Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Nov. Richmond Pulse story highlights holiday shopping spots in The Point

   POINT RICHMOND - The Richmond Pulse newspaper published a feature story Nov. 21 highlighting some of the businesses - and holiday events - in the Point Richmond Business District.
     The story focuses at what's being called 'Holiday in the Point' and emphasizes how buying local this holiday season supports the entire community.
     To read the article, follow this link:

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Point Richmond's 2017 'Turkey Shoot' event was a hoot for everyone - as usual

   POINT RICHMOND - The annual Point Richmond Turkey Shoot - a parade, music, some short speeches and a reading of a historic (and growing) poem, was a big hit again Thursday.
     And, of course, there was the imbibing of either Wild Turkey whiskey or non-alcoholic beverages.
     Mayor Tom Butt brought his goats, ukuleles were out in force and several hundred townsfolk turned out to march around the town.
     This year's Turkey Shoot also included a 5K walk-run-stroll in the hour or so before things got underway with the parade.
     Here a link to a short video of the events.

Friday, November 17, 2017

5 pm deadline for comments on draft EIR for proposed Quarry residential project

   RICHMOND - A 90-minute Richmond Planning Commission public hearing Thursday on the draft environmental impact report for the proposed 200-unit Bottoms Quarry residential project focused on two elements: a proposed general plan amendment and citizen concerns about unsafe road conditions on Seacliff Drive.
     And today (Monday, Nov. 20) is the deadline for public comments is 5 p.m. They can be submitted via email to Lina Velasco.
     The general plan amendment - being considered in tandem with review of the proposal - would change the designation from Parks and Recreation to medium density Residential.

Seacliff Drive Traffic Safety
   Traffic engineer Sam Tabibnia told planners the project will add about 1,400 vehicles to the existing 2,000 that now traverse Seacliff Drive daily. He said most of that traffic travels at speeds between 42-45 mph.
     Among recommendations for slowing vehicles down to the legal speed of 25 mph, the draft EIR suggests additional signs and narrowing the traffic lanes to 11-feet with three-foot shoulders.
     That lane-shrinking recommendation was uniformly opposed by members of the public who gave testimony.
     Jeff Vines, a member of the Brickyard Cove Alliance for Responsible Development testified that at a minimum a left-turn lane should be installed in front of the proposed entrance of the 200-unit development.
     "We (BCARD) strongly recommend putting in a left-turn lane," Vines said.
     Another speaker said the project entrance and exit should not be on Seacliff Drive at all, but off Canal Boulevard, crossing a small stretch of city-owned property yards from the Canal-Seacliff intersection.
     "It's the only solution that makes sense," Gail Bourque said.
     In comments after the public hearing closed, several members of the planning commission said they favor getting an outside traffic engineer to evaluate the dangers - and possible solutions - for Seacliff Drive.
     "We are cognizant this is a serious issue," commission member Andrew Butt said.

General Plan Amendment 

   The proposed change from Parks and Recreation to Residential was opposed by several speakers, most of whom pointed to an existing lack of recreational facilities and objected to removing any more potential recreation sites.
     "This is a perfect spot for a lighted baseball or soccer field," Kathryn Dienst testified.
     Dienst previously submitted detailed written objections to the rezoning to the city planning staff after the project was considered by the city Design Review Board. She recommended Thursday that the public get a chance to vote on the general plan amendment.
     "This is spot zoning and you should not approve it," she said.
     Another speaker - heavily involved in area youth sports - echoed the notion that recreational opportunities are in short supply.
     "Removing Parks and Recreation land is not a good idea," Dave Price said.
     Planning commission chair Marilyn Langlois said she was concerned about considering a general plan amendment change at the same time as reviewing the project.
     She noted there is property in other sections of the city already properly zoned for residential construction, with no need for a general plan alteration.
     "I am concerned that we are putting these two things together," Langlois said, adding that doing so might put the developers - New West Development of Las Vegas - at an "unfair advantage" to other potential builders.
     She recommended that city planning staff - and/or the developer - obtain a letter from the East Bay Regional Park District indicating that the park has no interest in developing the property for recreational uses.
     Commissioner Andrew Butt suggested that the draft EIR for the Quarry project should contain a review of the impacts of recreational use on the land as well as the proposed residential.
     "We need to look at some solid evidence, he said.

