In a meeting that was longer on simmering frustrations than new ideas, about 40 people gathered Wednesday for the first of three planned workshops to discuss alternatives to a controversial plan to build a hotel and Indian casino at Point Molate on Richmond’s northern shoreline.
The meeting was hosted by Design, Community and Environment, a Berkeley-based company that has been hired to gather alternative development ideas for the Point Molate site. The company will ultimately vet and present any feasible ideas to the Richmond City Council, which in turn will have the option of requesting that those ideas be included in an Environmental Impact Review and studied further.
However many of the city residents who gathered for the meeting, which was hosted in the basement of the city council chambers, voiced their disapproval with the criteria by which DCE will judge new ideas, arguing that in addition to fiscal feasibility, new ideas should be assessed on the basis of their environmental credentials and value to the greater public, among others.
“This is a rigged [process],” said Richmond resident Michael Beer, who argued that other developers have been shut out of the bidding process. “You’re just pretending to look at these [new ideas].”
David Early, the president of DCE, stressed that his company, although it is being contracted by Upstream, the developers of the current Point Molate plan, will judge any new ideas on their own merits and without prejudice.
Members of the group Citizens for a Sustainable Point Molate handed out fliers before Wednesday’s meeting that called the workshops “a sham.”
“The timing of these workshops reflects Upstream’s desire to go through the motions of soliciting ‘public input’ on their casino-driven project,” the flier says. “The Environmental Impact Report and Environmental Impact Statement are already under review.”
The first draft of Upstream’s EIR currently includes a preferred project plan – including housing units, an Indian-run casino, hotel and convention center – plus five other options, ranging from a no-casino plan to a plan that would include no construction whatsoever. City Council will not consider a final draft of the EIR until it has received a report on alternative ideas from DCE. That report should be presented sometime in either December or January.
Don Gosney, who previously served on a blue-ribbon committee to study closing the old Navy fuel depot at Point Molate that shuttered in the mid-1990s, said Wednesday that he supports the hotel-and-casino plan currently on the table – a preference that appeared to put him in the minority at Wednesday’s meeting.
“The project has to be an engine for economic progress,” he said. “I like the project that’s being proposed. I don’t see it as the ruination of our world, as so many people here have suggested.”
After Wednesday’s meeting, Early said he had no idea how many ideas his company expects to receive.
“This is a unique project,” he said. “I admire what the city council has done. Even though we’re six years in, they’re not afraid to open up to new ideas and even take steps back. So there are very few precedents.”
Anyone interested in submitting an idea for developing Point Molate can upload a proposal online at www.ci.richmond.ca.us/pointmolate. The deadline for submissions is Sept. 15, which will be preceded by a second public meeting to discuss the ideas Sept. 8.