RICHMOND -- Since the environmental cleanup of the historic district of Point Molate concluded last month, the city has been weighing a number of ways to use the land.
A presentation Friday by the Urban Land Institute discussed ways the city could put the property back into active use, including an idea to build rental housing and apartments on the site, and another to build a conference center and hotel. The city partnered with the Land Trust in order to research how to best use the site north of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, which has historic buildings from its days as a major winery and breathtaking views of the bay.
The large, city-owned property, contaminated from years of use as a Navy fuel depot, is once again safe for public use after an $11 million cleanup that removed contaminated soil and water. The 400-acre site covers a 1.4-mile stretch of shoreline, according to the Trails for Richmond Action Committee.
"We're trying to balance how beautiful it is and to also use it to its full potential," said Corinne Stewart, an urban planner for the land institute. The committee also discussed the possibility of leaving the land as it is, undeveloped, though it also advised that it might not be maximizing the space to its fullest.
In order to be used by the public, the space would first require better entry points and improved infrastructure, such as plumbing and electricity, presenters said. Estimates from the institute put this cost at about $30 million or more, and some experts on the panel emphasized the need to build something on the property that would help recover some of those costs.
They also raised the possibility of a combination of uses, such as leaving areas for public use and also having areas for private housing.
Richmond is paying $500,000 annually for upkeep of the area, and real estate economist Alan Billingsley said it would be in the best interest of the city to develop the area in a way that would generate revenue.
"This could be a very pleasant place to live," Billingsley said, "and (housing) is the only use we identified that generates enough money to support utility and infrastructure costs."
Residents at the meeting expressed concern over uses of the land that would make it less public, such as the creation of housing or a conference center and hotel. City Manager Bill Lindsay said that no decision is favored over another and that the meeting was just to hear ideas.
He also said the city will not be making any decisions about future development of the property until land-use litigation with the Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians is settled. The City Council and the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs in 2011 rejected plans to develop the site as a tribal gambling casino, leading to litigation that is now being appealed.
Lindsay expressed his pleasure that the site has been cleaned, saying, "It's always good to have an asset like Point Molate."
Sarah Tan covers Richmond. Contact her at 510-262-2789. Follow her at Twitter.com/sarahjtan.