Richmond City Council members tabled Tuesday night’s planned vote on a casino complex development pact for Point Molate after ChevronTexaco offered a lucrative last-minute alternative.
The oil company is offering a total of $80 million: $55 million paya ble on execution of a deed to the city-owned property at Point Molate and Point San Pablo and a million dollars a year for 25 years.
The annual payments would be earmarked for development and maintenance of public improvements on the site.
“We have provided the city with both a serious and a generous offer,” said Dean O’Hair, spokesperson for the oil company’s Richmond refinery, situated just across the ridgeline from the Molate site.
The only reason the oil company was able to make the offer Tuesday was because the exclusive negotiations pact signed by the city with Berkeley developer James D. Levine’s Upstream Point Molate LLC, which proposed building a casino on the site, had expired at midnight Monday.
Levine and others involved in the Upstream p roject met Wednesday in Sacramento with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s legal staff for an informational meeting.
Chevron had floated an earlier offer on Aug. 13, when Richmond was legally barred from receiving it. Chevron then offered a $5 million down pay ment followed by another $29 million in payments spread out over two decades. Levine said his deal would give the city over $400 million in the same period.
Levine offered a $20 million down payment, with additional $2 million a year for the following 15 years.
In addition, the Guidiville Rancheria band of Pomo tribespeople, who would own the site as a reservation, has agreed to compensate the city for required city services. They would pay $8 million a year for the first eight years after gambling oper ations commence and $10 million annually thereafter.
The tribe would also pay additional compensatory fees to cover lost sales and hotel occupancy taxes.
But the path to a tribal casino is strewn with potential stumbling blocks, requiring authorizations at the federal, state, and local levels.
Then there’s Gov. Schwarzenegger’s stalled pact that would grant Casino San Pablo exclusive slot machine rights within a 35-miles radius. If approved by legislators, the plans for a half-dozen or so other Bay Area casinos, including Point Molate, would be derailed instantly.
Thus, the promise of an $80 million bird in the hand has to look tempting to a city government struggling with more than $30 million in debt. City councilmembers have laid off large numbers of municipal workers, drastically reduced municipal services and privatized the city’s water and sewer systems.
Vince Sollitto, deputy press secretary for the governor, said the meeting was requested by Upstream and the governor’s office accepted “becaus e the administration always attempts to learn the plans of sovereign Indian nations.
“It is my understanding that the tribe does not have land in trust and therefore they are not in a position to pursue a gaming compact at this time,” he said.
The Upst ream pact was scheduled for signing when the city council met Monday evening, and a sizable contingent of would-be speakers had planned to address the council.
But right after Mayor Irma Anderson had gaveled the council to order, Assistant City Manager R ichard McCoy, the city’s point man for casino negotiations, asked that the item be pulled from the agenda “to allow the council to have additional information from the proposal just received from Chevron.
“They have indicated they would be receptive to a n agreement,” he said. “I recommend one week to negotiate a contract with them,” with the new agreement to be presented alongside the Upstream proposal at next week’s council meeting.
Announcement of the offer drew a few gasps from the audience, but as t he official proposed, the council disposed, shelving the vote and prompting an exodus of would-be speakers.
The addition of Point San Pablo would give the oil firm control of the entire western side of the Point San Pablo Peninsula, though the site may b e a key sticking point in negotiations with the city.
The city-owned seven and a half acre terminal at the tip of the peninsula lost its two major tenants in the last decade.
“The inclusion of Point San Pablo along with our own Point Lorean property ens ures that we’ll have public park and open space all the way to the end of the peninsula,” said O’Hair.
But McCoy said Thursday that no deal could be signed that included Point San Pablo. During a meeting between Chevron representatives, McCoy, interim Ci ty Attorney Everett Jenkins, and city outside counsel John Knox, “We advised them that inclusion of the point was unacceptable.”
Because the land was city-owned, it would have to first be offered to other government agencies, McCoy said.
“That was the s ame point Chevron made when they tried to block the sale of Point Molate, so it’s kind of ironic,” he said.
The city also advised Chevron that any sale of Point Molate would have to include a guarantee that Chevron would contain provisions that allowed s ome development that would create jobs and boost the local economy—mandates of the Base Closure Act under which the city acquired the former Navy property, McCoy said.
Councilmember Tom Butt also opposes the Point San Pablo sale, a sentiment apparently s hared by others in municipal government.
Chevron has until the close of business Monday to present a formal offer, and their legal staff was sorting through records in City Hall Thursday to aid in their effort, McCoy said.
The proposal will go to the ci ty council for review during a closed-door executive session prior to next Tuesday evening’s public meeting when the council will have the option of accepted either of the two offers or rejecting both.
O’Hair said the oil company’s cash would give the ci ty up front funds for infrastructure improvements and leave Richmond with cash on hand.
Councilmember Butt’s accusation
The most dramatic part of Tuesday council meeting came during a heated discussion of a controversial e-mail from member Butt.
In a s cathing message dispatched to constituents on his Tom Butt E-Forum, the councilmember blasted acting City Attorney Everett Jenkins and his assistant Bruce Soublett for garnishing his “meager City Council wages” to recoup a 9 year old civil judgment result ing from a Butt Public Records Act.
Butt, not yet a councilmember at the time, had sued the city to force disclosure of Chevron’s “unique exemption” from the city Utility User Tax.
Butt wrote in an earlier e-mail on April 2 that he won most of records h e sought the suit. The judgment stemmed from a failed bid to recoup legal costs from the city.
Butt’s Sept. 27 e-mail declared that “the city attorney’s office is just as dysfunctional as the rest of City Hall” with “a huge backlog of uncollected judgmen ts going back a decade or more that they are too lazy or too incompetent to collect. . .It’s interesting that the only one they have gotten around to acting on is mine.”
The missive declared that “Soublett was a puzzling choice to play the hatchet man. H e has a troubling reputation for seldom showing up for work and spending long lunch hours with Human Resources Director Cedric Williams at the Hotel Mac paid for by taxpayers through City credit cards. Based on past credit card receipts submitted by Willi ams, Butt’s monthly payments will not even support Williams’ and Soublet’s gourmet dining style.”
During the Tuesday council session, Jenkins fired back. “I object to the criticism. . .that e-mail is not accurate and not appropriate according to the cou ncil’s own code of conduct.”
Councilmember Maria Viramontes called the missive “an outrage, an absolute outrage Tom. You’ve totally, utterly crossed the line.”