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Richmond Sun

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November 2016

ISSUES | Development

Stop developers from buying bypasses & defend General Plan
RPA opposes "Richmond Riviera" ballot measure

The following statement was drafted and approved by the RPA Steering Committee and presented to and endorsed by the membership at the December meeting:

The Richmond Progressive Alliance strongly opposes the "Richmond Riviera" ballot measure scheduled to come before the voters next June.  We oppose this measure because it undermines the ability of our community to determine and realize our vision for our city. Over several years Richmond has developed a General Plan to expand housing here, to meet the needs of the community and at the same time improve the quality of our lives by paying attention to the air we breathe, transit and traffic, the shoreline and parks, and our tax base.  The General Plan should not be pushed aside simply to meet the desires of a developer of a particular area.

The "Richmond Riviera" item came to the City Council in November 2015 because developer Richard Poe had paid signature-gatherers to get a qualifying number of signatures on a petition for a revision of the General Plan.  The revision would allow his development company to build a specific project on Ford Point (next to the Craneway and forthcoming Ferry Terminal). There are many objections to the content of the proposal, including density, design, and setbacks.

Even more importantly, we have a process for approving specific projects that involves formal Design Review, the Planning Commission, and the City Council, as well as processes for making changes in our General Plan.  Just as we reject the idea of giving in to developers who buy lobbyists or special favors, we reject the idea that these community processes should be bypassed by developers who have the money to pay for signature gatherers and can thereby force the City to either agree to a project as they propose it or face the expense of putting it on the ballot. If the Richmond Riviera project were to succeed in the June primary, it would open the door for every developer who wanted to bypass Richmond's development approval process.

The initiative procedure is not appropriate for these kinds of complicated decisions.  Voters will be asked simply to vote yes/no on 12 pages of legal documents with modifications to the General Plan, zoning changes, and a development agreement with the City that would not be subject to any future modification or negotiation.  (See Item L2 of City Council agenda for 11/17/15, including the initiative and the staff's response to it at http://sireweb.ci.richmond.ca.us/sirepub/agdocs.aspx?doctype=agenda&itemid=51486.)

We ask Richmond voters to decisively turn down this initiative and to close one door that allows big money to control our politics.
We note that some of the support for Poe's project exists because some Richmond residents have lost confidence in the Richmond Planning Department. The planning function of the City is vital to our future and full democratic control must be restored.   But it will not be helped by turning over control of planning decisions to those who have enough money for signature-gathering and then running expensive PR campaigns.