Tom Butt Is Lying to You About: Point Molate

Tom Butt Is Lying to You About: Point Molate

Welcome to our new series, in which we sift through Mayor Tom Butt's latest lie.

This week, issues surrounding the potential development of Pt. Molate came to a head this week as the developer, SunCal, filed a lawsuit against the City of Richmond. There has been a lot of misinformation circulating, so we want to set the record straight by answering some common questions.

1. Did Richmond sell Point Molate for $400? 

No. For the next five years, casino developers Upstream Inc. and the Guideville tribe of the Pomos have marketing rights to Point Molate. That means they are the only ones who can “market” Point Molate to prospective buyers. UpStream and the Tribe can’t sell it to whomever they want, and they can’t sell it for however much they want. 

2. Where did “$400” come from?

If UpStream and the Tribe can’t successfully market Point Molate after five years, they must return all marketing rights back to Richmond. They will then be paid $400. 

3. Can SunCal walk in and rebuy Point Molate?

Theoretically, yes. But it’s unlikely. SunCal can go to UpStream and the Tribe and make an offer for Point Molate. But SunCal didn’t have the money to buy Point Molate before, and it’s unlikely they’ll be able to get the money anytime soon.

4. Did City Council recklessly invite a lawsuit from SunCal? 

No. SunCal did not provide our city with the required information to close the deal. The developer was supposed to give Richmond information about its finances and plans to move forward with Point Molate. They said they had the money but didn’t show us the proof or make the deposit. 

An agreement made in 2020 is also important here. At the time, progressive council members pushed to include a stipulation that “no negative impacts on the General Fund” would result from the city’s cooperation with the developer to issue infrastructure bonds.

But all independent economic analyses show the project would have cost our city hundreds of millions of dollars over the coming years, with virtually no chance of recovering that money. 

For a detailed financial analysis of the project check out Jeff Kilbreth’s article where he crunches the numbers on Pt. Molate. 

5. What’s up with SunCal? 

SunCal is a developer with dozens of bankruptcies. Here’s an article warning us about SunCal’s record all the way back in 2010.

SunCal also seems to like suing cities. Many other communities have been put through the wringer by SunCal, from Alameda to Anaheim to Santa Monica to the state of New Mexico. 

6. What is Mayor Tom Butt’s role in this? 

Bafflingly, Tom Butt seems to want SunCal to sue Richmond. 

After the City Attorney shared his legal opinion to the City Council on May 24 that SunCal failed in meeting its legal obligations, Mayor Butt carelessly invited SunCal to sue Richmond. For instance, he kept asking Councilmember Jimenéz what her plan is for Point Molate, knowing that if she had a plan and answered with specifics, it would give SunCal valid grounds to sue our city. Why would he do that?

Here are some other important ways Tom Butt has created this situation:

  • -Despite the fact that the project would cost the city $6 million per year in infrastructure costs, and that SunCal has a horrible track record, and that their plan was to convert public land to luxury housing, Tom Butt selected SunCal as the Master Developer. 
  • -Before then, he promoted building a casino in Point Molate that Richmond residents later voted down. He then negotiated the $400 settlement deal with Upstream, Inc. and the Tribe that he keeps blaming progressives for. 
  • -He has made a sweetheart deal with his friend Bobby Winston to rent commercial storage space at Winehaven. He killed the citizen’s oversight committee after they dared to question, among other things, the sweetheart deal.

7. Is the RPA opposed to development? 

While we all recognize the urgent need for more housing in Richmond, progressives know that housing needs to be affordable and sustainable. The final result of the SunCal proposal would have been neither. SunCal’s financial plan assured both parties that the project was financially viable, but it was based on faulty assumptions and almost nonexistent documentation. The developer assumed that the infrastructure costs could be covered with bonds. The problem is, state law limits the amount of property tax that can be charged, a cap that includes local taxes and bonds. The result is a financially impossible project that would cost the city millions only to provide homes that are out of reach for the vast majority of Richmond’s residents.