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Point Molate

A series of articles published by Bay Crossings in 2015 provides an excellent summary of Point Molate's unique, colorful history and its promising future following rejection of a proposed gambling casino:

The 413-acre former Point Molate Naval Fuel Depot (NFD) contains about 290 acres of land above high tide elevation. Located on Richmond’s shoreline about a mile north of the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge, this unique site contains:

  • 1.4 miles of unoccupied shoreline 
  • A 400 foot high ridge line with sweeping views of two bays, a Victorian island lighthouse, Mount Tamalpais and Mount Saint Helena
  • A 1400 foot long pier providing deep water access
  • the 41-acre Winehaven Historic District
  • A Rhineland-style castle that was part of the largest winery in the U.S. prior to Prohibition 
  • Extensive inter tidal eel grass beds and
  • Rare coastal prairie and coastal bluff native plant communities.

Once the largest winery in the United States, the 41-acre Winehaven Historic District is recognized under both Federal and State law.

Beginning in 1942, Point Molate served as a U.S. Navy fuel storage and transfer facility. It closed on September 30, 1995 under the U.S. Department of Defense Base Realignment and Closure Act of 1990. The Navy sold 218 acres of the property to the City of Richmond for one dollar in September 2003. Transfer of the remaining land was completed in March 2010 under an Early Transfer Cooperative Agreement under which the Navy provided the City with $28.5 million for a cleanup approach agreed upon by the parties and the Regional Water Quality Control Board. The cleanup has been largely completed, but monitoring for potential pollutants continues.

On Nov. 24, 2004 the City of Richmond entered into a Land Disposition Agreement with Upstream Point Molate LLC to sell former Naval Fuel Depot Point Molate for $50 million. In 2011, the Richmond City Council and the Bureau of Indian Affairs rejected the tribal gambling casino proposed by Upstream and the Guideville Band of Pomo Indians following certification of a Final Environmental Impact Report and federal EIS. On February 3, 2015, the federal district court ruled in favor of the City on a lawsuit filed by Upstream and the Guideville Band in 2012. However, the plaintiffs filed an appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Settlement of the litigation was announced via an April 12, 2018 letter from City Manager Bill Lindsay. Major terms include:

    • The City will make a decision on land use entitlements for Point Molate by no later than April 2020 in a manner that is generally consistent with the Point Molate Reuse Plan, which was first adopted by the City Council in 1997.
    • The Reuse Plan includes a development scenario at Point Molate with 670 residential units and preservation of at least 70 percent of the 270 acres at Point Molate as open space.
    • The Winehaven Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, will be preserved for adaptive reuse.
    • After it makes a decision on land use entitlements, the City plans to sell parcels at Point Molate within two years.
    • .Proceeds from the sale of development property at Point Molate will be shared equally between the City and Plaintiffs

    CLICK HERE to view the City Manager’s letter and HERE for the full text of the Court’s Judgement on Claims.

The City of Richmond is seeking community input about how to best use the land at Point Molate for the benefit of all. Key areas for visioning include restoration and adaptive reuse of the Winehaven Historic District and locations for the minimum of 670 houses required under settlement terms of litigation challenging the City’s denial of the proposed gambling casino. The settlement requires developing the property in a manner that is generally consistent with the Point Molate Reuse Plan (Reuse Plan), which was first adopted by the City Council in 1997 and incorporated in large part into the City’s General Plan 2030. The Reuse Plan includes completion of the Bay Trail and preservation of at least 70 percent of the 270 acres of dry land at Point Molate as shoreline park and hillside open space. In addition, East Bay Regional Park District’s (EBRPD) Master Plan includes a potential Regional Shoreline park at Point Molate. CLICK HERE for more details and to stay informed about upcoming workshops, surveys, and other project updates (https://richmondpointmolate.org).

Natural Environment

Bay Nature magazine featured the natural world of Point Molate in the article "Betting on Point Molate" by Chiori Santiago. In particular, Native Plants are real survivors at Point Molate. The uplands of Point Molate are distinguished by coastal terrace prairie and northern coastal bluff scrub plant communities where the major conservation issue is unmanaged invasive alien plants. The inter tidal zone is distinguished by abundant eelgrass beds and a variety of kelp. It is mostly rocky with the exception of sand/mud flats offshore Point Molate beach.

The September, 1998 Special-Status Plant Survey And Habitat Assessment report  for Point Molate NFD, which was prepared by Michael Wood of Sycamore Associates and Tetra Tech, states:
• “numerous plant taxa of botanical significance do occur on site;”
• “Coastal terrace prairie and northern coastal bluff scrub habitats are exceedingly rare in the East Bay and represent diminishing habitats throughout their range;”
• “the native perennial grasses .... exhibit very high levels of density and diversity. Native grasslands of comparable quality are extremely uncommon in the East Bay, as well as in more coastal areas in Marin County;”
• “the diversity of wildflowers in the grasslands is also unusual in the region.”

