Page One

Point Molate EIR is Flawed, Probably Fatally (News Analysis)

By Richmond Councilmember Tom Butt
Wednesday December 08, 2010 - 12:40:00 PM

I want to put a little different twist than that of a CC Times article on the action taken by the City Council last night. I can’t speak for the rest of the Council, but the reason I voted to proceed to considering the Final EIR without additional alternatives is because the entire process of soliciting suggestions of alternatives from the public was fatally flawed. The sooner we put it to bed and move on, the better. 

It was part of a motion by Councilmember Viramontes back in May of this year to extend the Land Development Agreement nearly a year. No one understood it then, and the results make it even more difficult to comprehend now. The consultant charged with evaluating alternatives was under contract to and paid by Upstream, which invalidated the entire process as being objective and above board. Furthermore, the consultant ignored a number of proposals, misinterpreted others and did a lousy job of evaluating those that were covered in the report. 

Many who have been advocating alternative uses and have cultivated viable proposals refused to even participate in the process because it was so flawed. It’s the responsibility of the consultant preparing the EIS/EIR to adequately evaluate alternative projects and in the interest, it would seem, of Upstream to facilitate and encourage that. We know that the Draft EIS/EIR is incomplete and ridden with errors. 

At this time, we don’t have any idea what is in the Final EIS/EIR, but City staff and Upstream do. If they want it certified, they will have to work hard to make sure it is complete and accurate. The idea that nothing but a pot farm or a casino is economically feasible at Point Molate is absurd. The Reuse Plan accepted by the City Council in 1997 called for a mixed use development that was evaluated and found to be feasible by an economic consultant. When the RFPs for Point Molate were released in 2003, seven developers responded with projects that did not include a casino. Presumably, they were prepared to proceed with a non-casino project. 

When the City Council agreed to negotiate exclusively with one developer secretly selected by staff in late 2003, it turned out to be an amalgam of all seven, led by Upstream. Still there was no mention of a casino. It was only in late May of 2004 that the casino emerged as part of the project. A letter from Upstream to the City read in part: 

Upstream is in the process of finalizing agreements to jointly develop Point Molate with one of the world’s leading operators of gaming, resort and entertainment facilities, including Indian gaming facilities (the “Gaming Partner”), and a landless Native American tribe with ancestral ties to Northern California (the “Tribe”).  

It turned out that several councilmembers and a handful of City staff, mostly now gone, had been plotting to bring a casino to Richmond since at least 2002. Believe it or not, this was not even Upstream’s original idea. It was home grown in Richmond by several City Council members and City staff. So now we are being told once again that for jobs and revenue, it’s a casino or nothing. I don’t buy it.