RPA Activist Info Masthead
Issue: #133
March 24, 2014 
Join Our Mailing List


Facebook: Richmond Progressive Alliance   

Paid Supporters for Chevron at Council
Chevron EIR. Where, Meetings
Minimum Wage Going Up to $12.30
More on Deadly Oil Trains
RPA: Applause Yes
LED Signs in Richmond?
Garage Sale for Somos Richmond
Campaign Help Wanted
Principal Reduction Resources
RPA Membership Drive
Some History of RPA

Bobby Bowens Progressive Center
1021 Macdonald,


Since we don't take corporate money,  our success depends on our ability to use "people power" to promote activities and programs in Richmond. The RPA Activist is one tool we use to put out our ideas. One simple thing that YOU can do is to forward the RPA Activist to friends and acquaintances. Thanks.


4500 Page Chevron Report Released
Paid Supporters Welcome EIR at Council

The crowd at Tuesday's Council meeting was remarkable. 

Most of the crowd was apparently paid to attend.  Several in attendance reported that Building Trades members -most of whom do not live in Richmond-- were paid. A group of Richmond residents who were wearing the pro-Chevron shirts said they worked for Chevron.  When asked where they work within the refinery, they explained that they were hired by Chevron to do door-to-door work.


The action was clearly jointly organized by the Building Trades  and Chevron's PR firm Whitehurst-Mosher, whose Richmond operatives were also wearing the Chevron shirts.


The main spokespersons for the building trades were very careful to say the right and reasonable things: It is the job of the city  to examine the  Environmental Impact Report carefully.


But the main message of the paid supporters was that the 4500-page report, just released,  "was perfect,"  as one said. There were thunderous denunciations of the city council for supposedly having stopped the project two years earlier and threats to make sure it would not happen again.



  • The project was not stopped by the City Council. In fact, in 2007 the City Council had a 5-member pro-Chevron majority and they approved the EIR despite the defects that the public pointed out.  It was two courts that ruled that the EIR was badly flawed. (Some would say that Chevron lied.)   Even still Chevron did not have to stop the project.  They had the option of continuing the project while correcting the EIR.  Instead, Chevron abruptly stopped the whole project.

    Only Chevron insiders know why for sure.  One possible reason is that the expansion project was designed and started before the economic collapse of 2007.
    Written in: Chevron Announces upcoming jobs for
    When it became clear how serious the recession was, Chevron's economic interest was to delay the project. The court rulings may have been a convenient excuse for Chevron to stop the project and blame others.&
  • The "Modernization Project's" main purpose is NOT to modernize the plant as a whole. In fact, the majority of the plant is not even being touched by the project. After 5 fires, why aren't they modernizing the whole refinery? Is this really the best they can do?    
  • The two primary purposes of the "Modernization Project" are to increase the amount of hydrogen being produced and to allow processing higher sulfur crude.
  • While some modernization of the crude unit has been added, it remains to be determined just how many of the problems identified by Cal/OSHA and the US Chemical Safety Board are being fixed and whether the "Modernization Project" is making the plant "state-of-the-art."   
  • Even if Chevron makes improvements in emissions control, their plans will create more GHG and toxic air contaminants (TACs) locally in Richmond. The only way they can say "no net increase in emissions" is because they will buy credits elsewhere that "compensate" for the increased
    Chevron 2008 Stoppage 
    Chevron 2008 Stoppage
    pollution in Richmond.   
  • There are a lot of safety improvements and emission reduction opportunities that are not included in this "Modernization Project." Chevron must have ruled them out because of cost or because they would have kept the refinery out of production for a few more weeks. We should expect more of them.   
  • The legal minimum 45 days to study and provide comment on the EIR is sadly insufficient. Thank you to Open Forum speaker Don Gosney and others like Communities for a Better Environment for demanding that the study/comment period be extended.

--Mike Parker

Read the Chevron Project Environmental Impact Report

Click here to download  the full EIR or sections   



Important EIR Dates


Wednesday April 2, the City consultants (paid by Chevron) who drafted the EIR will have two workshops to give important information at the Richmond Auditorium

        9am to 3pm longer version

        6pm to 8:30pm  shorter version   


Thursday April 3, 6:30pm. A study session at the Richmond Planning Commission, City Council Chambers,


Saturday, April 12, 10am -2pm. The Richmond, Environmental Justice Coalition (REJC) is hosting a community training to be held at St. Luke's UMC at 32nd and Barrett Ave. from 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. The training will be on CEQA, the Chevron EIR and our vision for the future of Richmond. This is designed to prepare the community to comment on the Chevron EIR beginning on Thursday, April 17, at the Richmond Planning Commission Public Comment Hearing. The REJC is Communities for a Better Environment, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Richmond Progressive Alliance, 350 BA, Urban Tilth, ACCE, BABC.


