Issues

Thinking Big about Richmond’s Housing Goals

On April 24th, the RPA Housing Action team will present a City Council Study Session on "Thinking Big about Richmond’s Housing Goals."  Download the Report

Richmond Affordable Housing at a Crossroads

Forces are coalescing at the state, county and city levels supporting the building of affordable housing. We are at a crossroads in terms of affordable housing; now is the time to build a community based on inclusiveness and diversity. 

On the state level, the legislature passed several bills that would support affordable housing, including one last year that would impose a $75 fee on certain real estate transactions documents (such as deeds and notices, up to a cap of $225 per transaction). These fees are projected to generate between $200 to $300 million annually for support affordable housing. In addition, this November, there will be a statewide affordable housing bond on the ballot aimed to generate $4 billion for affordable housing programs, infill infrastructure projects and the veterans’ homeownership. On the county level, CCC Supervisor John Goia has been working on getting a countywide affordable housing bond on the ballot in 2020, similar to the ones that Alameda ($580 million) and Santa Clara ($950 million) counties passed last year. 

With more affordable housing revenue on the horizon, it is imperative that Richmond be prepared and well-positioned to get its fair share. For example, revenue raised by any County affordable housing bond are slated to go to cities that demonstrate that they are ready and willing to build the housing. Unfortunately, the City currently does not have much staff expertise and capacity to attract or promote new affordable housing development -- and this is where we need all of you to make your voice heard. We need you to help us urge the City to think big, in tens of thousands of units, not just a few hundred. 

Tentatively, the Housing Action Team will be presenting a study session before the City Council on Tuesday, April 24.  Please mark your calendars and watch this space for more details!

Finally, the HAT is working on a number of other projects, including an effort to transform abandoned housing into affordable housing; pressuring the West Contra Costa Unified School District to stop dragging their feet on a teacher housing project; and studying ways to encourage homeowners to take advantage of new laws designed to make it easier for people to build Accessory Dwelling Units (in-law units, one of the cheapest ways to provide affordable housing). If you are interested in joining this Action Team, the HAT meets every third Saturday 3:00 PM - 4:30 PM at the Bobby Bowens Progressive Center (2450 MacDonald Way)

Bring Pt. Molate Out from Behind Closed Doors

What happens with Pt. Molate may well determine what kind of city Richmond becomes. It is a remarkable shoreline property owned by all the people of Richmond. We are entitled to have the major say in what it becomes, and any decision about the destiny of Pt. Molate should go through the established public planning process, not be quietly decided behind closed doors.

Therefore, the RPA steering committee unanimously supports the city council proceeding with the promised community meetings on the future of Pt. Molate before further settlement negotiations with Jim Levine/Upstream, LLC. After the community meetings, if there are further settlement negotiations between the city and former Pt Molate casino developer, they will be in line with what the people of Richmond want for Pt Molate.

A City has a right to decide how it wants to develop, especially with an important public asset like Pt. Molate. Land use decisions should be determined publicly because they are critical to how a city develops, and for whom. In April, 2012, the City Council approved the 2030 General Plan under resolution 52-12 that included the provision that Pt. Molate’s future land uses be put to a public planning process so residents have the primary say in what happens there.

In September 2016, the city council voted to hold community meetings to fulfill this promise. They asked the Pt Molate Community Advisory Committee to work on the design of the community meetings with Planning Dept Director, Richard Mitchell, but Mayor Butt subsequently dissolved the citizen’s advisory committee.

To ensure that comprehensive and inclusive community meetings on Pt. Molate would occur, Council members Willis and Choi received a unanimous vote in November of last year to pursue the public meetings through another citizen’s advisory body, the Planning Commission. Willis and Choi’s agenda item directed the Commission to work with Mr. Mitchell to offer the scheduled community meetings to Richmond residents late this spring.

