A proposed $1.2 billion casino-hotel resort pitched for Richmond's waterfront lives on.
Supporters and opponents of the project packed the City Council chamber on Tuesday night, alternately applauding and condemning it ahead of a key decision on whether to extend the closing date on its $50 million deal to sell the former Point Molate Naval Fuel Depot to developer Upstream.
The City Council voted 4-2 to grant the extension after lengthy public testimony and council discussion. The deal was to expire Thursday; it now ends April 2011.
Not extending the contract would open up the city to a potential lawsuit, said Councilwoman Maria Viramontes, who was the swing vote.
Councilman Tom Butt, who backed earlier extensions, said he was frustrated by the pace of negotiations and voted against Tuesday's extension.
"Written commitments were elusive. "... I've run out of patience," Butt said.
Council members Nat Bates, Jim Rogers, Ludmyrna Lopez and Viramontes voted yes. Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and Butt voted no. Vice Mayor Jeff Ritterman was absent.
The proposed casino-hotel resort would hold 124,000 square feet of gaming, a conference center, nearly 1,100 hotel rooms, restaurants, shops, a tribal headquarters, a shoreline park, trails and a ferry service station. Upstream and the Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians, with the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation that operates the Cache Creek Casino as an investor, are seeking federal, state and local approvals to build it.
The city would receive at least $16.6 million annually under a 20-year municipal services agreement with Upstream if the project is built.
Supporters embrace those figures and the short-term and long-term jobs.
"Point Molate provides jobs for people to get off the streets and be productive citizens," said Richmond resident Shirley Phillips. "I can't see it doing anything but help."
Opponents fear the developer is pitching a pipe dream. Richmond needs jobs, they say, but economic development is possible without a casino.
"Is this really the best we can do or can't we find something else for Richmond to be known for?" Richmond resident Bruce Kaplan said.
Casino opponents want the city to consider alternatives and they say officials have the right to do it. McLaughlin points to a letter sent to Butt from deputy assistant attorney general Janill Richards clarifying a 2005 settlement agreement her office negotiated in the lawsuit between the Citizens for the East Shore Parks and the city over the land development agreement. Richards stated that the city can pick an alternative use or non-use of Point Molate.
Tuesday was the fourth time the closing date has been extended so the parties can continue negotiating changes to the contract such as the design and financing.
Upstream has been paying $90,000 a month to the city to cover costs. Those payments will continue and may be adjusted as costs rise.