By John Ramos

RICHMOND (KPIX 5) — The Richmond City Council has chosen a developer to build a controversial housing complex at Point Molate near the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge. But while the project is moving forward, those opposed to the plan are not giving up.

In 2018, Richmond settled a lawsuit from an Indian tribe and its developer whose casino was approved, and then denied, at Point Molate. The settlement called for the city instead to build at least 670 homes there and split the proceeds of the land sale with the litigants.

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But that agreement, reached in closed-door meetings, instantly became mired in controversy. Later, the city council began adding restrictions to the project. But when potential developers began dropping out of the running, the council reversed course and dropped the restrictions.

“Well, the city council ultimately agreed to remove them because they found out they weren’t going to get any proposals unless they did,” Mayor Tom Butt told KPIX 5.

At their April 23rd meeting, the council chose a developer for the project – an Irvine-based company called SunCal – and agreed to sell the land to it for $45 million. Butt says it will be tight, but he believes the city can meet the deadlines laid out in the settlement.

“I’m pleased that it’s moving forward,” said Butt. “But I’m getting awful tired of this group that keeps hammering on us, you know?”

That group is the Point Molate Alliance, a band of residents who oppose the settlement and are now suing the city for negotiating it without public input.

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Councilman Eduardo Martinez cast the only NO vote to select the developer. “Look at where we’re at,” said Martinez. “We have the community pitted against developers.”

The alliance would like to see Point Molate reserved for public recreation with ballfields in an area now planned for high-priced homes with a million dollar view of the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge and Marin County in the distance.

“I fear that a high-end housing community that is really planned here will bring economic segregation that we already have enough of in Richmond,” said alliance co-chair Pam Stello.

Even though the selection of a developer is seen by many as a go-ahead for the project, the group opposing it says they aren’t giving up the fight.

“We think that with the will of the people, these are still elected people on our city council, and if they see the growing coalition that’s opposing them they’re going to rethink,” said alliance co-chair David Helvarg.

The development will also include a retail and restaurant area in the area known as “Winehaven” and will preserve 70 percent of the land as open space.  Butt says that without further delays, it’s possible construction could begin in about two years time.

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