Council hears plan on Point Molate rehab, ups ante in race for call center

view of Point Molate

The City Council approved a plan to reopen Point Molate Beach Park, which has been closed for almost 10 years. (File photo)

After 10 years behind lock and key, the Point Molate Beach Park could re-open as early as this summer, a city official told the Richmond City Council Tuesday night.

The council unanimously approved a two-part plan to rehabilitate the park, which would cost up to $115,000. In a relatively short three-hour meeting, the council also agreed to loan the developer of the proposed site for the Affordable Health Care Act call center $1 million in a tactical effort to secure 200 jobs for the community.

Reopening Point Molate Beach Park

Chris Chamberlain, the city parks and landscape superintendent, unveiled a two-part plan to reopen Richmond’s only beach to the public. The area – located just north of the San Rafael Bridge – encompasses more than 11 acres of parkland along one third of a mile of shoreline.

“It really is a shame to have such a neat spot so close to the heart of our city and have it closed,” Chamberlain said in an interview after the council vote. “It would be great to use it as an environmental education facility, as well as just basic picnics and walks on the shoreline.”

Point Molate used to be a naval fueling depot before it was converted to a park in the 1960s. Its unmatched views of Mt. Tamalpais, Marin and San Francisco made the area a popular recreational area, until budget woes led the city to close the park in 2004.

Since then, Chamberlain said the park has remained relatively unchanged and in relatively good shape, thanks to the work of several area nonprofits that have staged cleanup days there over the years.

In Phase One of the improvements, the city would make some bare bones improvements, including Americans with Disabilities Act upgrades, installing new signage and clearing some plants to improve sight lines.

Down the line though, the city would develop a master plan for the park, which would deal with shoreline erosion and consider new uses for the park, including a designated swimming area or kayak launch facility, an education program about the site’s physical and ecological history and building a public fishing pier.

The first phase will cost about $74,000, and the money would be covered by settlement funds from the 2007 Cosco Busan oil spill, for which the city received $600,000. Last August, the council approved using $115,000 of the funds for the Point Molate project, and allocated the rest toward closing two Bay Trail gap closures – near the Plunge and Kaiser Shipyard 3 – and $60,000 for a shoreline lighting rehab project at Marina Bay.

The remaining $41,000, plus money to be fundraised later, would go toward developing a master plan.

At the meeting, Richmond residents expressed excitement for the opening. “We’re kind of champing at the bit in the public to get out there [and] spend time with that really beautiful setting,” said Marilyn Langlois.

“Looking at the security reports, we can see that there’s a great interest in using the park. Every month, somebody had to be asked to leave,” Eduardo Martinez said to the council.

Making ‘an offer they can’t refuse’ on the call center

In an attempt to convince the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors to pick Richmond over Concord in the ongoing race to see which city gets the Affordable Care Act call center and the 220 jobs that go with it, the council agreed to loan the proposed Richmond site’s developer $1 million to furnish the building.

Richard Poe, the developer and a Richmond resident, agreed to pay up to $1 million for 200 cubicles needed at the proposed site at 1450 Marina Way South, rather than have the county buy them, in an effort to lower the overall cost of turning the site into a call center. (That price tag would likely be less than half that, a city staff report notes.) The move would bring Richmond’s bid for the call center $1.8 million below that of Concord’s, assuming the rival city does nothing to lower its own bid.

“Remember, this is a chess move against Concord. And I think this is the one that can put us in position to say ‘Checkmate,’” said Councilman Jael Myrick. “I think if we do this, it’s going to make it really, really hard for [the board of supervisors] to rationalize … spending more for the Concord site.”

“We need those 200 jobs … and we can ill afford to lose them,” Councilman Nat Bates said.

Councilman Jim Rogers said that Richmond’s bid must come in much lower than Concord’s. If the difference between the bids is relatively minor, he said, Concord will get the call center and the jobs.

“We have to make them an offer they can’t refuse,” he added after the meeting.

Myrick, Rogers and Councilman Tom Butt engineered the loan deal in a meeting with Poe, County Supervisor John Gioia, the city manager and the city’s training and employment director. At the council meeting, Butt recused himself from the discussion after he discovered that his company, Interactive Resources, has done business with Poe in the last year, according to the staff report.

There are some conditions that come with the council’s loan. It must be paid back within 25 years, and Poe would still be on the hook for the $1 million, even if the call center were to close down later. If the city loses its bidding war, there will be no loan.

Poe remained silent during the council meeting, but council members spoke up to praise his effort to help the city. “This is a loss leader for him,” Rogers said of Poe, who Rogers said won’t make money off this center for three years. “This is the type of business person we need to have in the city.”

