Big thanks to all the presenters who inspired us at the RPA’s Earth Day event, Activating Environmental Justice.
And many thanks to panelist Cheryl Holzmeyer who just introduced us to the Refinery Monitoring Tool.
Produced by Air Watch Bay Area this new, online, interactive tool allows you to see current data on air pollution in Richmond, Crockett, Rodeo, and Benicia. You can also sign up for daily air quality alerts or use the website (or a downloadable app) to report smells and pollution events to the Air Watch Bay Area website and/or to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.
This tool was created by the The Fair Tech Collective at Drexel University in Philadelphia in collaboration with the Community Robotics, Education, and Technology Empowerment Lab at Carnegie Mellon University.
Inspired by the Richmond People’s Convention of 2004 (organized by Richmond Progressive Alliance, Just Cause Richmond, ACORN, and others) which drew over 300 people, the 2018 Richmond People’s Assembly aims to gather neighborhoods together to organize for collective power, bring a voice to the community, and empower residents to engage in political activities to create the change and solutions we need as a community.
The Richmond People’s Assembly will take place on May 19th at Richmond High School from 9:30 - 3pm.
It’s being led by the Richmond Our Power Coalition, a collection of local community organizations including the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Communities for a Better Environment, Urban Tilth.
In the weeks leading up to the Assembly, coalition canvassers will go door to door to listen to and take inventory our community members needs. Maybe you've already been approached! Please mark you calendars and watch this space for more information!
Howie Klein writes:
Jovanka Beckles is the AD15 candidate whose election would bring to state government, and to national visibility, a uniquely successful local Progressive political model. Jovanka is a working-class veteran of the nation’s most Progressive city council, which has built the nation’s best record of winning elections and implementing successful Progressive policies, in the face of massive oppo-spending by global villain Chevron Corporation, in Chevron’s long-dominated ‘company town’ of Richmond California.
Our movement is in the news again!
Hot off the "presses" is a wonderful podcast from Stepping Up, titled Smackdown: City Hall v. Big Oil. Produced by Claire Schoen, this podcast focuses on “surprising stories from climate activists” and features our favorite Communities for a Better Environment rep, Andres Soto. Well worth a listen!
And if you haven’t already checked it out, read a Counterpunch article penned by Ralph Nader titled Citizen-Mayor Gayle Roars through Richmond California. It chronicles the history of the RPA and Gayle’s bid for Lt. Governor. An excerpt is below:
[In Richmond], McLaughlin found a few like-minded progressives and started the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA). (Gayle had volunteered in the Green Party’s 2000 Presidential Campaign)
With very little money, but many long overdue proposals for the betterment of the city, the RPA went to work. They had three public assets—a set of progressive policy changes, support of a large silent majority of residents, and a dedicated core of thirty no-nonsense local champions for a just community.
RPA ran a slate of candidates for City Council in 2004, with some success. This was followed by a victory in 2006 that made McLaughlin mayor—a post she held until 2014 when she was termed out and then successfully ran for city council. RPA now controls five of the seven seats—overcoming the Chevron Company’s longtime political boosters…
Because of McLaughlin and the RPA, Richmond has a higher minimum wage of $15 an hour, a police department that has curbed police misconduct, a major drop in serious street crime, an increase in Chevron’s tax payments, a decrease in toxic pollution by Chevron, and Solar Richmond, a program demonstrating a greener local economy, more energy self-reliance and jobs.
Thank you to our progressive City Council! On April 3, Richmond amended its 1990 Sanctuary Cities ordinance, which bars the police from using city funds to collaborate with ICE. Read more below:
Due to the escalating immigration enforcement, Ordinance 29-90 should be amended to address the threats from the DOJ and the fears of the immigrant and refugee community.
The immigrant and refugee community in Richmond make up more than half of its population, 33.7 % are foreign born and 62.7% are non-citizens (per the 2015 U.S Bureau Census 2011-2015). The following recommendations will assist with educating the residents and departments of the City of Richmond protocols, and inform the public officials.
- Provide information to the general public about this City Council policy in the top three spoken languages in Richmond, such as in English, Spanish and Mandarin. Disseminate information to the community about available resources in English, Spanish, Mandarin.
- Provide a report to the Richmond City Council regarding the threats by the DOJ of incarcerating public officials of Sanctuary Cities
- Provide a report to the Richmond City Council on how the Richmond Police Department is dealing with the escalating immigration enforcement and fear tactics by ICE.
Did you miss it? The RPA Housing Action Team did a superb job in their presentation to the Richmond City Council at an affordable housing study session.
For over a year, the HAT has been researching best practices in other Bay Area cities and counties to promote affordable housing. The HAT’s presentation this month was the culmination of that research, and featured three affordable housing developers.
