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Environmentalists Team With Chevron To Offer Pt. Molate Park — Not Casino (By RICHARD BRENNEMAN)

Friday August 13, 2004

Bay Area environmental groups have teamed up with petro-giant Chevron to launch a new proposal that could spell trouble for a Berkeley developer’s plans to install a massive casino and hotel complex on Richmond’s Point Molate. 

A press conference scheduled for 10 this morning (Friday, Aug, 13) at the Point Molate Shoreline will unveil plans to buy the site from the City of Richmond and preserve it as open space and wildlife habitant in partnership with the East Bay Regional Park District. 

“The idea of a casino complex that would dwarf the waterfront is the worst of all possibilities,” said Robert Cheasty, leader of Citizens for the Eastshore State Park, one of the organizers of this morning’s gathering. 

Others include the Berkeley’s Sierra Club activist Norman LaForce, Save the Bay co-founder Sylvia McLaughlin, Golden Gate Audubon Society Executive Director Arthur Feinstein, East Bay Regional Park District Assistant Regional Manager Bob Doyle and Chevron Richmond Refinery Regional Director Dean O’Hair. 

“We’re all sympathetic to the needs of the City of Richmond,” Cheasty said, “I was mayor of Albany, and I know what cities are facing these days. But we can do a lot better than a casino.” 

The Richmond City Council had planned to meet Tuesday to approve a deal with casino project developer Upstream Investments, headed by Berkeley toxic waste site cleanup expert Jim Levine, founder of Levine Fricke. 

Richmond City Councilmember Tom Butt sent out an e-mail Wednesday night advising that “I have it on credible authority that the. . .council vote on the sale of Point Molate” would be delayed at least another week because of difficulties in drafting the accord. 

Cheasty said Chevron is “serious as a heart attack” about buying the property, “a jewel of a place,” with the ultimate intention of opening almost the entire western half of the peninsula for the Eastshore park and the Bayshore Trail. 

“While environmental organizations don’t usually take a position on casinos, Chevron would offer the city enough money to get out of their financial difficulties” while preserving a magnificent piece of land, Cheasty said. 

“I don’t know of a single environmental group that endorses the casino proposal,” he said. “What kind of message are we sending our children when a city sees gambling as a way out of all their problems?” 

Cheasty’s organization and the Sierra Club are sponsoring a second meeting from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Albany Community Center, 1249 Marine Ave. 

Besides the Point Molate Proposal, Rep. Barbara Lee, Assemblymember Loni Hancock and Albany City Council candidates will discuss Prop. 68, the statewide ballot issue scheduled for the November election that would permit up to 3,000 slot machines at each racetrack—more than can be found in any Las Vegas casino. 

Also on the agenda will be a local ballot measure that would impose a $12-a-year-tax in cities along the San Pablo corridor to support parks along the shoreline.