This post has been edited to clarify the nature of the loan.

7 Comments

  1. The posted photo here is nowhere near the Point Molate beach or park. This photo is about a half mile away at the base of the Point Molate fueling pier. I’m sure it’s an innocent mistake but it’s like showing us a photo of the San Rafael Bridge and saying it’s the Golden Gate. Close but no cigar–unless a beach is a beach is a beach.

  2. The article is erroneous when it suggests that the park/beach was a former fueling depot before it was converted.

    The beach/park is at the southern end of Former Naval Fuel Depot Point Molate which was the primary fueling depot for the entire Pacific Fleet from 1942 until it closed in 1994.

    Sometime in the 1960’s that very small part of the site was leased to the City to be used as a park/beach. While this was a park, there were a number of fences separating the park from the fuel depot (some extending quite a ways into the Bay).

    Also, it’s Point Molate Beach and not Molate Beach.

    And any discussions of the views of San Francisco from that beach is kind of like when Sarah Palin said she could see Russia from Alaska. You have to have some pretty good eyes. SF is only about 9 miles away and if the fog isn’t there you can see almost a mile and a half of SF.

    We’ve heard many people talk about the potential for this beach/park and it will be a great asset to our community. Because it’s nearly 2 miles from the closest residential area (Point Richmond) and much further from the rest of the City and can’t be accessed by public transportation, it may not be as popular amongst the entire community as people would like to think. If it’s opened this summer as planned, I expect a fair number of people to visit it but I worry about the falloff in popularity afterwards.

    While anything is possible, the kind of money that it would take to drive pilings into the Bay for a fishing pier may fail to make this cost effective. The people that like to protect the Bay don’t like people making any kind of adjustments to their Bay. Perhaps they can invest in a floating pier.

    Wading might be an option but the depth of the water is only a feet few deep all the way out to about 75 feet from the shoreline making swimming a bit difficult.

    This also makes it more difficult for kayaking when there’s not much water under the kayak. The wakes from passing ships and ferries needs to be watched out for, too. That’s one of the reasons there’s been so much erosion at this beach and why we see so many foreign objects that have washed ashore.

    I don’t want this to seem like all negativism but one of the reasons why the City abandoned the park to begin with is that because of it’s remoteness they couldn’t control the vandalism. Having a 24/7 security presence is good but the City had a 24/7 security presence at the fuel depot while it was stripped of almost every inch of copper pipe and copper wiring. And that was when they used chain saws to cut done the power poles. Chainsaws are kind of loud but the 24/7 security presence missed them–many times.

    When we open this park it’s going to require a lot of diligence to ensure that the money we’re spending isn’t frittered away because we couldn’t afford the security or upkeep. I hope the people are up to this.

    • Sean Greene Post author

      Hi Don,

      Thanks for your comment. The story has been clarified.

    • JS

      Joking part: Thank you Don, for bringing a wet blanket to our beach party.
      Serious part: Thank you for your insight as well.

      Either way, I’m looking forward to using the park as it will be in phase one. I’m also hopeful that future improvements will add to it in a positive way (pier or no pier).

  3. Jael Myrick

    Quick correction. If Richmond does not win the bidding war THERE WILL BE NO LOAN. The only way we make the loan is if Richmond is chosen as the site for the call center. The contingency we put on is that if we win the call center but for some reason the State or the county decide to close it down after 5 or 6 years (or whatever the case may be) Mr. Poe would still owe the remainder of the loan. Thanks for writing about this.

    Jael

  4. michael spexarth

    Good article, good comments.
    Richmond has a lot of parks. Most are not used to full potential, because of crime, time, and accessibility.
    The Molate site is remote, as noted. It is the kind of site that would be used only by a few with site-specific interests. The investment would be huge for such minor use.It’s isolation would mean constant vandalism of any such improvements.
    Another thing, as the article noted, is loans and recusions of council members because of possible conflicts of interests. Also, the council loaning money to developers.
    All this sounds like some of the storied miss-applications, and misuse of public funds in the past by the City of Richmond.
    Not to be cynical, just careful.

  5. ANSELMO NAPOLES

    THE CITY NEEDS TO USE MORE REGENERATIVE MECHANISMS, REGENERATIVE WHERE RESOURCES ARE IN THE GRAVITY OF TELEMMETRY OF REAL NEEDS, BY USING INSTRUMENTS FROM CENSUS… YOU DO MATH ON HOW COUNT YOURS ISSUES?

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