurisdiction. The little park was a small snippet of Richmond city property carved out of the Navy’s terrain. A railroad museum was located here during the 70s and 80s, offering public rides on historic equipment; the collection of locomotives and cars was hosted on unused tracks on Navy property (the equipment is now located at the Niles Canyon Railway in Fremont, where you can still ride it). 

It is easy to forget that you’re so close to a city here, that you’re so close to heavy industry. In fact, the entire Chevron refinery is out-of-sight just over the ridge. It would have been very easy to pipe fuel onto military vessels during the war. But the fantasy is delightful to experience nonetheless—things don’t feel like the “oil biz” now—the deception is almost complete; life feels slow here and one can have an enjoyable, quiet picnic. 

If it is critical for the Richmond City Council to backfill their severe budget shortfall by this curious venture, why not put the entire enterprise where it won’t take precious waterfront land. There are vast empty tracts for all to see from Richmond Parkway in the vicinities of Parr Boulevard, Gertrude Avenue, Freethy Boulevard, Radiant Avenue, and the territory around the two railroad main lines. That’s a great amount of wasteland; I think that an entire casino-hotel enterprise would be easily absorbed in that vicinity. I could be wrong, but I don’t think that anyone would object. So, why not just transplant the entire shebang over there and have done with it. 

Richard Steinfeld›