Slots vs. pot: Bay Area city mulls waterfront fate

Richmond, California (AP) November 2010

It’s slots versus pot as one city in the San Francisco Bay area considers the fate of a major strip of waterfront property.

An American Indian tribe’s proposed casino at Point Molate in Richmond was rejected by voters earlier this month, though the measure was only advisory. A large-scale marijuana farm was the only other economically viable option for the site, according to a study funded by casino developers and reported by the Contra Costa Times.

Environmental consultants evaluated 28 different proposed uses for the land submitted by the public. They determined that only a medical marijuana growing facility could generate enough revenue to pay market price for the 422-acre property.

Opponents of the project claim the report is slanted to make the casino look better by comparison. Richmond councilman Tom Butt claimed the consultant “pandered to their client loyally, coming up with a fatally flawed report.”

The Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians had proposed a Las Vegas-style casino with an 1,100-room hotel, nightclubs, restaurants, a ferry terminal and housing for the tribe. It is being backed by the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, which operates the Cache Creek Casino Resort in Yolo County.

Jim Levine, a managing partner of Upstream Point Molate LLC that worked with the Pomo tribe on the casino plan, dismissed claims that the report was biased. He said the analysis of alternative uses of the property reflected the realities of the real estate market.

“Unless you get a motivated wealthy single user like Oracle or Google or Microsoft to want to come in and adopt a site, it’s a tough site in the real estate world,” Levine said.

The Emeryville-based company was not interested in developing Point Molate as a pot farm because of the federal ban on the drug, he said.

A public meeting is scheduled next week to discuss the report’s findings.