As citizens of Richmond, California, of the San Francisco Bay Area and of the world we call on the city leadership of Richmond to respect the will of the people to protect and restore Point Molate for all.
Point Molate is 422 acres of spectacular bay facing green space with a beach and submerged eel grass meadows located just north of the Richmond Bridge to Marin. This spectacular headland contains Native Ohlone sacred sites, a Chinese fishing camp, a historic wine port and village (with a Rhineland style brick castle) that was the center of California’s wine industry in the early 20th century. It was also a working Navy oil depot of strategic importance during World War II as well as home to America’s last whaling station that closed in 1971.
It has been called “the most beautiful part of San Francisco bay no one’s ever heard of” and “an ecological jewel” with its nesting ospreys, deer, turkey, forested uplands and rare and endemic species including the Molate blue fescue, and the Pipevine swallowtail butterfly. Its southern watershed is one of the last places in California where native California grasslands connect to submerged aquatic eel grass beds that act as a nursery and sanctuary for bay fish and wildlife including herring, seals and sharks.
After the Navy sold it to the city for a dollar in 2003 the city council agreed to sell it off as the site of a Mega-Casino, planned as the largest west of Las Vegas. As a low-income community of color it was assumed that any promise of jobs would win popular support for this development scheme, but in 2010 the citizens of Richmond rejected the Casino plan in a referendum by 58 percent to 42 percent and the city withdrew its support.
Since that time the Casino developer has been suing the city (and losing most court judgments) until in 2018 a judge offered the city and developer the opportunity to reach an accord. The new mayor, a long time supporter of the Casino and advocate for privatizing and doing housing construction at Point Molate, reached a closed-door “settlement” to build at least 670 housing units on the site, including on the southern watershed, and to split the profits 50/50 with the developer. With its “million dollar” views of the bay and Mount Tamalpais and projected build out costs, these are expected to be very expensive homes. The city has now been sued for trying to use the settlement as a way to avoid the public processes required for zoning and planning under California’s Brown Act.
The same federal judge recently invited the city to withdraw a motion to dismiss this Brown Act suit because the legal authority was against the city. The city withdrew its motion and the case is now scheduled for a hearing in February 2019. Still the Mayor and a majority of the council voted to begin taking developer bids – in the face of widespread community opposition and knowing the development will require $100-150 million in otherwise unneeded infrastructure upgrades.
Point Molate, while a natural treasure, is also isolated with extremely limited access (a single narrow road) in case of an emergency. Just over its property line is a century-old Chevron refinery whose last major accident in 2012 sent thousands of local residents to area hospitals (one of which has since closed).
At the Global Climate Action Summit recently held in San Francisco world- famous primatologist Jane Goodall stated that the forgotten solution to climate change is to protect nature. At Point Molate the options are a park for all or a billion dollar housing development for the few who can afford it.
These are among the reasons we call on the city of Richmond to respond to the diverse voices of its citizens in the following ways.
1. Conduct a truly meaningful and open public planning process with broad and significant community input before moving forward.
2. Restore Winehaven Village as a vibrant commercial, educational, and historic destination that can provide jobs for Richmond residents.
3. Respect the environment and preserve the shoreline, bluffs and
uplands as a magnificent, accessible public park that includes a range of recreational and educational opportunities for our youth and for our and future generations
4. Move housing downtown, where it is needed and where essential Public Transportation and infrastructure exists for both high-end and affordable housing. Do not privatize and gentrify a world-class resource that belongs to all of the people.
In support of Point Molate and democratic planning:
Dr. Katharyn Boyer
Professor of Biology
Director, The Boyer Lab Estuary & Ocean Science Center
Citizens for East Shore Parks
Executive Director & Baykeeper San Francisco Baykeeper
William S. Day Jr.
Founder and Director
Children’s World Peace Organization
Hon. Whitney Dotson
Board of Directors
East Bay Regional Park District
Journalist, labor activist and author of ‘Refinery Town’
Journalist, editor, author of ‘Wounds of War’
Toni Hanna Realtor
Girls, Inc. West Contra Costa
David Helvarg Executive Director
Blue Frontier Campaign
Executive Director Forests Forever
The Wild Oyster Project
Janet Scoll Johnson
Former Richmond mayor and councilmember (2005-2017)
Organizer with The California Progressive Alliance
Golden Hour Restoration Institute
Dr. Karina Nielsen
Estuary & Ocean Science Center
San Francisco State University
Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations
Marine Applied Research & Exploration
Lorenzo Plazola, Jr.
Communities for a Better Environment
Citizens for a Sustainable Point Molate