On the agenda: Richmond Port audit, tobacco troubles, crime update, a host of funding requests

On the agenda: Richmond Port audit, tobacco troubles, crime update, a host of funding requests
Richmond's General Warehouse has become a magnet for vandalism. Photo/ Linda Hemmila

The tobacco moratorium is back on the Richmond City Council agenda, along with an audit of our port, a crime update from the chief, and many projects, including the BTA Community Center rebuild and pedestrian safety projects.  

The audit for the Port of Richmond came out and will be presented at the April 16 council meeting by Government Performance & Policy Analytics Inc. The report highlights key findings on how the Port of Richmond could do things better.

According to a staff report, the Port of Richmond’s lack of a strategic plan undermines operational efficiency. The port faces operational risks without written procedures for managing operating revenue and assets.

GPP says the Port of Richmond is a unique mixed-access space that is largely open to the public and includes industrial activity, recreational use, cultural resources, and office buildings.

The Bay Trail, used by pedestrians and cyclists for transit and recreation, wraps along the bay through the port. Visitors also access the port to explore the Red Oak Victory World War II ship and the Rosie the Riveter National Historical Park.

“The road leading to the port includes areas with less urban development and traffic, making it popular for joyriding and spinning donuts. This unique mixture of access and use makes security at the port both a challenge and an important consideration,” the report stated.

Vacant buildings have become targets for vandalism. The port has three properties that are not leased: Basin 1, the General Warehouse, and the Cafeteria Building, according to GPP.

Each of these properties has been vacant for over six months. Port tenants are responsible for providing security for their leased spaces. Properties that are not leased and sitting vacant are the responsibility of the City of Richmond’s Port.

“In the case of the unleased General Warehouse, for example, the vacant building has been vandalized and damaged,” GPP wrote.

The situation is unsurprising because, according to the police department, abandoned and vacant buildings tend to become targets for trespassing and vandalism. 

Richmond’s historic General Warehouse sits vacant awaiting rehab
One of the most recognizable buildings visible along Richmond’s waterfront is the behemoth General Warehouse building, part of Richmond’s World War II Kaiser Shipyard Number Three’s historical legacy. The city entered a 20-year lease with Richmond Grown LLC, a cannabis business, in July 2019, but any plans to renovate the

The report recommends the Port of Richmond prioritize soliciting and vetting potential tenants for vacant port properties. Vacant properties are at risk without adequate security measures, leading to potential costs and negotiation delays with potential tenants.

Crime update: a homicide, 80 aggravated assaults and 28 robberies

On the consent calendar is a written crime report by the police chief documenting crime statistics and the use of license plate reading cameras.

In March, violent crimes increased by seven percent over the past month, according to Richmond Police Chief Bisa French’s report.

“There was one homicide, 80 aggravated assaults, 28 robberies, and seven sexual assaults. There was also a slight increase in property crimes of three percent, with 22 burglaries, 138 thefts, 97 stolen vehicles, and five arsons. Officers recovered 15 firearms during this reporting period,” French wrote.

Chief French highlighted notable cases that occurred over the past month, including a South 36th Street homicide on March 27.

Update: Police take South 36th Street homicide suspect into custody
Updated at 10:45 p.m. March 28, 2024 The suspect in a homicide on South 36th Street has been taken into custody this afternoon, the Richmond Police announced Thursday night. Assistant Police Chief Tim Simmons shared online that Richmond Police Detectives, in partnership with an outside agency, were able

“Officers responded to a report of suspicious circumstances call in the 300 block of S. 36th Street. Officers arrived and observed the victim suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. The 20-year-old victim died at the scene,” French wrote.

Homicide detectives assumed the investigation and developed leads, which led to the identification of the suspect, Jose Serrano, who was taken into custody without incident in San Francisco. The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s office filed murder charges against the suspect.

Police detectives conducted an operation to address human trafficking and prostitution along the 23rd and 24th Street corridors on March 29. Police cited three for loitering with the intent to prostitute, recovered one firearm, and rescued two human traffic victims.

A victim was robbed and carjacked while trying to deposit cash at the Bank of America near Hilltop on March 23.

“While waiting at the ATM, two suspects exited the vehicle and approached the victim,” French said. “The suspects fled, taking the victim’s vehicle as well as the vehicle they arrived in.”

The two suspects were taken into custody after the stolen vehicle became disabled during an Oakland Police pursuit.

