Commentary: Staying Focused on the Goal at Campus Bay By Dwight Stenseth and Doug Mosteller

Friday October 07, 2005

Six months have passed since we started working with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) to finalize any remaining cleanup at Campus Bay. We have some good news to share, with more updates expected in the coming months. 

Everyone expects the cleanup process to take some time, and the important thing is that we’re making important progress toward ensuring that Campus Bay is clean and safe. 

You may remember that Zeneca’s demolition of the industrial buildings and cleanup of the property from 1999 to 2002 generated a great deal of controversy. Neighbors from nearby businesses complained of heavy dust carried by the wind while old industrial buildings were being demolished and contaminated soil excavated. Sherry Padgett and others in the community worked hard to raise awareness regarding this issue. 

The initial environmental cleanup activities on the part of the property known as the Upland area were performed by Zeneca before Cherokee Simeon purchased the property. Since we didn’t own the property at that point, we don’t have all the details—but we inherited a situation where some people are upset.  

That’s why this recent good news is so important. It would be easy for the property’s future to be held hostage to the events of the past, and we don’t want that to happen. We can’t change anything about Zeneca’s activities, but we want to make sure cleanup gets finished, the property is safe, and we can move on with redevelopment.  

The first piece of good news is clean dirt. Beginning a few days ago, DTSC allowed us to start bringing new, clean soil onto the property to replace contaminated soil we removed from the marsh area. As part of our commitment to protecting human health and the environment, we are in the final stages of completing work that will result in the restoration of 22 acres of wetlands and wildlife habitat area, including the creation of almost four acres of new marsh and wildlife habitat. 

The other piece of good news is trees. You may have read a recent article that focused on the condition of the trees on the property, many of which were planted in the last two or three years. Sherry and others have alleged that the trees were being damaged by some unknown substances in the ground water or the soil. To be safe, we brought DTSC and multiple tree experts to the property—and they found that there was nothing wrong with the trees that couldn’t be explained by wind, lack of proper water drainage, and other natural factors that affect trees. We are going to take a closer look at one of the trees, but that’s a far cry from the broad claims being made a few weeks ago. 

The tree issue was the subject of a very long article in the Daily Planet, but we haven’t seen similar coverage now that toxins have been ruled out. This knee-jerk reaction highlights a big problem—the harsh judgments of a few people are issued before all the facts are available. We agree with a cautious approach, but jumping the gun without all the facts scares people and it just isn’t necessary. The property is going to be safe before we start redevelopment—we’re committed to it, and DTSC will hold us accountable. 

The facts are clear—the property must be made safe for redevelopment. Once the property is safe, the future redevelopment we bring to Campus Bay will create huge benefits—a great mix of jobs and housing, including affordable housing for people in the community. The future redevelopment will add hundreds of jobs and millions in local tax dollars and fees to the city that can be used to increase Richmond’s budget for services such as police and fire protection. 

Those benefits will only become a reality if we take advantage of the once-in-a-century opportunity to make this property safe. We need to put Campus Bay to productive use, creating jobs, bringing in tax dollars for schools, and helping the entire Richmond community. Richmond needs a clean and safe Campus Bay, and that’s Cherokee’s commitment. We hope you will join us. 


Dwight Stenseth is the managing director and Doug Mosteller is the engineering projcect manager for Cherokee Investment Partners, LLC.