Comment deadline - Monday, Nov. 20

   Written comments on the draft EIR for the Quarry residential project will be accepted until 5 p.m. Monday by the city staff. The full EIR - which will incorporate comments from the public hearing, written comments and city staff comments - should be completed in early 2018. Following that, there will be more public hearings on the full EIR.
     A copy of the draft Environmental Impact Report for the project can be accessed here: QUARRY PROJECT EIR.
     Comments and questions can be directed to city planning staff member Lina Velasco via email here: LINA VELASCO.

Richmond Planning Commission

 - Michael J. Fitzgerald 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

An 'evening of wine and music' benefit Saturday at Temple Beth Hillel in Hilltop

   HILLTOP DISTRICT - Proceeds from a performance by singer-songwriter Steve Seskin Saturday, Nov. 18 at Temple Beth Hillel will go to help North Bay fire victims.
     Plus, organizers say it will be a great show.

Steve Seskin
     The concert begins at 7 p.m. Admission is $18. Reservations are recommended by calling 510-223-2560 or sending an email to Seskin Reservations.
     Proceeds will go to the North Bay Wildfire Emergency Relief Fund.
     Seskin's music and performances have been praised by music critics in the San Francisco Chronicle, Sacramento Bee and many other publications.
     He is "really an exceptional talent," Alan News of the SF Bay Guardian says.
     Temple Beth Hillel is located at 801 Park Central, Richmond.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Seacliff Dr. safety issues expected to top concerns at planning commission meeting

   RICHMOND - A months-old debate over what needs to be done to make Seacliff Drive less dangerous is expected to be a major part of Thursday's Richmond City Planning Commission meeting.
     The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, 440 Civic Center Plaza.
     The planning commission will be holding a public hearing - and taking public comments - on the draft environmental impact report for the Bottoms Quarry residential project. The 200-unit development is proposed by the Las Vegas firm of New West Development and has been scaled down from the original design of 270 units.
     Since the project was first reviewed by the Point Richmond Neighborhood Council, citizen concerns about Seacliff Drive's safety and traffic issues have been voiced at every meeting.
     The road was originally a fire road, then an emergency vehicle access, members of the Brickyard Cove Alliance for Responsible Development have said at PRNC and city meetings.
     "Seacliff Drive is categorically unsafe in its current configuration," BCARD's Jeff Vines told the Richmond Design Review Board Sept. 13.
     Although citizen testimony at that DRB meeting strongly urged that the city consider major repairs and/or re-engineering of the curving road, the draft EIR only recommends better signage, new striping on the road and shrinking the traffic lanes to 11 feet with three-foot shoulders.
     City planning staff have indicated they believe narrower lanes would help slow traffic.
     Another citizen recommendation - putting in a left-turn lane for vehicles entering the development - is not among the safety recommendations (See Seacliff Drive Safety Improvements below).
     But the issue is still expected to be a big part of discussions at the planning commission meeting after Richmond city officials and Point Richmond residents did an on-site review of Seacliff Drive last Thursday.
Todd Floyd of New West Development
The group agreed that an engineering plan should be drafted for a left turn lane, to ensure safer passage for through traffic.
     But New West Development's Todd Floyd indicated New West is not supportive of the idea of a left turn lane.
     "Although I understand your reasoning, I'm going to follow the EIR's Traffic Analysis which does not recommend installing a Left Turn Pocket," Floyd said in an email to BCARD.
     "We're not shutting the door to your suggestions ... the EIR is the process by which the City's traffic expert analyzes a project's impacts and determines the appropriate improvements that a project should undertake.
     We therefore are abiding by the process and at this time are following the guidance of the City's Draft EIR Traffic Study."
     The final word on that guidance - and whether a left turn lane should be required as a safety measure - is up to members of the planning commission and/or the Richmond City Council as the project winds its way through the city approval process. A list of city planning commission members (from the City of Richmond website) is below.
     The full draft Environmental Impact Report on the project can be found here: DRAFT EIR FOR QUARRY PROJECT.
     Questions about the EIR can be directed to city planner Lina Velasco via email LINA VELASCO or by calling the planning department at 510-620-6841.
     Below are the Seacliff Drive safety improvements as currently listed in the draft EIR for the Quarry project.
RICHMOND planning commission

