Press Releases

Richmond Plans Threaten Point Isabel

By Rosemary Loubal
Tuesday December 23, 2008 - 10:18:00 AM

Richmond’s Planning Commission voted to rezone Point Isabel to accommodate a Kohl’s department store with 400 parking spaces. Local developer Oliver, who owns the land, has already vacated the existing stores and offices on the corner of Central Avenue and Rydin Road. There is constant traffic from Costco and USPS trucks. The dog-park lots are often full. Hundreds of people daily use the area for hiking, cycling, dog walking, bird watching. Thousands at weekends. Ever more traffic and pollution will further worsen already major traffic and access issues for park visitors and trail users, and damage the bird habitat and the vegetation of this world-class shoreline, a major segment of the Bay Trail, s fantastic regional asset that is to eventually completely circle the bay.  

The commission accepted a blatantly misleading environmental impact report, claiming that “Caltrans will resolve traffic issues” and ignoring unresolved problems with frequently gridlocked Central Avenue. The developer’s lobbyist, knowing it was a “done deal,” sat smiling smugly, as over 30 citizens used two minutes each time to point out the dangers to this wonderful area. No one spoke in favor. Most telling was a commissioner’s leading question: “How many endangered species does the [built-up] site have?”  

Well, “How many lobbyists does it take to sway the Planning Commission?” (Answer: “Only one, in a town dominated by construction interests!”) The project approval is now being appealed. 

This lobbyist, by the way, championed the (fortunately defeated) plans to develop Franklin Canyon in Hercules and is a major player in promoting Chevron’s controversial $1 billion hydrogen update plans. Many of us would like a Kohl’s store closer than Pleasant Hill or Vallejo. Oliver Construction is a highly respected local firm. But why bring in West County’s foremost “anti-environment” lobbyist?  

The economy is in very poor shape; retail business is getting worse daily. Kohl’s has just “cherry-picked” the best of existing Mervyn stores. If Kohl’s wants a new store in our area, it could be given the vacant Target store at Del Norte in El Cerrito, close to BART and public transportation. This store was subsidized by EC redevelopment and has a clause stating that, if the Target store becomes vacant for six months, then it reverts to Redevelopment. After all, EC citizens’ tax money paid for it! This would be a win-win. Kohl’s and shoppers would get a ready-made store, the Point Isabel habitat preserved for more-suitable development. Target stores should learn not to take subsidies from a town and then spurn it in favor of another. 

The Contra Costa Transportation Authority considers the Central Avenue/freeway intersection West County’s most congested and hardest to resolve, with a price tag of $40 million. Even if funding is available, why add capacity if at the same time the plan is to install traffic metering? The project’s financial benefits may not outweigh the cost of “fixing the traffic.” This is not a matter of trying to balance economics and job-creation against environmental concerns. The cost of resolving these issues is substantially more than the sales and property tax generated by a Kohl’s.  

There is still time to fight this vile and silly project. Join others (environmentalists and shoppers) at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 6, at an appeal hearing in front of the Richmond City Council, 1401 Marina Way South.  

Ask Richmond to do a full and honest environmental assessment, and to drop the Kohl’s idea. Oliver Construction should consider lesser-impact (perhaps senior) housing, built with help from Richmond and El Cerrito Redevelopment housing funds. But only after Caltrans and adjoining cities resolve current traffic issues. An AC bus line goes to Point Isabel.  

Any additional development should be geared to bus use, walking and bicycling, not thousands of more cars going shopping.  

Put the Kohl’s store where it belongs.