Point Molate Lawsuit Settles; Some Casino
By Caitilin McAdoo
Opponents of a proposed casino resort development on the Richmond
shoreline were not swayed today by an announcement that developers
for the Guidiville tribe and a coalition of environmental groups
came to a settlement agreement in a lawsuit.
Developers, union leaders and representatives from several
environmental groups held a news conference at Point Molate
today, the site of the proposed $1 billion project, to release
details of the Shoreline Protection Agreement.
The agreement, which settles two lawsuits filed in 2004 and
2009 by Citizens for Eastshore Parks, removes a major obstacle
to the tribe's plan to build a casino resort at Point Molate,
a shuttered naval fuel depot just north of the Richmond-San
The project includes a 4,000-slot machine casino, 1,100 hotel
rooms, a convention center, a performing arts center, entertainment
venues, retail space, a tribal government center and tribal
Under the agreement, three-fourths of the 412-acre site would
be preserved as open space. The tribe has agreed to restore
and protect natural habitat and to provide a continuous shoreline
trail that would be a new addition to the Bay Trail.
The tribe also promised to spend $35 million on shoreline
acquisition and an additional $5 million on design and maintenance
of open space land acquired.
They would also contribute $7 million to the East Bay Natural
Heritage Foundation annually for five years, $5 million to
complete the Bay Trail and other hillside trails, and $3 million
to fund preparatory work for open space land acquisition and
Jim Levine, a spokesman for the developer Upstream Point Molate
LLC, said this level of conservation couldn't be achieved with
many other types of projects.
He also said the proposed project would create 4,500 onsite
jobs, 40 percent of which would be given to Richmond residents.
The tribe has promised that the project would be built with
all union labor, which elicited applause from union representatives
at the news conference.
"This is a huge opportunity to create an economic engine
for the area," Levine said.
The proposed project would also provide a home for the tribe,
whose 114 members are currently spread across the country.
"It will help us keep our culture alive," said Donald
Duncan, vice chairperson of the tribe.
According to Michael Derry, CEO of the tribe, the federal
government wrongfully terminated the tribe in the 1960s, which
meant the government no longer recognized the group as a tribe.
The tribe sued the government in the 1970s, and in 1991, federal
recognition of the tribe was restored.
The tribe, however, didn't have any land and didn't have any
money. In 2004, they initiated discussions with the city of
Richmond to purchase Point Molate and turn it into their new
home, Derry said.
Robert Cheasty, president of Citizens for Eastshore Parks,
said that as representatives for the environmental groups were
talking with representatives from the tribe, "an unusual
"We began to know the people we were involved with...and
we found that we have a lot of common interests," Cheasty
He said that environmental preservation and stewardship was
a cultural value held by members of the tribe.
"In my 36 years of litigation against some of the biggest
agencies in the United States, I have never had the privilege
of finding this kind of common ground," said Stephen Volker,
the attorney who sued the developer on behalf of the environmental
He said he believes Upstream could have fought the lawsuit
harder, but instead, "They decided to do the right thing."
"We believe this is the first step in creating a system
of regional shoreline parks encircling the bay," Volker
The agreement, however, did not come as a surprise to opponents
of the project.
Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, who has been opposed to the
casino project since the beginning, said the settlement agreement
is just a side issue and that she believes the majority of
Richmond residents are still strongly opposed to the casino
"(The settlement) has nothing to do with people's opposition
to the casino," McLaughlin said.
"We have to defeat and reject it and bring a healthy
project to Richmond with good jobs that doesn't include a casino."
She said she believes that if the project were approved, "It
would just bring more poverty, crime and addiction and just
more misery" to Richmond. It would also lower property
values, she said.
She said she would like to see development at Point Molate
that "showcases a Richmond with a soul," including
a performing arts center, a museum, galleries, an open market,
open air cafes, nice restaurants, retail stores, recreation
facilities, community gardens and open-space areas.
"These developments would bring good jobs that people
can feel good about," McLaughlin said.
She added that opponents of the project don't believe it will
bring the jobs promised in the project proposal.
Even if the city did go forward with the proposed casino project,
neighboring cities would most likely sue Richmond, which could
delay the project for at least a decade.
McLaughlin said she believed the alternative vision for Point
Molate would actually bring jobs sooner.
"We should not look at Point Molate as a quick fix," McLaughlin
said. "Let's bring good businesses into Richmond."
Some opponents of the project are also concerned that it could
set a precedent for off-reservation gaming in California.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein released a statement today announcing
her opposition to the project and to Measure U, an advisory
measure on the Nov. 2 ballot that addresses the project.
"I'm opposed to Measure U because a casino for Richmond's
Point Molate is just wrong," Feinstein said. "It's
wrong for Richmond, wrong for the East Bay shoreline environment,
and it sets the wrong precedent for our state when it comes
to off-reservation gaming casinos."
Barry Barnes, a campaign consultant for the No on Measure
U campaign, said the settlement agreement didn't address most
of the concerns of the people who oppose the project, including
objections that it is too big.
"It would be one of the largest casinos in the world," Barnes
He said people also believe that Richmond can do better in
terms of how the area is developed and how the shoreline is
And finally, opponents don't believe the project will bring
the jobs the developers have promised.
"I would be surprised if anyone changes sides as a result
of this agreement," Barnes said.
The project still needs approval from the Richmond City Council
and the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs before it can move
forward. The tribe would also need to enter into a gaming compact
with the state.