 --- Michael J. Fitzgerald

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Milo Foundation leads Tuesday night to win $20,000 grant, voting ends Wednesday

   POINT RICHMOND - The Milo Foundation in Point Richmond was in the lead Tuesday night in an online contest to win as much as $20,000 in a grant from the Healthy Paws Pet Insurance & Foundation.
     The online voting ends Wednesday, Nov. 29 at 11:59 p.m.
     As of 11 p.m. Tuesday, the Milo Foundation was in first place with 50,451 votes. The organization in second place had 48,337.
     The voting will help the organization decide how much funding each of six animal-help outfits receives.
     All six organizations are guaranteed at least $5,000 to help fund their life-saving work. The top vote getter will be awarded $20,000, second place $10,000. Third through sixth all receive $5,000 each.
     To vote, click on this HELP MILO link and follow the directions:

Friday, November 10, 2017

Bottoms Quarry project EIR proposes narrowing Seacliff Drive lanes to 11 feet

   POINT RICHMOND - A public hearing Thursday on the proposed Bottoms Quarry residential project on Seacliff Drive is expected to include testimony from a number of citizens concerned about traffic issues - the same traffic issues that have come up in nearly every review of the proposal.
     Thursday's hearing will be conducted by the Richmond Planning Commission beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, 440 Civic Center Plaza, Richmond.
     The public hearing is to take comments about a draft environmental impact report completed in early October. LINK: DRAFT EIR FOR QUARRY PROJECT.
    The 200-unit project, proposed by New West Development of Las Vegas, has been under discussion since last spring. Originally the developer sought to build 270-units.
     At meetings of the Point Richmond Neighborhood Council and the Richmond Design Review Board, the strongest comments focused around citizens' concerns about the safety of Seacliff Drive.
     "It was originally a fire road, then an EVA access road and then - without further engineering to accommodate community traffic - it morphed into a full service access road to the Cove Community,"  Jeff Vines, a member of the Brickyard Cove Alliance for Responsible Development told the Richmond DRB Sept. 13.
     "Seacliff Drive is categorically unsafe in its current configuration," he testified.
Bottoms Quarry condo project off Seacliff Drive in Point Richmond
     BCARD and a number of other members of the public testified at the DRB that the road needs major repairs - and quite likely a complete re-engineering - whether the Bottoms Quarry project moves ahead or not.
     But in the draft EIR up for discussion Thursday, the report recommends shrinking the existing traffic lanes in an effort slow traffic.  The EIR says the lanes will be 11 feet wide with three-foot shoulders on either side of the road. (See "Seacliff Drive Safety Improvements" below.)
     BCARD has labeled that particular recommendation as "preposterous."
     Other citizen safety recommendations - including one to install a left turn lane into the proposed project's only entrance - are not among the draft EIR recommendations.
   The EIR says that signs - including a warning of curves ahead and indicating a 25-mph speed limit - are adequate.
     BCARD is urging residents to attend the public hearing and voice their opinions about what the draft EIR recommends.
     "BCARD is requesting that there be a large group of residents in attendance and willing to speak," the group said in a public notice. "The City and the developer need to understand that without appropriate changes to Seacliff Drive, the community will continue to strongly oppose the plan as proposed."
     The full draft Environmental Impact Report for the 6.3 acre project can be read here: QUARRY EIR. The transportation section begins on page 404. BCARD representatives suggested in their announcement of the public hearing that residents be sure to read pages 436-440.
     Questions about the project or the draft EIR can also be directed to city planner Lina Velasco via email at this address: LINA VELASCO or by telephone at 510-620-6841.

Proposed Safety Improvements (in the draft EIR)

From the DRAFT EIR - Page 2-20

By Michael J. Fitzgerald

Monday, November 6, 2017

Pt. Richmond Terminal One project on agenda for Weds. Richmond DRB meeting

   UPDATE: The meeting begins at 6 p.m. and will be held in the city council chambers.