Plans for Point Molate

The Richmond General Plan 2030 designates the former Point Molate Navy Fuel Depot area as a combination of Business/Light Industrial, Medium-Density Residential, Low- Density Residential, Open Space and Parks and Recreation to reflect the conceptual land uses in the adopted 1997 Point Molate Reuse Plan. 

The Point Molate Reuse Plan was developed by a 45-member Blue Ribbon Advisory Committee and approved by the City Council in 1997 acting as the Local Reuse Authority to serve as the guide for the reuse and development of the site. It calls for a mixed use development concept with 191 acres reserved for shoreline park and hillside open space lands as shown on the Conceptual Land Use Plan and Open Space Plan

Uses proposed for buildings in the Winehaven Historic District include:

  1. Winehaven Building - winery, restaurant, museum, retail, meeting rooms,  performing arts and a recording studio
  2. Historic winery cottages - conference center, retreat, B&B, classrooms.

Existing buildings on a 20-acre site immediately south of Winehaven are proposed for a winery, live/work, warehousing, job training and light industrial uses.  Single and multifamily residential development is recommended on about 38 acres of relatively flat land south of the above development areas.

East Bay Regional Park District’s Master Plan designates Point Molate as a potential Regional Shoreline park, and the San Francisco Bay Trail Plan calls for completion of the Bay Trail along the shoreline. BCDC's San Francisco Bay Plan Map 4 and Map 4 Policies state that Naval Fuel Depot Point Molate should be developed for park use with a trail system linking shoreline park areas with vista points in hillside open space areas and reuse of the pier for water-oriented recreation and incidental commercial recreation. The San Francisco Bay Trail Plan adopted by the Association of Bay Area Governments calls for a multi-use, non-vehicular trail along the Point Molate shoreline.

Point Molate Beach Park Reopened
Point Molate Beach Park Reopened October 14, 2013

Implementing Plans for Point Molate

Aside from Point Molate Beach Park, there is no public access to the property, and the City may not sell or enter into long term leases until the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirms the District Court’s ruling in favor of the City. The court has scheduled oral arguments for mid-February and is expected to issue a ruling three to four months later.  In the meantime the City is considering how to proceed once the litigation has been resolved satisfactorily. A major hurdle being addressed is the cost and funding to provide adequate utility infrastructure, i.e, water, sewage collection/treatment, electricity and natural gas. 

The Way Forward report sponsored by Bay Crossings lays out many of the issues and options for moving ahead with development of the property.

With partial funding by the City, the Trust for Public Land (TPL) retained Sedway Consulting  to prepare a July 2015 Initial Market Research report concluding:
 “… the potential economic development program for Pont Molate should have a recreations/leisure, hospitality, and residential focus. Specifically, identified uses include a hotel with moderate amount of conference and event space, a restaurant, and possibly camping facilities, supported by accessory recreation uses. Other uses include rental apartments and one or more wineries."

With the City’s support, the Urban Land Institute agreed to TPL’s request to convene a Technical Advisory Panel to recommend implementation strategies for moving proactively forward to create a successful mixed use, recreation and hospitality destination with an iconic regional park for visitors from throughout the Bay Area and beyond. This experienced panel with members of diverse talents met on March 10-11, 2016 and presented its sage advice on options for the City to pursue in phases with actions required to make progress. The Conclusions were:
• Tough choices based on political and economic limitations of the site, but limitations provide clear framework for path forward 
• Status Quo faces increasing costs based on continued and significant deterioration 
• The City should partner with East Bay Regional Park District 
• Trade offs:
– Role of the historic structures – targeted focus needed 
– Role of Commercial/Industrial Uses 
– Role of Housing as a driver 
• All uses will need to be investigated in more detail. Park Plus option is immediately attainable, but won't provide infrastructure. The mixed use option is the clearest path to realize the highest site potential.

CLICK HERE to view the ULI report offering guidance for moving forward with Point Molate development.

On October 5, 2016, EBRPD sent a letter (CLICK HERE) to the Mayor and City Council expressing their interest in developing Point Molate Regional Shoreline park in accordance with their Master Plan once the City has identified lands available for parks and open space.

Getting Involved

You may get involved by attending a meeting of the Point Molate Community Advisory Committee (PMCAC) on the second Monday of most months. You also may Click Here to send an email to the PMCAC chair and the City’s Point Molate Project Manager with your thoughts on current conditions and/or ideas for the future.

Sincere DesignContent of this website is provided primarily by Bruce Beyaert, who served on the City of Richmond's Point Molate Blue Ribbon Advisory Committee, the Navy’s Restoration Advisory Board and now is a member of the Point Molate Community Advisory Committee.
Photographs on this website are courtesy of Jeffrey Robinson, Don Gosney, Ellen Gailing and Mike Bukay
Web design and maintenance is provided by David Moore of Sincere Design.
Point San Pablo Peninsula Point Molate