By Norman La Force
Point Molate’s future as a regional park just became more real after a major victory in court. Sierra Club, SPRAWLDEF, Citizens for Eastshore Parks, the Point Molate Alliance, and individual petitioners sued the City of Richmond over its failure to prepare an adequate environmental review of the proposed luxury housing development at Point Molate. A prior, pro-development city council under then-Mayor Tom Butt had approved an environmental impact report that did not sufficiently consider the potential impacts of development in this sensitive area. Now, the Court of Appeals agreed that the report is in fact deficient in its analysis of impacts to Ohlone cultural resources and improperly accounted for emergency evacuation impacts. Thanks to this favorable ruling, the certification of the impact report and all associated project approvals must be rescinded. This means the developer cannot move forward with the project.
What still remains in place to keep Point Molate from becoming a park is a sweetheart settlement agreement that former Mayor Butt made with developers after a lawsuit when the City refused to approve the development of a casino. But this most recent court decision raises serious questions about what development––if any––can take place at the site. We believe this decision makes it more likely that the East Bay Regional Park District can move forward with acquisition of Point Molate as a regional park.
The City retains its discretion over what further steps may be taken, so long as it complies with the California Environmental Quality Act. While we have not yet achieved our goal of saving Point Molate, we are closer to reaching our vision of a regional park that will provide Richmond with much needed green space, protect the substantial biodiversity in the area, and create opportunities for sea level rise resilience projects.