At the start of 2018, the Planning Commission took up the charge and held a public hearing to how to do effective community outreach and organize comprehensive and accessible public planning meetings for Pt. Molate. However, not long afterwards Mayor Butt announced in his email posting that the city had reached a settlement agreement “in principle” with Jim Levine/Upstream, LLC, the proposed Pt Molate casino developer.

Now, city council members are under intense pressure to approve a rushed settlement deal with Jim Levine, even though the strength of Levine’s lawsuit appears to be overblown. While there are various past studies on Pt. Molate to draw from, a publicly-vetted plan to fulfill the 2012 Council resolution has yet to be done.

Let the City Council members know that any further settlement negotiations with Jim Levine/Upstream, or any other private developer, must be guided by an open public planning process that involves the people of Richmond. The future of this magnificent 400-acre public land on the SF Bay should not be decided by any backroom deal. Pt. Molate deserves to be looked at within Richmond’s overall future direction, including the kinds of development and community benefits Richmond residents need now and in the decades ahead.

Bring Pt. Molate out from behind closed doors

What happens with Pt. Molate may well determine what kind of city Richmond becomes. It is a remarkable shoreline property owned by all the people of Richmond. We are entitled to have the major say in what it becomes, and any decision about the destiny of Pt. Molate should go through the established public planning process, not be quietly decided behind closed doors. 

Therefore, the RPA steering committee unanimously supports the city council proceeding with the promised community meetings on the future of Pt. Molate before further settlement negotiations with Jim Levine/Upstream, LLC. [Editor's note: Councilmembers Beckles and Recinos were not present at the March 15, 2018 meeting where the RPA Steering Committee voted on this resolution; Councilmember Willis was present but recused himself.] After the community meetings, if there are further settlement negotiations between the city and former Pt Molate casino developer, they will be in line with what the people of Richmond want for Pt Molate.

A City has a right to decide how it wants to develop, especially with an important public asset like Pt. Molate. Land use decisions should be determined publicly because they are critical to how a city develops, and for whom. In April, 2012, the City Council approved the 2030 General Plan under resolution 52-12 that included the provision that Pt. Molate’s future land uses be put to a public planning process so residents have the primary say in what happens there.

In September 2016, the city council voted to hold community meetings to fulfill this promise. They asked the Pt Molate Community Advisory Committee to work on the design of the community meetings with Planning Dept Director, Richard Mitchell, but Mayor Butt subsequently dissolved the citizen’s advisory committee.

To ensure that comprehensive and inclusive community meetings on Pt. Molate would occur, Council members Willis and Choi received a unanimous vote in November of last year to pursue the public meetings through another citizen’s advisory body, the Planning Commission. Willis and Choi’s agenda item directed the Commission to work with Mr. Mitchell to offer the scheduled community meetings to Richmond residents late this spring.   

At the start of 2018, the Planning Commission took up the charge and held a public hearing to how to do effective community outreach and organize comprehensive and accessible public planning meetings for Pt. Molate. However, not long afterwards Mayor Butt announced in his email posting that the city had reached a settlement agreement “in principle” with Jim Levine/Upstream, LLC, the proposed Pt Molate casino developer. 

Now, city council members are under intense pressure to approve a rushed settlement deal with Jim Levine, even though the strength of Levine’s lawsuit appears to be overblown. While there are various past studies on Pt. Molate to draw from, a publicly-vetted plan to fulfill the 2012 Council resolution has yet to be done. 

Let the City Council members know that any further settlement negotiations with Jim Levine/Upstream, or any other private developer, must be guided by an open public planning process that involves the people of Richmond. The future of this magnificent 400-acre public land on the SF Bay should not be decided by any backroom deal. Pt. Molate deserves to be looked at within Richmond’s overall future direction, including the kinds of development and community benefits Richmond residents need now and in the decades ahead.

- Pt. Molate Working Group

[The editors note did not appear in the version of this article which was included in the April 2, 2018 edition of The Activist newsletter.]

RPA endorses Willis, Martinez & Recinos for 2018!

