Point Molate Casino Defies Bay Area Regional Planning—Or is There Any?: By KEN NORWOOD

Tuesday November 23, 2004

As a senior in the Planning Profession and an avid watchdog for deviations in socially and environmentally responsible urban and regional planning in the Bay Area, I am alarmed by the unilateral actions by the City of Richmond giving developer J.D. Levine “approval” to build a “world class” casino resort at Point Molate (“Developer Wins Pact to Build Point Molate Casino,” Daily Planet, Nov. 12-15). 

I have questioned State Senator Perata, Assembly Member Hancock, and Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates with why the City of Richmond should be able to launch a major multi-use casino project that can have tremendous serious future social, cultural, moral, economic, environmental, transportation, land use, and public safety consequences? Why should not the City of Richmond and/or the developer be required to first file for an environmental review before one or another of the multitude of regional agencies that supposedly are established to over see the efficacy of regional planning in the Bay Area? Perhaps the answer is, as has been long presumed, there is no state law or a regional authority to require such a preliminary review process. Perhaps we are actually bereft of responsible governance to protect us from urban casino resorts in the San Francisco Bay region. 

Will a region-wide environmental impact report be required, and by whom? It seems unfair to cash-strapped Richmond for it to be allowed to naively (what else?) stumble into a costly process that should be preempted by a regional body that looks at all factors simultaneously: open space, bay preservation, traffic, public and environmental safety, etc. The MTC, ABAG, and the other single purpose so-called “regional” agencies do not appear to have such capabilities. 

The attempt by ChevronTexaco to buy the Point Molate land indicates that they are fully aware of the security and public liability dangers that a large casino resort presents, sandwiched as it would be between the bay and the Chevron-Texaco refinery. Is there not a State of California statute or agency that oversees public safety issues regarding refineries and adjacent land use and population densities? If there is no such safeguard, then there is extreme nonfeasance by all jurisdictions involved relating to protection of the public.  

An inquiry to the supervisor in Alameda County whose district abuts Richmond has so far only registered the response that since Richmond is politically in Contra Costa County that Alameda County has no jurisdiction, nor does he have time to look into it (supervisor’s name withheld). The conclusion here seems to be that the Bay Area is actually devoid of professional, cohesive, competent, and comprehensive urban regional planning.  

The urban casino invasion may well be the litmus test of the caliber of officials within the region who ostensibly were elected to protect the public safety and general welfare. 


Ken Norwood was a paratrooper in World War II.›