|By Jennifer Upshaw, The Marin Independent
Journal, Novato, Calif.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Aug. 10, 2009--A giant casino proposed for a Richmond peninsula within view of San Rafael won't significantly affect traffic in Marin if approved, according to draft environmental documents prepared for the 85-acre redevelopment project.
The Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians and developer Upstream Point Molate LLC want to build a resort at the old Point Molate Naval Fuel Depot north of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. The project calls for 124,000 square feet of gaming, two hotels totaling 1,075 rooms, a conference center, shops, restaurants, tribal facilities, parks, trails and ferry service.
The plan involves redevelopment of 85 acres; the rest of the roughly 300 acres would be preserved as public open space.
The report, which will be the subject of a public hearing in Richmond on Wednesday, details traffic impacts now and in the future at the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge toll plaza and several key intersections, including Sir Francis Drake Boulevard and Andersen Drive in San Rafael.
It finds that a significant impact won't be felt until 2025. At that point, delays could be significant if road improvements aren't made. Improvements have been proposed, and would be a condition of project approval, said Lina Velasco, a city senior planner in Richmond.
Worsening traffic related to the project is part of an overall 20 percent projection in traffic growth Bay Area-wide, said Jim Levine, a spokesman for Upstream Point Molate, the city-selected developer for the project. The
Richmond project, and others, would need to pay for road improvements to help offset the growth, he said.
"In current conditions, the project does not cause significant impacts to any of those locations in the year 2025," he said. "Due to a 20 percent anticipated growth in traffic our project and 30 other projects will contribute to congestion at those locations.
"What the EIR says is it's not going to cause any significant impacts now but in the future they've decided that we should participate to help fund the needed changes ... that will need to be funded anyway."
But some are taking issue with the traffic analysis, saying the numbers seem low.
"It would be hard to say from this study whether there is or there isn't" a Marin impact, said Arnold Torma, a San Diego-based traffic engineer employed by non-casino gaming interests.
"Once they get the traffic on the bridge they don't count it anymore," he said, adding that the promise of providing ferry service also lowers the numbers.
"What ferry? Is the casino really in the ferry business?" he said. "Ferry service is assumed to occur when in fact there is not a commitment by any agency."
Criticism of the project exists in Contra Costa County as well.
"We're universally against casinos and casinos in west county in general," said Andres Soto, a member of the Coalition to Save Point Molate, who said he believes that Richmond was targeted due to its political climate and historic poverty.
"They thought they could ram it through with very little community support," he said.
Anaquad Cobe, a member of the tribe Anishinabeg, which is more commonly called Chippewa, is a part-time Marin resident who was active in gaming issues years ago, including a proposal by the Rohnert Park-based Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria to build a casino near Infineon Raceway at Sears Point.
A supporter of Indian gaming, he said the movement against casinos is a long-fought one.
"To try to tell us that casinos are bad for Indians and bad for the surrounding area just doesn't play out," he said. "I try to get to people to talk about our culture -- the Native American culture as a whole in general -- and try to understand us and try to understand their own culture.
"We're not going away," he said. "We're always going to be here."
A public hearing on the Point Molate development is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Richmond Memorial Auditorium, 403 Civic Center Plaza in Richmond.
Read more San Rafael stories at the IJ's San Rafael section.
Contact Jennifer Upshaw via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
To see more of The Marin Independent Journal or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.marinij.com/.
Copyright (c) 2009, The Marin Independent Journal, Novato, Calif.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For reprints, email email@example.com, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.