Tribe, developer, environmental
groups announce major shoreline deal
Contra Costa Times
RICHMOND -- An American Indian tribe and the developer of
a planned billion-dollar casino resort at Point Molate have
reached a deal with local environmental groups that calls for
at least $48 million to buy and protect prime shoreline if
a gambling emporium rises.
The deal ends years of litigation against a plan to build
an Indian casino, along with a hotel, convention center, retail
mall and nightclubs, on former Navy land along the Bay near
the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. And it comes less than two
weeks before Richmond voters will weigh in on the casino plan
in a nonbinding vote on Measure U.
Under terms of the deal, which was signed Tuesday night, the
Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians would provide $35 million for
open-space purchases; another $5 million to design and maintain
those lands; $3 million more for preparatory work and easements;
and $5 million to complete the Bay Trail and hillside trails.
More money would go to protection of open space along the
nearby shoreline, at the port Terminal 4 and Yacht Harbor areas,
the groups said. The deal also calls for restoration of rare
eelgrass beds and protection of more than 310 acres for open
space at Point Molate. All of it is contingent on a casino
-- the economic engine for the project.
"This is not possible for us to do in a lawsuit," said
Robert Cheasty, president of Citizens for East Shore Parks.
He estimated the agreement could be worth more than $70 million,
saying the groups would seek matching funds that could escalate
"When you have money, you draw money," said Cheasty,
who called it "a major, major shoreline protection agreement."
Critics of the project chided the environmental groups, noting
that the parks group and others sued over the fact state environmental
work was not done before the city and developer Upstream Point
Molate entered into an agreement in 2004. The final environmental
documents have yet to be approved, although Jim Levine, Upstream's
general partner, said they are finished and awaiting city and
After nearly two years of negotiations, the timing of the
deal smells of a late bid to sway Richmond voters, said Joan
Garrett of Citizens for a Sustainable Point Molate.
"It's shortsighted," Garrett said, "because
smack in the middle of all those great things goes a massive
casino, and that's where the blind eye is being shut."
Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a leading opponent
in Congress of Bay Area Indian casinos, opposes the Point Molate
plan and Measure U. Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, whose district
includes Point Molate, has taken no public position on either.
Among three local card clubs and a Sacramento-area casino
tribe that oppose the project, and the developer, campaign
spending on Measure U is expected to surpass $600,000.
Under the agreement, the shoreline protection money would
go into a nonprofit entity, the East Bay Natural Heritage Foundation.
Its board would include two members from Citizens for East
Shore Parks; one from another group, SPRAWLDEF; and two from
the Guidiville tribe and Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation. That tribe
owns Cache Creek Casino Resort in Yolo County and is the financial
backer of the Point Molate project.
The two sides declined to release the signed deal itself,
instead offering a summary. Kate Kelley, director of the Sierra
Club's San Francisco Bay chapter, called it "a model for
how economic development and environmental goals can both be
Cheasty said the focus of land acquisitions would be in Richmond,
but he declined to specify any parcels.
"Our goal is to get an open shoreline. We're going to
work from San Jose to Crockett to make that happen," he
At a news conference that included leaders of several environmental
groups, including the local Sierra Club chapter, Levine also
announced a deal this week with the Contra Costa Building Trades
Council, ensuring union construction jobs on the project. Michael
Derry, CEO of Guidiville's economic development arm, said critics
now have little to complain about, other than opposition to
"I don't think they have a leg to stand on," he
said. "I think their opposition is ridiculous."
Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, who is running for re-election, argued
that traffic, crime, gambling addiction and other negatives
from a casino would far outweigh any benefits from the deal.
She said the casino issue marks a pivot point in the city.
"It's just so counter to everything we've been working
on to show we're a healthy community," she said. "We're
all about creativity and innovation. We're not about sucking
money out of people's pockets and making casino developers
The developer and the tribe still await approval by the City
Council and federal officials to move forward. Under the plan,
the land would be placed in federal trust for Guidiville. The
tribe's 112 members are scattered in various states and Mexico.
Donald Duncan, the tribe's vice chairman, said many tribal
members hope to live and work there.
Contact John Simerman at 925-943-8072.