Thursday, April 17,  6:30pm.  Richmond Planning Commission, Chevron EIR  Public Comment Hearing, 6:30 p.m. Richmond City Council Chambers. This is the first opportunity to inform the Planning Commission of the community's ideas and concerns about the Chevron EIR. There will be a pre-meeting rally at 5:30 p.m. in the Richmond Civic Center Plaza. We need to have a strong showing and good comments at this critical meeting.



Council Acts 
Raising the Minimum Wage $12.30/hr

Our effort to boost the minimum wage took a big step forward Tuesday March 18th, when the Richmond City Council voted 6-1 for $12.30/hr, to be phased in by 2017.  Mayor McLaughlin, who co-sponsored the initial resolution with Vice Mayor Beckles and Councilmember Myrick, moved to accelerate the process from a November ballot initiative to a council vote, saying: "Why not sooner rather than later?"  The measure still must pass a second reading next month.

City staff and advisers developed a plan to limit the raise to no more than 20%/yr, consistent with research that showed this incremental change does not adversely impact the number of jobs.  Businesses with less than 10 employees will be exempted, as will some summer job and training programs.  After reaching the $12.30/hr rate, an annual cost of living raise would follow.  The chair of Richmond's Chamber of Commerce, Michael Davenport,  said his organization recognized the need for a wage increase.

Kudos to all those who called, emailed, held signs, spoke to the Council, and -yes-- applauded in support.  

While the wage increase will undoubtedly help the lowest paid workers, their families, and the local economy, it is still well below the current Living Wage for an adult working full-time supporting a family.  (Click here for MIT study.)    Richmond is part of a regional economy and getting too far ahead of the surrounding area could end up damaging city efforts. But by passing this measure Richmond is leading the way and encouraging the surrounding cities to move ahead and hopefully start a "virtuous cycle"  or a race to a true living wage for our residents
--Patsy Byers
Not in Our Back Yards (or Anyone's)
More on Deadly Trains in Richmond
Oil Train in Lac-Mégantic 
photo: Montreal Gazette
You read it here first, if you read the RPA Activist #131 (3/5/14): "Deadly Trains in Richmond." After this newsletter broke the story, other Bay Area television, internet, and print media have added detail: Mile long 100-car trains loaded with crude oil are rolling in to Richmond. In mid-March, KPIX showed video of the crude at Richmond's BNSF rail yards (leased by Kinder Morgan) being transferred from rail cars to tanker trucks for the drive to a local refinery. (In this case it was Tesoro in Martinez.) We don't know the type or source of the crude: Canadian tar sands or fracked Bakken shale? Commercial confidentiality agreements trump the public's need to know that information.



The rapidly rising quantities of crude crossing the state by rail prompted joint hearings on emergency response to rail accidents by the California Senate's Environmental Quality and Natural Resources and Water Committees on Wednesday. They revealed that our state is woefully ill-prepared to cope with possible accidents. Local firefighters and emergency responders lack the numbers, training, equipment, and other resources to be effective in the event of a raging crude fire, explosion or spill. California's current reserve for clean-up of inland oil spills stands at a whopping $13,000. The true public costs to support private profits are staggering.


Earlier, the Activist noted that Kinder Morgan, the largest pipeline company in the U.S. and a huge chemical transporter, had quietly converted its Richmond facility from ethanol to crude oil.  This conversion and the off-loading operation rely on permits issued (in September and February) by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD). It undertook these actions without requiring updated Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs) or any public hearings. Richmond organizer Andres Soto from Communities for a Better Environment says that CBE's legal staff and Earth Justice's staff are currently researching that decision and working to develop a strategy to address the "rolling bombs."


Richmond already pays a heavy price for its involvement with crude, and the communities closest to the tracks and at greatest risk are among those already most severely impacted: Atchinson Village, the Iron Triangle, and North Richmond. We also need to think about those farther back the line, in other cities, with old bridges, and in rural areas where emergency response would certainly be slow and inadequate.

Ruined Lac-Mégantic Downtown

And remember those who live along or drive on the highways, or ride the Capitol Corridor, and those all the way back to North Dakota or Alberta or wherever it is, who live where both sides of the tracks are now, clearly, wrong.


The KPIX anchor scoffed at Richmond's claim that it couldn't regulate what came in to the rail yard here, but, in fact, rail transport is controlled at the federal level. However, we can make our position clear; we can fight for more responsible choices from the agencies charged with protecting our health and environment; and we can promote a vision of a fossil fuel free future and work to bring it to fruition.


