RICHMOND -- Mayor Tom Butt is known for his annual April Fool's Day joke, which comes in the form of his email newsletters.
This year was no exception. Butt had Richmond residents buzzing on social media with his story, "Hilltop Mall site to become stadium for Raiders," which he sent out Thursday night and was quickly picked up by news blog Richmond Standard on Friday.
"We have just learned that what is now Hilltop mall will be the new home of the Oakland Raiders," Butt wrote in the story, adding the very true fact that the mall had already been on the market. "It turns out that it was simply a matter of the stars being aligned. Hilltop mall is an obsolete business model that no longer works commercially, but it has a sea of parking and good access to transportation, both of which are critical to a sports stadium. And the price was right."
Hilltop mall, which has been struggling with an occupancy rate of about 75 percent, has indeed been put up for sale, following its foreclosure in 2013. Residents and city leaders, including Butt, have expressed their desire for the mall to be completely redeveloped into a more contemporary layout that includes dining, entertainment and even housing.
Butt emphasized this in his April Fool's blog, noting that the stadium site would combine mixed uses like office and housing. He added that with the tech companies and restaurants turning Oakland into an area more like Silicon Valley or San Francisco, the Raiders' "outlaw" image no longer fit, but Richmond could help that.
The blog was complete with fabricated quotes from Raiders owner Mark Davis, who noted that "with its reputation as a rough and ready refinery town, Richmond is now the appropriate home of Raider Nation."
Butt topped the lengthy post off with a "I wish you a Happy April Fool's Day," but that didn't stop some social media commenters from expressing their dismay at such an alarming prank.
"This isn't an April Fool's joke, is it? If it is, it's a cruel one," wrote one Facebook user on the Richmond Standard Facebook page, which posted the blog.
Others were in on the joke.
"Tom Butt and his infamous April Fools' Day blog??" another user suggested.
Previous jokes by Butt include last year's story that then-mayor Gayle McLaughlin was implementing eminent domain mortgage seizures, and one in 2008 that four members of the city's Planning Commission had mutinied over a contentious plan and resigned overnight.
Contact Annie Sciacca at 925-943-8073. Follow her at Twitter.com/AnnieSciacca.