One of the most notable aspects of HAT’s presentation was the ambition of its vision for affordable housing. Noting that the Association of Bay Area Governments has set a goal of constructing 700,000 new units by 2040 (50% affordable), the HAT pointed out that there aren’t many cities in the Bay Area able to or willing to contribute 5% of the total. However, in Richmond, where we have more vacant land and abandoned or underutilized properties with low market values, we could probably fit 30-40,000 units of housing.
The HAT also urged the City to stop worrying so much about attracting high end developers, who are very cautious about Richmond because upper middle class projects here can’t command the selling prices needed to make expected returns. (Meaning: no “trickle down” model of attracting market rate housing to generate in lieu fees to subsidize affordable housing). Rather, the HAT called on Richmond to work hard to facilitate the construction of 1,500 units per year, including 15,000 housing units at Hilltop and the South Shore, and 15,000 housing units in the Macdonald corridor, 23rd St and on San Pablo Ave
Finally, the Team also pointed out Richmond needs to staff up to ensure that we are well poised to take advantage of affordable housing development opportunities. It noted that we have 3.8 people in our Housing Department, while Oakland has 41.5 people.
One observer called the presentation “a model of what community involvement in the city can be” (not withstanding Mayor Butt’s hostility and arguments with guest panelists). If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, watch the video of the study session - it's around 1hr 14 min mark.
The recently announced settlement of the Point Molate litigation is a far cry from what the RPA has been firmly advocating for many years, namely maximizing public involvement in determining the future of this precious and unique resource owned by the City. We had no position on any particular use or project but we felt it crucial that we make it possible to hear all proposals for development so that the public could weigh-in with full information.
We believe that the settlement itself is greatly unbalanced. Upstream and its partners get a significant sum of money (in the tens of millions) from the City in a relatively short time, and no public review of settlement terms before they were finalized. All the City gets is an end to the litigation, yet it is losing not only a lot of money, but also any opportunity for a comprehensive and inclusive public process on what the future of Point Molate should look like.
The City Council had voted three times in open session (2012, 2016 and 2017) to direct staff on conducting an open public process to determine appropriate land uses and a whole array of potential development options for all of Point Molate--including innovative combinations of commercial, educational, research and development, parks, agricultural, historical preservation, etc. with or without some housing.
But instead of an open process, the Council in closed session voted to accept settlement terms that mandate residential land use for most of the buildable land, thus sharply curtailing the scope of the public process that was being planned. (Most of Point Molate consists of unbuildable hillsides, and was always earmarked as open space.) In closed session the Council bypassed open hearings on zoning and planning.
From statements of different Councilmembers we know that the City Council’s vote on the settlement terms was split. (Councilmembers are allowed to state their vote on an issue once the decision has become public.) We thank Councilmembers Eduardo Martinez, Jovanka Beckles, and Melvin Wills for refusing to support the settlement.
This is not the end of the RPA's advocacy on the Point Molate issue. In coming weeks, the RPA will invite its members to take action to help ensure that the land is used for public good, not private profit. Stay tuned.
More About the Settlement
The RPA acknowledges that the Richmond needs more housing, especially affordable housing, and we openly advocate for more transit oriented residential and mixed use development at vacant sites in the city’s core, with an emphasis on maximizing affordability. One example is the large residential development downtown on Nevin between 21st and 23rd Streets that was approved a few years ago and is now breaking ground. The desirability of extensive housing at Point Molate, however, given its remote location and access constraints, has been controversial and was supposed to be fully vetted in the public process that now is moot unless this settlement agreement is reversed through legal action.
The settlement mandate paves the way for Pt. Molate to be an enclave for luxury development. For developers, the fastest way to make profits at a beautiful setting in the Bay Area’s tight housing market is by putting up high dollar residences, as other types of development require lengthier planning and lead time.
In every respect the settlement is a setback for progressive values. It did not even require that the development include affordable housing units (inclusionary housing). It specifically allowed the far-too-low current in-lieu fee. This means that if housing is built under the terms of the settlement (market rate sales) it will almost certainly be all luxury housing.
There are many bad scenarios possible from this bad agreement. Luxury housing is one when in fact our need is for more affordable housing in our urban center accessible to transportation supported by parks on the shore. Problems with access and infrastructure may mean that nothing gets built and that the city is saddled with costs for maintaining the property through a decade or more of attempted sale under the settlement terms but has to give half the sales price to Upstream.
The public is not privy to confidential information and advice given to City councilmembers in closed session, in making their decision, so we can’t fully understand what motivated each person’s vote.
Thoughts about Decision Making
Councilmembers were in a in a tough position, undoubtedly facing intense pressure behind closed doors with skewed information biased towards the Mayor's preferred outcome of implementing the least community-friendly proposed scenario in the 1997 Base Reuse Plan at all costs. Perceived or exaggerated legal risks may also have been a consideration, though the case overall has always been very strong and clear-cut in the City’s favor—see below for a brief summary of background information on Point Molate. We also know that a strong-arming approach in closed session was expected by Pt Molate community advocates and many attempted to encourage the council to exhibit strong political will in spite of this.