On Tuesday March 25, Mayor Gayle McLaughlin has scheduled a study session where oil industry analyst and investigative reporter Antonia Juhasz will give a presentation on the dangers of transporting crude oil by rail, followed by the introduction of a resolution calling on Richmond staff "to draft a letter to our congressional delegation calling on them to take steps to halt the movement of crude oil in the US by rail until this mode of transport is fully regulated such that the health, welfare, and safety of people and the environment are protected." [Click this link to read the Resolution in its entirety.]

--Patsy Byers 

RPA Statement
We Applaud Applause
We believe that members of the public at political events like city council meetings should be able to express agreement with  speakers through applause. We are proud that the RPA has attracted increased attendance and participation at city council meetings.  We believe that the decisions that the Council makes are important and that citizen involvement in these issues is crucial.
One reason that city council meetings take longer now is because the Council is more open, so people come to the Council with their issues.  It is true that in cities that are run by powerful interests where the residents feel shut out, the meetings usually proceed more smoothly and with fewer surprises. Democracy takes a bit longer and may be bumpy, but it is the far superior system. If applause could in fact be prohibited, the only way that people attending council meetings could express themselves would be by signing up to speak. This would take much longer than the few extra seconds for applause when people finish speaking.

We believe that Councilman Butt is mistaken in trying to prevent applause.  Googling "clapping, applause, and city councils" show only that attempts by city councils to limit applause cause still greater controversy and generate rules that are often ignored and violated.

Applause is normally positive. As such, it is different from acts of disrespect and verbal disruption. Disrespect and disrutption should not be tolerated at council meetings, especially not when someone is speaking at odds with the majority sentiment of the Council or those present in the Council Chambers.

As a community-based organization, the RPA strongly disagrees with a current practice in which special interest groups pay money to persons to attend city council meetings to effect a pretense of citizen support.   We find this practice disrespectful to Richmond and a mockery of the democratic process.
Statement of RPA Steering Committee  

Planning Commission to Consider
LED  Advertising Signs in Richmond?
Proposed LED Sign
132 ft tall

Richmond's Planning Department staff are currently working on a proposed modification in the sign ordinance to allow for LED advertising signs with changing images under certain circumstances.  The proposal will first be presented to the Planning Commission to make a recommendation to the City Council, possibly at the May 1 Planning Commission meeting.   We'll keep you informed if this date changes.

After participating on an ad hoc committee of Planning Commissioners and Design Review Board members, I continue to have serious concerns about the advisability of allowing LED signs in Richmond.  It would set us down a slippery slope of ever-increasing and constantly changing garish visual images advertising mostly products for big corporations.

These types of LED signs are extremely distracting to drivers.  They are designed to try and keep drivers' eyes looking at them and their contents for a longer period of time than stationary signs, and that's what the advertisers want too.  I want drivers focusing their attention on the road.

The proposed ordinance changes would allow for large, billboard sized LED signs at major shopping areas such as Hilltop and Macdonald/I-80, after going through the DRB and getting a conditional use permit from the Planning Commission.  Depending on design requirements these could be either horizontal (what the advertising companies prefer) or vertical (as recommended by DRB member Mike Woldemar).   Another provision would allow for sign companies like Clear Channel and CBE Outdoors to get a permit for LED billboards at major shopping areas if they agree to permanently remove some of their other stationary billboards in other parts of Richmond.

There is currently a somewhat smaller LED sign with changing images at Pacific East Mall, which was installed during a time when such signs were allowed only after following a specific approval process (including noticing the neighbors and vetting through DRB), In that case, the required process was not followed, however, and the legality of that sign has been questioned.  Since then, the ordinance was modified to prohibit LED signs.

The big sign companies are garnering support from businesses at Hilltop with the promise of erecting a big sign to advertise the Mall free of charge, but at what price?  I doubt people will be any more likely to go to Hilltop Mall if LED signs are introduced there.  A big billboard with changing images will draw attention to the various products advertised on those LED images, and not to the stationary listing of businesses affixed to part of the sign.  Besides, there are other reasons why Hilltop businesses are struggling. Could it be that the presence of Walmart has caused many of them to fold, as has happened in other cities?   Why doesn't Walmart (one of the world's wealthiest corporations) pay to erect a visible, attractive stationary sign that lists all of its Hilltop neighbors?  

If the proposed ordinance is adopted, what if Hilltop businesses still don't do any better after the LED sign is in place?  We'd be stuck with the constantly changing advertising slide show there and most elsewhere in the city.

