Residents opposed to a large-scale development project at Terminal One, a 13.8 acre bay front property bordering the Richmond Yacht Club, filed a lawsuit against the City of Richmond last month to halt the project.
The project at Terminal One, the site of a port operations warehouse that linked railways and ships a century ago, would be the most extensive residential development in Richmond in almost a decade. Along with multistory condos and townhouses totaling around 334 units, the development would include a small commercial space, hiking trails and a 0.9 acre public waterfront park.
The park, which would be built on the foundation of the historical Terminal One Pier, would include an open access walking promenade, outdoor theater and hammocks.
The five residents who filed the claim are members of the Brickyard Cove Alliance for Responsible Development (BCARD), a neighborhood association based in Point Richmond.
The plaintiffs allege that the city’s Environmental Impact Report, a legally mandated assessment of environmental effects, failed to comply with ordinances required under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). They claim that the current development plans would lead to traffic congestion, potential exposure to hazardous chemicals, blocked bay views and altered wind patterns for the sailing community.
“This location is a crown jewel, and we should be showcasing [it], not maximizing profits for a developer, investor, and the city,” the BCARD group wrote in an email statement to Richmond Confidential.
Development projects at Terminal One have faced a series of challenges in recent years. In 2004, the Coalition of Concerned Citizens Point Richmond (CCCPR) sued the City of Richmond over a similar residential project at the site, on the grounds that the plan did not comply with CEQA.
After three years of negotiations with the developer, Toll Brothers, the City approved a restructured plan with fewer units and altered building configurations. But the residential project came to another halt when the housing crisis hit in 2008.
In July of this year, CCCPR founder and director Beverley Galloway wrote a letter to the city endorsing the recent Terminal One development. She noted that Laconia, the site’s current developer, was responsive to concerns raised in the 2004 suit. In particular, she noted that Laconia had met with the public and listened to input and objections.
The plan is not perfect, Galloway said, but “to pick apart a project at this stage, whittling it down to accommodate infinite possible objections, risks sabotaging the integrity of the project.”
Ethan Elkind, Associate Director of the Climate Change and Business Program at UC Berkeley School of Law and a specialist in CEQA and environmental law, said that under CEQA revisions planned for the coming year, the metric for measuring traffic congestion will change and likely eliminate the grounds for one of the plaintiffs’ claims.
“The fact that it sailed through the city planning commission and the city council, and yet is still hit with a lawsuit under the California Environmental Quality Act, I think really illustrates the challenges for developers trying to build in these urban areas,” Elkind said.
The plaintiffs said that they favor the site’s development, but were concerned that the city illegally changed zoning restrictions to permit higher buildings and subverted Richmond’s General Plan 2030, a comprehensive commitment to sustainable growth and development. The group also argued that the city fast-tracked the project for budgetary reasons, failed to follow through with hazardous chemical tests, and denied requests for relevant public documents.
“We know some people call us NIMBYs, but I’ve lived and taught in Oakland schools for thirty-five years,” said Richmond resident and plaintiff Susan Hubbard. “We want the project to be reasonable and less dense,” she said.
An earlier version of this story said that the Terminal One development plans include space for a restaurant; the plans actually include a small commercial space.