At its March 31, 2018 membership meeting, the RPA enthusiastically voted to endorse Melvin Willis for Richmond Mayor, and Eduardo Martinez and Ada Recinos for City Council.

Melvin Willis, Richmond’s current Vice Mayor, announced his intention to run in December and will be running against Mayor Tom Butt. Three Council seats are also up in November: those of Jovanka Beckles, Eduardo Martinez, and Ada Recinos.  Jovanka is not seeking re-election in order to focus on her bid for Assembly District 15.

The vote occurred a few weeks after an RPA candidates night, during which RPA members had a chance to meet and get to know several candidates who were seeking the RPA’s endorsement. All candidates seeking endorsement were also asked to fill out a questionnaire and confirm that they would reject corporate campaign donations – the only “bright line” requirement of RPA electoral endorsement.

The RPA is thrilled to back such inspiring candidates with progressive values. Melvin, Eduardo and Ada’s campaigns will take a lot of work by the candidates and the campaign committees, and you can help starting now!

- Please considering personally endorsing these great candidates. Email to TeamRichmond18@gmail.com. Include your name as you would like to be listed, and any identification you would like with your name. (If you list an organization it will be noted as “Organizations for identification purposes only”). Also please specifically state the names of the candidates you are endorsing; for example: I endorse Melvin Willis for Mayor and Ada Recinos and Eduardo Martinez for City Council. List me as “Sally Activist, teacher” (or Richmond Resident, or union, or name of organization.)

- If you would like to help in other ways, email us at the address above and give us your phone number

- Consider meeting Ada Recinos at a houseparty hosted at the home of Steve Early and Suzanne Gordon on Saturday, April 21 from 2-6pm (747 Lobos Ave). RSVP to Steve.

Gayle's Book Launched

Gayle McLaughlin launched her new book Winning Richmond: How a Progressive Alliance Won City Hall. The book is Gayle’s memoir of her 14-year career as an activist, city councilmember and mayor of Richmond.

Gayle will be signing books and singer/songwriter Patrick O’Malley will be performing. It promises to be a great time.

Steve Early’s provides a review and excerpt of the book in Counterpunch

On issues like promoting renewable energy or improving refinery safety, McLaughlin had, at most, only one reliable ally; when she was elected mayor in 2006, she was still the only Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) member on the council. “I was a working class person consciously representing the voices of many people living in a system dominated by the rich,” she writes. “One of the first things I realized was that I wasn’t going to get anything done without an organizing campaign on each issue.”

RPA endorses Willis, Recinos & Martinez for 2018

 

At its March 31, 2018 membership meeting, the RPA enthusiastically voted to endorse Melvin Willis for Richmond Mayor, and Eduardo Martinez and Ada Recinos for City Council.

Melvin Willis, Richmond’s current Vice Mayor, announced his intention to run in December and will be running against Mayor Tom Butt. Three Council seats are also up in November: those of Jovanka Beckles, Eduardo Martinez, and Ada Recinos. Jovanka is not seeking re-election in order to focus on her bid for Assembly District 15.

The vote occurred a few weeks after an RPA candidates night, during which RPA members had a chance to meet and get to know several candidates who were seeking the RPA’s endorsement. All candidates seeking endorsement were also asked to fill out a questionnaire and confirm that they would reject corporate campaign donations – the only “bright line” requirement of RPA electoral endorsement.

The RPA is thrilled to back such inspiring candidates with progressive values. Melvin, Eduardo and Ada’s campaigns will take a lot of work by the candidates and the campaign committees, and you can help starting now!

Steve Early Reports from Torrance

In case you missed it, check out this thoughtful piece by Steve Early which appeared in Counterpunch. Steve was in Torrance, CA last month to speak at 350-person rally organized by Torrance Refinery Action on the third anniversary of a giant explosion at Exxon Mobil’s facility there. People were eager to hear about how Richmond is working to hold Chevron accountable for its pollution. His piece reflects on the continuing struggle to implement a just transition that provides both a cleaner, safer environment and keeps workers whole.