--Marilyn Langlois 
Richmond Planning Commissioner
Please Donate Items
Somos Richmond Garage Sale

GARAGE SALE- Donation of Items Requested
local Latino group promoting full Latino voting.
Funds will support educational activities.
Donate items that will sell (no garbage please).
Contact Jesse Montiel at 510-563-9617 
Garage SALE
at 725 32nd St
from 8 AM - to 3 PM
Donate items in advance preferably (call Jesse)
Also accepted that morning.

Campaign Research Help Wanted

The RPA is in campaign mode. We need to do some research using the computer.  In one screen, we need to highlight some text and click, "copy." Then we need to right click the cursor into the correct cell of the spread sheet and click, "paste."

In the end, we will have a compilation of information that can document some of the campaign's claims.

Completing the research will go so much more smoothly and quickly if we divide it up.  After an orientation to what we're doing, you might be able to do parts from home. That would help it go so much faster.  Even better, as you go along doing this clerical task, you could also note observations and offer analysis.  

If this sounds like something you would like to pitch in and help us other volunteers with, that would be so fabulous.

With this campaign, we got David vs Goliath here.  We all need to pitch in to keep Richmond moving in a progressive direction together.

Please let us know if you can help in this or any other way. Call 510-412-2260 and leave a message for Kathleen.

Program to Stop Foreclosures and Fight Blight
Get Answers to your Questions

New Videos Explain Principle Reduction Programs

The Real Nightmare on Elm St.: Fighting Foreclosures with Local Principal Reduction 
The Real Nightmare on Elm St.: Fighting Foreclosures with Local Principal Reduction

New from Jeff Ritterman

"Heart Attacks, Depression and Suicide: The Toxic Fallout From the Foreclosure Epidemic and a Prevention Strategy That Just Might Work"

Click here for the Huffington Post article

For in-depth information on the legal and economic theory behind this strategy, readHere are some other good sources you can get on-line

 RPA Membership Drive Continues 

Become an RPA member
Under the leadership of Mayor McLaughlin and her progressive colleagues on the City Council, 
Richmond has drawn local, national and international attention with its innovative solutions to persistent problems.  Let's keep the momentum going!  As we gear up for the coming election year in 2014, RPA needs your support more than ever. Join now and be part of history in the making.
Dues are just $12 per year (or more if you are able), and go towards paying our share of rent at the Bobby Bowens Progressive Center, 1021 Macdonald Ave--a space that is used by RPA and other organizations for educational forums, town hall meetings, strategy sessions, campaign organizing, celebrations and many other events open to the community.
By joining now you'll get our e-newsletter and action alerts, and opportunities to participate in building a better Richmond.  We'll also give you a large, attractive tote bag--ideal for grocery shopping, now that Richmond has enacted a plastic bag ban as another step toward protecting our precious environment. 
Don't put it off--  write, call or e-mail us now!

Join the RPA

RPA Symbol

We can only keep this city moving forward, protect our health and safety, and resist corporate domination of our politics if enough of us join together. We are asking you to take sides--to join the RPA.     




UNITY - One Richmond: African-American, Asian, Latino/a, Native Americans, white, united for the good of all.

DEMOCRACY- Government of, for, by the people; all the people, not just those rich enough to buy influence.

DIVERSITY - of ideas: Democrats, Greens, independents, or other. We sometimes disagree but respect each other enough to keep working for a better Richmond together.


  • participate in periodic RPA discussions and events of community interest;
  • staff the office, make phone calls, meet in committees, arrange events and parties;
  • work on campaigns of RPA-endorsed candidates for city council;
  • engage with neighbors;
  • help shape RPA and its priorities;
  • join in support of other allied organizations working to make a difference in Richmond;
  • read the newsletter at www.richmondprogressivealliance.net for what REALLY goes on in Richmond;
  • eat; have fun.

Download the membership form and mail it in with dues.


Send us an email at info@richmondprogressivealliance.net with the information requested on the form.  And go to the RPA web page. Press the "Donate" button in the left column and make a dues contribution. An additional contribution is greatly appreciated and helps us keep dues low for those with low income.


Some History and Understanding of the RPA
  Social Policy Article

Long article with pictures 

--have patience in downloading


RPA Activist Info

is for Richmond community members who want to be active in taking on the problems of the environment, racism, joblessness, housing, and crime to create a healthy Richmond. We believe that community involvement means more than voting every two years. It means regular communication with the candidates we elect, letting them know our issues and positions, supporting them as they try to take our issues forward. It means we attend meetings, use email, phone our neighbors, or go on marches building an organized movement to create real change.

Comments and columns are welcome. Articles and columns are the views of the author, unsigned text  the views of the editor, Mike Parker, and not necessarily those of the RPA. Send photos, articles, and comments to  RPAactivist@gmail.com or call  510-595-4661. Longer articles of analysis and archives of past newsletters can be found on our website.