A casino proposal for the former Naval fuel depot at Richmond’s Point Molate moved a step closer to realization, despite opposition from environmental groups and neighboring ChevronTexaco. In November, the Richmond City Council, which examined multiple development proposals for the 323-acre promontory next to the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, voted to sell the land to casino developer Upstream Molate. The company plans a high-end resort, including retail, a theater, a 1,100-room hotel, and a casino. The Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians has begun the federal process to have Point Molate placed into trust as a reservation.
The controversial proposal has already generated two lawsuits against the city of Richmond, from the East Bay Regional Park District and Citizens for East Shore Parks. Both groups claim the city violated state environmental laws when it failed to fully and publicly examine alternate proposals for Point Molate, which they say should be preserved as a park.
Robert Cheasty, president of Citizens for East Shore Parks, says the Upstream plan is “an abominable use of the space,” and that the casino is a “move of desperation” for cash-strapped Richmond. Cheasty’s group, along with the Park District, supported a last-minute bid for Point Molate from Chevron, which the city council rejected. That proposal appeared to favor open space over new development.
Councilman Tom Butt, who voted in favor of Upstream, says Chevron was not specific enough about what would happen to the land. “They were unwilling to make any commitments about how much open space there would be, where it would be, who would control it, who would pay for its improvement and maintenance.”
Upstream has promised to maintain public access to a 33-acre shoreline park and will build and maintain the portion of the Bay Trail that runs through the property, says Don Gosney, Community co-chair of the Point Molate Restoration Advisory Board, which facilitated the transfer and cleanup of the Navy land to the city of Richmond. In addition, Gosney says, the complex will provide 6,500 union jobs and $18-20 million dollars in yearly payments to the city of Richmond. “It’s a win-win situation,” he concludes.
Point Molate joins a list of at least three proposed gaming sites in western Contra Costa County. The nearest to completion is Casino San Pablo, which awaits approval by the state legislature of the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians’ gaming compact. Assemblymember Loni Hancock’s district includes Point Molate and Casino San Pablo, as well as a proposed casino in North Richmond. Hancock’s office has attempted to survey every household in her district, and preliminary results show “overwhelming opposition” to casino development, says Hancock legislative aide Armando Viramontes.
“This is going to turn the East Bay into Reno overnight,” warns Viramontes. “It’s going to become the gaming capital of the state.”