RICHMOND - A public hearing on the proposed 316-unit Terminal One residential project on Dornan Drive in Point Richmond will be held Wednesday when the City of Richmond Design Review Board meets.
     The meeting begins at 6 p.m. and will be held in the city council chambers at the Richmond Civic Center Plaza, not the multi-purpose room as previously announced..
Existing site of Terminal One
     The public will have the opportunity to comment on the nearly 14-acre project, but comments need to be limited to the appearance of the proposed buildings and site, architecture, construction materials and color, according to the chair of the DRB, Jonathan Livingston.
     Other issues with the proposal - which was approved by the Richmond City Council in July 2016 - need to be addressed directly to council members, Livingston said.
     The Wednesday evening session follows a one and a half-hour informational meeting Saturday at the Richmond Yacht Club. LINK: Saturday's Terminal One Meeting.
     Design issues were discussed. But many of the 100 people attending were interested in a series of serious ongoing environmental issues identified at the site, the nearly complete lack of parking along a new shoreside road and financial responsibility for a planned new public park and pier.
     The environmental issues were raised by members of the Brickyard Cove Alliance for Responsible Growth (BCARD) which has been attempting to follow the developer's attempts at monitoring and cleanup.
     A city document outlining the Terminal One project in detail can be found here: TERMINAL ONE.
     Questions about the project or comments can also be directed to city planner Lina Velasco by telephone (510-620-6841) or through email: LINA VELASCO.
     Ms. Velasco is expected to be part of the DRB meeting Wednesday night as staff.

Developer provided artist sketch of plan

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Environmental problems, design issues & parking dominate Terminal One meeting

   POINT RICHMOND - Progress on a badly needed environmental cleanup, parking along a proposed new public shoreline road and significant changes to the design of the proposed Terminal One project on Dornan Drive were the focus of a sometimes boisterous informational meeting at the Richmond Yacht Club Saturday morning.
Brian Lewis of BCARD
     About 100 people filled the dining room of the RYC to hear from Brian Lewis of the Brickyard Cove Alliance for Responsible Development (BCARD) and Jonathan Livingston, chair of the City of Richmond's Design Review Board.
     The audience was also there to ask questions - which they did for a good part of the one and a half-hour meeting.
     The architecture, construction materials and colors of the proposed 316-unit development are all up for official city consideration Wednesday evening when the Richmond Design Review Board will hold a public hearing on the shoreside project.
     The meeting starts at 6 p.m. in the multi-purpose room at the Richmond Civic Center Plaza and is open to the public.
     But chair Livingston made it plain that issues still of concern to many people - like how many stories the buildings will be or the number of required parking places - have already been decided by the Richmond City Council when it gave its approval in July of 2016.
     That approval included dropping the proposed height on two of the buildings from five stories to four.
     The meeting began with an explanation of BCARD's continuing role in monitoring the environmental cleanup of the nearly 14-acre site.
From BCARD's presentation on environmental cleanup
     BCARD's Lewis walked the audience through a series of explanatory slides showing various testing sites on the large parcel, lists of known contaminants and other environmental issues.
     "The cleanup is critical," Lewis said.
     He added that BCARD has not been getting promised regular reports from the developer making it very difficult to assess where the project is environmentally. "It's hard to say how much of it has been cleaned up. We are not seeing the data."
     The second presentation - by Livingston of the city Design Review Board - showed the changes submitted by the developer since the project was initially approved.
     Among those were exterior changes to colors and materials. The developer also wants to substitute a cantilevered deck design for decks supported by steel uprights.
    "The committee is really interested in hearing what the public's opinions are about what the project will look like," Livingston said.
      One issue of concern was who would be responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of a proposed city park on the site of the development - and the public pier.
      Livingston said the legal documents approved by the city appear to make the development's homeowner's association responsible for those two features.
     A number of questions were also raised about parking for individuals wanting to use the proposed public park and/or the yet-to-be reconstructed pier. A proposed new perimeter road that will run along the edge of the bay - called Shoreline Drive on drawings - shows no parking spaces.
     On site, the project is required by the city to provide 1.6 parking spaces per residential unit, with the spaces allocated for use by Terminal One residents.
     Several members of the audience voiced concern that people wanting to use the new park and renovated pier would be forced to park in a nearby existing Miller-Knox parking lot (which frequently fills to overflowing) or along adjacent streets which also fill quickly, particularly on weekends.
     The City of Richmond's report and documents about Terminal One can be accessed by clicking on this link: TERMINAL ONE
     Questions or comments about the project can also be directed to city planner Lina Velasco either by telephone at 510-620-6841 or email at: LINA VELASCO.
Saturday's meeting at the Richmond Yacht Club about the Terminal One project
Developer provided design of Terminal One project

