Partisan Position: Confronting the Threats Facing Point Isabel, Hoffman Marsh

By Eleanor Yukic
Thursday October 22, 2009 - 09:14:00 AM
A pair of unleashed pooches take in the fine weather at Point Isabel.
By Marla Miyashiro
A pair of unleashed pooches take in the fine weather at Point Isabel.

Point Isabel Regional Shoreline Park is a jewel on the shoreline of the East Bay city of Richmond, with a riveting view of the Golden Gate Bridge, Mount Tamalpais and San Francisco. To the east, it is bordered by the Bay Trail and the Hoffman Marsh, a protected preserve for thousands of migrating birds.  

Although the park is usually referred to as the “Dog Park,” it is multi-purpose: windsurfers, fishermen, bird-watchers, bicyclists, roller skaters, hikers, children at play, senior citizens meeting friends and enjoying the views along with canine owners recreating with their pets can all be seen as part of the Point Isabel community. 

Many individuals have worked for over 30 years to help establish the park, to maintain it and to protect its natural environment and wild life. PIDO, Point Isabel Dog Owners, sponsors a monthly cleanup on the third Sunday of every month to pick up litter and debris and any dog poop overlooked by owners. 

Recently, the organization has begun a weed-pulling project on the first Saturday of the month to cut down on, and hopefully eliminate, the use of herbicides or pesticides at Point Isabel. 

The proposed Draft Richmond General Plan calls for the re-zoning of Point Isabel from Lt. Industrial (low-intensity uses) to a Regional Commercial Mixed-Use District (high-intensity uses).  

This is a major land-use change that allows building big box stores, banks, chain restaurants, entertainment, upper-floor apartments or condos to take advantage of views, as well as other inappropriate commercial uses, for the Point Isabel Shoreline area.  

This re-zoning would effectively commercialize the area and dramatically increase and complicate traffic patterns on Central Avenue, a highly congested area. PIDO, the Richmond Annex Neighborhood Council (RANC), the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society and CESP (Citizens for East Shore Parks) are all against the proposed re-zoning.  

The increase in traffic and shoppers would be detrimental to the bird population. Noise and lights at night would provide predators with the opportunity to destroy nesting birds in the Hoffman Marsh. 

The East Bay is a densely populated urban area. Open spaces and places where citizens can go to recreate and commune with nature are critical to the health of the population. Point Isabel is such a place. It is essential to the health of humans, the birds and other park wild life that this area remains free from heavy commercialization.  

Citizens unable to afford visits to a more exotic recreational place have easy access to Point Isabel for fun and spiritual renewal. It’s also a safe place for seniors. Further development will destroy its tranquility, and the impact of additional traffic will inhibit the use of the park for many visitors and injure or drive away the birds of the Hoffman Marsh and the Albany Wetlands. 

Central Avenue is the sole access road in and out of the area. Traffic is already a problem, especially on weekends, and in the event of a catastrophe such as an earthquake, a fire, or a terrorist attack, there is no way to re-route cars. This could be a terrible disaster. 

It is truly unfortunate that no one could foresee that the entire point should have been kept solely for recreation. Costco and the bulk mailing facilities should never have been permitted to move in there. In 2008 Kohl’s Department Store asked for a re-zoning so that they could build a 98,000-square-foot store with 400 parking places on the property between Rydin Way and Costco.  

The 4,500 members of PIDO and the 1.3 million yearly visitors to the park along with RANC, the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society collected signatures on petitions and bombarded the City of Richmond’s Planning Commission with letters and e-mails to protest this plan. Ideally that parcel of land could be turned into an ecology/ nature facility with meeting rooms and halls available for use by teenagers, senior citizens and other community groups. Kohl’s backed out of the proposal and it was called a dead deal. 

However, after investigating Contra Costa County Tax Collector records, PIDO was shocked to learn that Kohl’s holds a lease on this property for the next 20 years. Apparently it is NOT a dead issue. This suggests a backroom deal for this re-zoning so that a Kohl’s can ultimately be built there. Other more suitable places exist for a Kohl’s department store—Hilltop Mall, next to the Target on MacDonald Avenue or as part of the Casino enterprise planned for Point Molate. 

Kohl’s corporate headquarters is in Wisconsin. How would the citizens of Wisconsin feel if a group of entrepreneurs from California decided to build a box store on a favorite recreational spot on Green Bay, Lake Superior or Lake Michigan? 

The people spoke loudly and clearly at the recent study session held on Oct. 1 by the Richmond Planning Commission They do not want Point Isabel re-zoned. Since we are living in a democracy, the will of the people should be followed, which means no re-zoning of Point Isabel.  

This proposal must be eliminated from the Richmond Draft General Plan. The City of Richmond has a responsibility to preserve the shoreline for future generations and to protect the environment and its wild creatures. 


Eleanor Yukic is a retired teacher, PIDO Board member and past president of the organization.