Developer rails against advisory
vote on Point Molate casino
Contra Costa Times
RICHMOND — The developer of a proposed Indian casino-resort
at Point Molate criticized a proposed advisory vote for the
November ballot and suggested City Council approval tonight
would violate its deal with the city.
In a letter to the council Monday, Jim
Levine of Upstream Point Molate wrote that even a nonbinding
public vote would make for "a useless exercise rooted in spin and deception," since
it would likely come before completion of the environmental
review process, and before the city and Upstream hammer out
details of a revised agreement.
It also would violate the spirit of
a 2006 legal settlement that required completion of a full
environmental review before any final decisions on the project,
he wrote. The council "has
a contractual duty to follow through on the project evaluation
process agreed to and publicized years ago and confirmed in
our recent (agreement)," Levine wrote.
That deal, in May, extended the city's land development agreement
with Upstream to next April, to allow continued negotiations
on various terms that would pave the way for a transfer of
the former Naval fuel depot land from the city to Upstream.
It was unclear Tuesday evening whether the city attorney had
found any legal concerns with an advisory vote.
Upstream and the Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians aim to build
a $1.2 billion casino-hotel resort with thousands of slot machines,
1,100 hotel rooms, a conference center, restaurants, shops,
tribal headquarters, open space and a shoreline trail on scenic
property at the foot of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.
The plan promises thousands of jobs to local residents and
more than $16 million annually to the city should the casino
get up and running. But as local and federal approvals near,
a rising chorus of complaint has come from local residents
and from a group of California card clubs.
Citywide public opinion on the casino plan is hard to gauge.
Supporters and opponents have floated poll results leaning
one side and the other.
Councilman Tom Butt, whose public stance has toggled from
pro to con to leery amid negotiations with the developer, offered
ballot language co-sponsored by Vice Mayor Jeff Ritterman and
Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, the most vocal casino opponent. A second
measure by Councilwoman Maria Viramontes asks voters the same
basic question — casino or no? — but gives a nod to the shoreline
and open space protections the developer has pledged.
In an interview, Levine insisted voters would not have enough
information on the project by election day. The city has just
begun a new process to gather ideas on an alternative project,
"It's political gamesmanship. I think they just want to draw
card club money into the election," Levine said. "I just find
it really curious the mayor and all her people in the card
clubs are pushing for a vote before the facts are on the table.
We think they're afraid of the facts."
Chuck Finnie, a spokesman for a coalition
of card clubs, countered that the fear is all Upstream's,
at what he called a "grassroots
movement" of local opposition, and card club polling that indicates
fervent opposition to a casino.
The city's leverage lies in the need for the council to certify
the environment review. The tribe, meanwhile, must secure a
key federal decision allowing it to operate a casino there.
The Department of Interior must take the land into trust for
the tribe, and the governor would need to negotiate a gaming
compact with the tribe to allow slot machines and other Las
The City Council is not expected to consider the issue until