by Michael J. Fitzgerald

Friday, November 3, 2017

Terminal One meeting Saturday at the RYC

   POINT RICHMOND - The first of two public meetings on the proposed 14-acre Terminal One waterfront project on Dornan Drive will be held Saturday at the Richmond Yacht Club.
     The meeting is expected to be an informational session about some significant design changes developers have made to the proposal.
     The meeting begins at 10:30 a.m. and is open to the public.
     The RYC is located at 351 Brickyard Cove Road and is adjacent to the property of the proposed Terminal One project.
   Wednesday, Nov. 8), there will be another Terminal One meeting, a public hearing conducted by the City of Richmond's Design Review Board.
     That meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the multi-purpose room in the basement of the Richmond Civic Center Plaza.
     The DRB will be listening to public (and developer) testimony as it considers a design review permit for the project.
     The 316-unit, mostly residential project includes plans for condos as well as single family homes, a waterfront park, a small commercial component and improvements to the the San Francisco Bay Trail and neighboring streets.
   A city project description of the project is available here: TERMINAL ONE.
     Questions can be directed to Richmond city planner Lina Velasco at 510-620-6841 or via email: LINA VELASCO.

'Flames covered a football field-sized area in three seconds' - Richmond OES manager

   POINT RICHMOND - Richmond's manager of the Office of Emergency Services offered some hair-raising observations Thursday evening about the fires that devastated much of the City of Santa Rosa and the Sonoma and Napa Valleys last month.
     "One American Red Cross person said she saw that the flames covered a football-field-sized area in three seconds," Genevieve Pastor-Cohen told a meeting of the Point Richmond Neighborhood CERT at the Point Richmond Community Center.
     CERT stands for Community Emergency Response Team.
Genevieve Pastor-Cohen, Richmond OES manager
     Pastor-Cohen joined the Richmond City staff in April and is in the process of organizing emergency responses - including meeting with local CERT teams and coordinating efforts with emergency agencies such as those offered by Contra Costa County.
     (LINK: Richmond OES office)
    When she worked with the City of Oakland, Pastor-Cohen assisted with the emergency operations center set up to deal with the Ghost Ship fire.
     Much of her one-hour talk centered on the recent Northern California fires which, she said, "Will be the subject of discussions for many, many months among emergency services managers" across the state.
     CERT members also queried Pastor-Cohen about existing Richmond procedures for emergencies and what items should be kept in emergency "go bags" for residents.
     A "go bag" is a satchel kept handy in case a house needs to be evacuated quickly.
     In the Santa Rosa fires, some evacuees fled burning buildings without even time to put on shoes.
     Pastor-Cohen said a good friend of hers lost her home in the Santa Rosa blaze. The friend returned the street where she lived as soon as fire crews said it was safe.
     The house was gone, burned completely to the ground.
     The only thing still standing was her mailbox at the curb.
     When she opened the mailbox, it had one item inside - a bill from PG&E.

 Michael J. Fitzgerald

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Terminal One meetings Sat. and Weds.

   POINT RICHMOND - The proposed 14-acre Terminal One waterfront project on Dornan Drive will be the focus of two meetings in the next week.
     The first meeting is this Saturday (Nov. 4), an informational session about reportedly significant design changes. That meeting will be held at the Richmond Yacht Club from 10:30 a.m. to noon. The meeting is open to the public.
     The RYC is located at 351 Brickyard Cove Road and borders the property that will hold the development - provided it wins all necessary city approvals.
     The second meeting will be a public hearing before the City of Richmond Design Review Board Wednesday (Nov. 8) beginning at 6 p.m. in the multi-purpose room, basement level of the Richmond Civic Center Plaza.
     The DRB meeting is to take public testimony and consider a design review permit for the project. The mostly residential, 316-unit project proposal includes plans for a waterfront park, commercial space and infrastructure improvements for roads and the San Francisco Bay Trail.
     A city project description is available here: TERMINAL ONE.
     Questions about the project can be directed to Richmond staff planner, Lina Velasco at 510-620-6841 or by email: LINA VELASCO.