Refinery Safety Campaign Frays Blue-Green Alliance

A Report From Torrance

Nothing ignites a local environmental justice campaign more quickly, in California, than a refinery fire or explosion affecting down-wind neighbors. Three years ago, an Exxon-Mobil facility was rocked by a huge explosion in Torrance, a city of 145,000 just south of Los Angeles.

According to a Justice Department lawsuit, the blast catapulted a 40-ton piece of equipment perilously close to a tank containing 50,000 pounds of hydrofluoric acid, a highly toxic and volatile chemical, used, with additives, in only two California refineries. If released in the air in large enough quantity, Modified Hydrofluoric Acid (MHF) can form a ground-hugging cloud, able to drift for miles. Anyone exposed to it would suffer choking, searing of the eyes and lungs, internal organ damage or possible death.

When the U.S. Chemical Safety Board tried to investigate this “serious near miss,” Exxon-Mobil balked at supplying data on cost-cutting measures that may have contributed to the accident or the health impact of showering Torrance residents with so much chemical ash. Some citizens filed a private lawsuit citing “numerous fires, leaks, explosions, and other releases of dangerous pollutants” in “an outdated refinery” located “in a densely populated area.” State regulators issued 19 citations against the company and assessed fines of $565,000 for its February, 2015 explosion.

Meanwhile, the narrowly avoided release of a hazardous chemical led to formation of the Torrance Refinery Action Alliance. With growing local and regional support, the TRAA seeks to eliminate MHF use, in any form, at the Torrance refinery, now owned by BPF Energy, and a Valero refinery in Wilmington, CA.

To continue reading click here.

News from Gayle for California

Many of you have already heard the story: A couple of weeks ago, Gayle went to Martinez to officially turn in all the filing paperwork for her candidacy for California Lt. Governor. When she arrived, the clerk asked Gayle where her check was, assuming that like all other candidates in this race she was just going to pay to get on the ballot. Gayle smiled and reminded the clerk that her supporters turned in over 14,000 signatures in lieu of the filing fee, something that shocked the clerk until they got confirmation from the Secretary of State’s Office.

Then there was more good news: at the recent California Democratic Convention in San Diego, many corporate-free progressive Democrats voted to block an endorsement of the big money candidates. Although Gayle is running as an independent and therefore not looking to be the Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor, what was telling was that there was not enough support for any of her Democratic opponents to win. Similarly, the Dems were not able to coalesce around a choice for Attorney General or Senator (Feinstein: you are officially on notice!)

Next up: statewide outreach driven by volunteers. This Wednesday, you are invited to come to the Bobby Bowens Progressive Center between 5:30-8:30PM for a text bank for Gayle McLaughlin's campaign for Lt. Governor.  RSVP here to attend.  There will be a phone bank on Wednesday, 3/14 at the same time.  RSVP here to attend that one. If you can't make either, visit Gayle's website and scroll down under Volunteer to see all the options to host or attend events.  

Still Stinky: West County Landfill

Remember that huge problem with Republic Services’ West County landfill and composting facility? In early 2017 Republic got a cease and desist order from Contra Costa County health officials after the City and County received some 400 calls in 2016 about foul smells emanating from the site. People reported nausea, headaches and throat irritations, and when county health officials visited the site, they saw seven fires burning. It turned out that Republic Services was not only grossly mishandling the waste, but they were handling 350,000 tons of materials when they were only permitted for 1/10 that amount.

The facility has been under intense scrutiny by various agencies, including the California Water Board (which found the facility was endangering water quality) and the CCC Solid Waste Authority. The latest development is that a new report commissioned by the Solid Waste Authority found that the problems are continuing into 2018. The facility continues to process far too much waste than their permits allow, which contributes to dangerously elevated temperatures in the compost piles and ponded water. To date, the composting facility has been noticed 103 times for standard violations and noticed with 7 areas of concern.

Richmond deserves better!