In any event, nothing should have prevented the Council from insisting on bringing the proposed settlement to the public before finalizing it. Union and other negotiators will generally walk away from the table if the other side says that you have to decide now or the deal is off. Yet the City’s negotiating team agreed to Upstream’s demand for finalizing a settlement in closed session without public review.
A number of RPA members and community members who have devoted thousands of volunteer hours over the years researching and advocating for community participation in outcomes at a casino-free Point Molate, and who have acquired in-depth knowledge on all aspects of Point Molate, including legal ones, met with all of the RPA endorsed council members after rumors of a settlement began to surface. They urged caution and at a minimum no decision on settlement terms until after the City had determined appropriate land uses at Point Molate via the extensive public process that was being planned. And the RPA steering committee, at its March 15 meeting, voted to call for no settlement until after this public process was completed.
This issue also brings into focus questions about how elected officials make their decisions and how we as an activist movement can hold our elected officials responsible. The RPA is planning to examine these questions in the immediate future
Remember that chant “Bernie, Bernie, Bernie?
There’s a new one now: “Nina, Nina, Nina”!
Nina Turner, President of Our Revolution, is coming to the East Bay to help us send to Sacramento and the Alameda County DA seat three corporate-free, people powered WOMEN.
No one is more eloquent than Nina Turner, President of Our Revolution. Her grandma told her about three bones in the body (Ask her!) -- she’s got all three!
Nina Turner brings a powerful message to the Bay Area Saturday, April 28th at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School from 6pm-8pm.
Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign was attacked as mostly “Bernie Bros” - young men operating on social media. Never true. Here are the new “Bernie Bros”– four WOMEN, dynamic, experienced, and out to help us take back our government!
No one is a more determined and successful champion of all kinds of voters than Jovanka Beckles, Richmond City Council person, now Assembly District 15 candidate.
Gayle McLaughlin has been leading Richmond and the East Bay for years. Now she’s going (for us) for Lieutenant Governor.
Pamela Price promises to be an innovative, corruption-free Alameda County District Attorney, and she and Jovanka have endorsed each others’ corporate-free agendas.
These four women are people-people. They listen carefully. They craft solutions creatively. They fight resolutely for all of us who want corporate money out of politics, who want medicare for all now, who want the broken justice system fixed.
Come, celebrate and support four women who are fighting for us!
California’s environmental and environmental justice communities are unanimously opposed to Proposition 70, which they are characterizing at a Big Oil attack on California’s climate policy.
According to the No on Prop 70 coalition, if passed Prop 70 “would seize funding that is currently used to fight pollution and improve community health. It would subject this funding to a two-thirds vote in 2024, and by doing so, it would hold these climate investments hostage to the lobbying of corporate interests. Prop 70 would lead to budget gridlock, undermine California’s progress on climate change and clean air, and increase the power of corporate interests.”
California decided to stop requiring a two-thirds vote for budgeting because it introduced gridlock and dysfunction. It also increased pork barrel projects because a minority of legislators were able to delay the process and extract compromises in exchange for their votes. By requiring a two-thirds vote over climate funding, Prop 70 would enable powerful lobbyists to block good climate programs and to fund wasteful projects that only benefit corporate interests.
Richmond has been battling Chevron’s refinery emissions for decades. But did you know that just north of us in Rodeo the Phillips 66 refinery is planning a huge expansion that would double the number of tankers bringing crude oil into the Bay? To make matters worse, according to Baykeeper:
“The oil arriving at the Phillips refinery will likely be dirty, heavy tar sands oil. This type of oil is difficult, if not impossible, to remove after a spill. In 2010, when tar sands oil spilled into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, response crews were unable to completely remove the oil from the riverbed, even after five years of cleanup efforts. If tar sands oil spilled in San Francisco Bay, it could irreparably smother bottom-dwelling life forms that are critical to the Bay’s food chain.
“The Phillips refinery also has a poor track record of oil spills. [In September 2016,] oil was spilled during the unloading of a tanker ship, causing large oil slicks in northern San Francisco Bay. Over 100 nearby residents sought treatment at hospital emergency rooms for exposure to unidentified fumes, and Vallejo officials urged community members to stay indoors with their windows closed. Until recently, the refinery denied any responsibility for the oil spill that is now linked to the nearby air quality complaints.
“More than doubling the number of oil tankers on their way to Phillips 66 via the Bay would increase the risk of spills. What’s more, the oil tankers will need to navigate through a San Francisco Bay shipping channel that is scheduled for less frequent dredging than in the past, due to new budget concerns raised by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. While the exact effects of reduced dredging on tanker traffic are unclear, it is possible that the risk of tankers running aground will increase."
Phillips is pushing this proposal because San Luis Obispo, concerned about oil spills and health impacts, recently quashed the company's efforts to bring more oil into their SLO refinery via train.