French wrote that there has been a significant increase in wire theft over the past several months, which has caused internet outages throughout the city.

On March 25, officers responded to a report of a subject stealing wires from an AT&T pole. Upon arrival, officers located the suspect vehicle. 

“The trunk was open, and there was a large amount of wire inside of the vehicle. As officers were on scene, the suspect walked up the hill with a bag full of wires. The estimated value was over $20,000. The subject was also in possession of several tools to assist in stealing wires. He was taken into custody for grand theft,” French said.

Community center restoration project

With the Booker T. Anderson Jr. Community Center Fire Restoration Project nearing completion, $676,537 more is needed for a total contract with Arntz Builders, Inc., amounting to $3,978,715. 

Booker T. Anderson Jr. Community Center
Booker T. Anderson Jr. Community Center at 960 South 47th Street suffered major fire damage on October 28, 2020. Photo/ Linda Hemmila

The community center, located at 960 South 47th Street, suffered major fire damage on October 28, 2020, due to an encampment fire next to the building. The fire affected the west side of the building, including the library, multi-use rooms, and graphic arts room. 

City staff is also requesting that the Director of Public Works be given the authority to approve nearly $400,000 construction change orders, potentially increasing the total contract to $4,376,586.

Ease on down the road 

City staff requests a $134,439.32 amended contract with Ghilotti Bros., Inc. for a total amount not exceeding $7,677,134.37 to complete the Yellow Brick Road Project.

The Yellow Brick Road is a community-led effort to designate and implement safe walking and bicycling routes for Iron Triangle Neighborhood residents. The project aims to increase walking and bicycling modes of transportation to schools, parks, downtown Richmond, the Richmond multimodal station, the Richmond Greenway, and the Bay Trail. 

City staff is reportedly negotiating with Ghilotti Bros., Inc. for additional change orders to complete and close out the project.

Lincoln Elementary School Safe Route Improvement Project

Another pedestrian safety project is the $599,831 Lincoln Elementary School Safe Route Improvement Project.

Lincoln Elementary School sits in the heart of the Iron Triangle neighborhood, serving as one of two primary educational institutions in the area. The location near the Richmond Greenway, Chanslor Avenue, 4th Street, and 6th Street are all key community thoroughfares.

Staff says despite crosswalks along Chanslor Avenue frequently used by students and guardians, further pedestrian safety improvements are needed to ensure the safety of schoolchildren on their journey. Proposed improvements strive to increase pedestrian safety by reducing crossing distances on Chanslor Avenue by installing median refuges and curb extensions. 

Additionally, a raised intersection will be built at the junction of Chanslor Avenue and 4th Street to prioritize pedestrians and moderate vehicle speed, enhancing the safety of this crucial school route.

The project funding comes from a $497,000 construction grant from the One Bay Area Grant 2 and $265,000 approved by the city council on October 24, 2023.

Richmond's tobacco troubles

The council will try again to pass a moratorium on tobacco retailers. At the last meeting, with only four council members in attendance, they didn’t have the five votes required to pass an emergency ordinance.

Richmond City Council considers tobacco moratorium after proliferation of smoke shops
The Richmond City Council tried to pass a moratorium on tobacco retailers, but with only four councilmembers in attendance, they didn’t have the five votes required to pass an emergency ordinance at Tuesday’s council meeting. Council members reported receiving numerous complaints about the number of smoke shops and

The interim urgency ordinance will establish a temporary moratorium on all new tobacco retailers and provide time for staff to study and engage the public in establishing a conditional use permit process for tobacco retailers. Staff says the urgency ordinance will protect residents’ public health, safety, and welfare.

In recent months, city staff have received numerous complaints regarding the increased number of smoke shops and tobacco retailers throughout the city. An investigation revealed many retailers are operating without a required tobacco retailer license. 

$30,000 for lapel pins to elevate employee morale

City staff wants approval to purchase $30,000 of lapel pins for employee service awards. Staff is reportedly trying to cultivate a culture of recognition and appreciation within the city. 

The formal employee recognition program was suspended in 2017 due to budget cuts, but staff is working to reinvigorate the program.

The council approved $50,000 for the employee recognition programs, but the staff needs council approval for the lapel pin since the purchase is more than $10,000.

To see the full City Council Agenda Packet with supporting documents, use the following link: http://www.ci.richmond.ca.us/4157/City-of-Richmond-Council-Meetings

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