Judge dismisses environmental suit against Point Molate development

SunCal affiliate can move forward with controversial 1,400-unit mixed-use project in Richmond

Tom Butt, mayor of Richmond, CA (City of Richmond, iStock)
Tom Butt, mayor of Richmond, CA (City of Richmond, iStock)

A controversial development planned for Richmond’s northern shoreline can move forward after winning a legal battle this week.

A judge this week dismissed a lawsuit brought by environmental groups attempting to block developer SunCal’s plans to bring 1,425 housing units and over 400,000 square feet of commercial space to 193 acres of the Point Molate peninsula, the Mercury News reported.

The Point Molate Alliance and North Coast Rivers Alliance, among other plaintiffs, sued last year, claiming city officials approved the project without lawfully addressing its potential environmental impacts and that the development failed to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act, the state constitution and Richmond’s own general plan.

After hearing arguments for both sides in November, Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Edward G. Weil decided to throw out the lawsuit on Monday, handing a victory to SunCal and Richmond Mayor Tom Butt, who supported the development over the objections of at least four members of the six-person City Council.

The site in question has been at the center of a decade-long debate over whether new development would revitalize the city’s economy and provide much-needed housing or lead to environmental disaster.

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

Weil’s 42-page decision said there wasn’t enough evidence to support the coalition’s complaint that the city didn’t adequately account for the project’s potential harm to Point Molate’s water quality, uncovered tribal artifacts, acres of eelgrass beds and raptor nesting sites.

Mayor Butt spoke out in favor of the development and said the judge’s decision is a big win for the people who have been advocating to redevelop Point Molate for more than 25 years.

The debate over the Point Molate development stirred up quite a bit of controversy at Richmond City Hall when, in a closed session last fall, Council members Gayle McLaughlin, Claudia Jimenez, Eduardo Martinez and Melvin Willis asked the former city attorney Teresa Strickler to support the environmentalist groups instead of defending the city.

No such action was taken, but the incident led to Strickler’s resignation, the departure of the city manager and a vote to censure the mayor.

Read more

[MN] — Victoria Pruitt