Published on January 6,
Richmond Officials Divided over
Whether to Extend Closing Date for Casino Deal
Tam Contra Costa Times
Richmond city leaders struggled and eventually failed to reach
an agreement Tuesday night on whether to extend the closing
date on a deal with the developer seeking to open a hotel-casino
resort on the waterfront.
Though some said an extension would allow time to finish negotiating
key details and avoid a possible lawsuit, Mayor Gayle McLaughlin
argued that the original Jan. 15 deadline should stand. [emphasis
Upstream Point Molate LLC and the Guidiville Band of Pomo
Indians want to build a resort that would include a 240,000-square-foot
casino with 124,000 square feet of gaming, a conference center,
nearly 1,100 hotel rooms, restaurants, shops, tribal headquarters
and a shoreline park and trail.
At issue Tuesday night was the 2004 deal in which the city
agreed to sell the abandoned Point Molate Naval Fuel Depot
to Upstream for $50 million. Part of that has been paid; the
developer is to provide the remaining $35 million by the closing
City officials and the developer have been negotiating for
weeks over several issues, including who Upstream has as a
financing partner for the $1.2 billion project and how much
say the city should have over how the resort would look.
Despite two motions, the City Council was unable to reach
a majority vote Tuesday on extending the closing date to at
least Feb. 15.
The city and developer, interpreting the 2004 deal differently,
disagree about whether a lawsuit filed by project opponents
Citizens for East Shore Parks automatically delays the closing
date for the land sale. Councilwoman Maria Viramontes said
granting an extension would take care of that disagreement
and prevent it from escalating into a court challenge.
"Let's not go into another lawsuit. Let's give the extension," said
Viramontes, who voted against the 2004 agreement but has said
she's willing to consider the current project.
McLaughlin, who opposes a casino, objected to an extension.
She said Upstream has failed to provide required letters showing
it is financially capable of moving the project forward, a
statement some disputed. Upstream should submit its financial
plan as required on the closing date or be in violation of
it, McLaughlin added. [emphasis added]
Several public speakers agreed and voiced doubts that Upstream
can deliver what it promises.
"It's a case of smoke and mirrors," resident Tarnell Abbott
Jim Levine of Upstream did not attend Tuesday's meeting and
could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Supporters argued that the resort is the first project to
be proposed for Point Molate that would generate thousands
"We are starving for jobs," said Aram Hodess, business manager
for Plumbers and Steamfitters Local Union 159. "A $1.2 billion
project shouldn't be sneered at."
Two council members — Ludmyrna Lopez and Jeff Ritterman —
were absent Tuesday, leaving five at the dais. Four votes are
required for approval. At least one council member hinted at
possibly calling a special meeting when the full council is
present to weigh the issue again before the Jan. 15 deadline.
Katherine Tam covers Richmond. Follow her at Twitter.com/katherinetam.