Richmond casino deal by environmentalists, tribe

Tribe, developer, environmental groups announce major shoreline deal

By Carolyn Jones
Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, October 21, 2010

Richmond will get a Bay Trail extension and hundreds of acres of open space as part of a sweeping deal struck Wednesday between environmental groups and a tribe that hopes to build a $1 billion casino resort at Point Molate.

The agreement, which stems from a 2008 lawsuit filed by Citizens for East Shore Parks and other environmental groups, calls for at least $43 million in open space acquisitions and sets aside two-thirds – 180 acres – of the resort property as parkland.

“This is going to be incredibly beneficial for the environment,” said Robert Cheasty of Citizens for East Shore Parks. “This settlement gives us way, way, way more than what we would have gotten in our lawsuit.”

The development includes a Las Vegas-style casino, 1,100-room hotel, nightclubs, restaurants, convention center, ferry terminal and housing for the Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians, the 120-person tribe that’s behind the project.

“When we sat down with these environmental groups, we realized we had a lot of common goals and vision for the area,” said Jim Levine of Upstream, the Emeryville developer overseeing the project. “The question was, how do we move forward in the Bay Area in a way that’s environmentally sensible?”

The development’s fate now lies with the city of Richmond and the federal government, both of whom must give their OK before it can proceed. Richmond voters will get a chance to voice their opinions through an advisory measure on the Nov. 2 ballot.

If it’s approved, the project will break ground in 2012 and open in 2015.

Those opposed, including Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, say the promised jobs and revenue could evaporate if the economic downturn continues. Others have said that Point Molate, which offers views of Mount Tamalpais and San Pablo Bay, should be preserved as open space, and that Richmond should not turn over its natural assets for gambling.

The project is funded by Upstream, the Guidiville tribe and the Yocha Dehe tribe, which runs Cache Creek Casino in Yolo County.

In addition to the open space acquisitions, the tribe plans to install solar panels, a gray-water treatment plant, greenery on the roofs and other energy-saving accoutrements.

The biggest environmental challenge, however, is likely to be the site cleanup. The property, which until 1995 was a Navy fuel depot, is contaminated with oil that leaked from underground storage tanks.

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