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City Moves Closer to Submitting Detailed Plan for Waterfront Revival to State Lands Commission
Also, upcoming meetings on MRC scheduled for Sept. 21 and 25; county supervisors to consider firearms safe storage ordinance on Tuesday; Martinez News and Views turns 1 year old
The following post by freelance writer Sam Richards is made possible through the financial support of paid subscribers and other donors to the newsletter. Please consider upgrading your subscription to paid if you haven’t already to fund more work such as this.
By Sam Richards
Plans to make the Martinez waterfront into a regional draw with an upgraded marina and piers, improved recreational opportunities, drinking and dining options, and even perhaps a connection to the San Francisco Bay ferry network, have been kicking around for years, only to peter out for lack of money or vision.
Now, the city is getting closer to submitting its most detailed vision yet with the Waterfront Marina Trust Land Use Plan. Among other things, the plan would bring to the area an improved marina with other amenities, including a restaurant, a fish market, expanded boat storage, an expanded skate park, and a “community stage” that could host concerts.
"Improvements to the Martinez waterfront have been discussed for decades. Now, however, the political and economic landscape for Martinez is supportive of the progress our residents have been wanting to see,” Mayor Brianne Zorn said in an email to Martinez News and Views.
Also part of the overall Waterfront Marina plan is environmental restoration, including continued reclamation efforts of the old Shell settling ponds (called “spoils basins” in the report prepared by the urban design firm SWA Group) on the easternmost portion of the land.
There is no formal overall cost estimate, or timeline, for the project, but some have said it could take 30 years, and more than $100 million, to make the key elements of the plan a reality.
A sign blocks access to a rotting dock at the Martinez marina
The plan area is bordered by Joe DiMaggio Drive and the Union Pacific railroad tracks on the south, the Martinez Refining Corp. property on the east, the Martinez Marina on the north and North Court Street on the west. The land west of that is the Radtke Martinez Regional Shoreline Park, operated by the East Bay Regional Park District.
Much of the land along the city’s waterfront is “held in trust by the state for the benefit of the people of California.” In effect, it’s owned by the state, but the city can make plans for it, subject to approval by the State Lands Commission.
The City Council in July 2022 approved a deal with SWA Group, with offices in San Francisco, to prepare phase 1 of the Waterfront Marina plan, and this past January commissioned SWA to proceed to phase 2. There have been several public meetings seeking public comment on what residents want the waterfront area to become.
“There’s been almost a year’s worth of activity on this, a lot of public discourse, a lot of great feedback,” Martinez City Manager Michael Chandler said at a Sept. 6 council study session on the Waterfront Marina plan. The most recent such discussion was in May. “There’s a high level of interest in the community.”
Zorn trumpeted the recent passage of Assembly Bill 1686, which will waive required payments from Martinez to the State Lands Commission through 2029 so that the money can instead be directed to marina improvements.
“With the passage of AB1686 and the receipt of nearly $2.6 million in a federal earmark for investments in the fishing pier, there is clear local, state and federal support for our waterfront,” she said in an email. “I am confident that the Waterfront Marina Trust Lands Use Plan is not going to be adopted and put on a shelf. It is going to be a vibrant, living document guiding our investments in the Martinez waterfront for years to come."
While the Sea Scouts’ compound and the dog park would find homes within the new plan, the existing John Muir Amphitheater is thus far not included. The SWA Group report says the 1,000-seat venue suffers from “inflexible design (and) significant infrastructure needs,” and that the overall plan would provide “an opportunity for Martinez to reevaluate what an entertainment or performance space might look like in the future at the Waterfront Marina.”
Ferry service, the SWA Group’s Daniel Dobson told the City Council, would likely have to begin small but could eventually be a jumping-off point for commuters in northern Contra Costa County. Dobson also said that a ferry terminal could complement residential development, which by law couldn’t happen in the Waterfront Marina plan area but could happen in and near downtown.
Increased demand for ferry service resulting from “getting more people to the downtown,” coupled with improvements to the marina and Martinez’s Amtrak station, “will make a strong case for Martinez” with the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA), which oversees ferry service in the region, he said.
A new ferry service in Martinez has been discussed before, most recently in 2016, when an Alameda-based private operator was touting a service taking employees of a large tech firm – thought by many to be Genentech – from Martinez to the Peninsula and back. But that never got off the ground.
A trail runs along a settling pond on the east end of the Martinez waterfont.
Council members on Sept. 6 said they were excited about this, the most detailed waterfront revival plan put forth so far. Councilman Satinder Malhi said he sees this as a regional asset that isn’t only a recreational resource but also an economic driver for downtown growth.
“It is not going to happen overnight; it is going to be done in phases,” Malhi said.
The Public Review Draft Trust Land Use Plan is already being reviewed by the State Lands Commission. City staff will revise the plan taking into account comments from both the City Council and the State Lands Commission. The revised plan would then be reviewed by the Martinez Planning Commission, adopted by the City Council, and submitted to the State Lands Commission for consideration and approval, possibly before the end of 2023.
If and when the State Lands Commission gives final approval to Martinez’s plan, it will be up to the city to set it into motion. And city leaders acknowledge that will take money – possibly grants, but definitely driven at first by income generated by an upgraded marina and from dry storage of boats.
“It will take multiple revenue streams” to pay for this project, said Dobson of the SWA Group.
A presentation about the Waterfront Marina Trust Land Use Plan can be seen via the following link: https://tinyurl.com/8j5c6jyx
Craig Lazzeretti contributed to this report.
The following items are written by Craig Lazzeretti
Upcoming meetings about MRC’s spent catalyst release
The next meeting of the county-led Martinez Refining Co. (MRC) Oversight Committee, tasked with investigating the Nov. 24-25 spent catalyst release, will be held Thursday, Sept. 21, at 10 a.m. on the Zoom. The following items are on the agenda:
Status update on independent incident investigation
Status update on the risk assessment report
Statement from the District Attorney’s Office on its investigation into the incident and MRC’s failure to activate the Community Warning System
Update on the proposal to hire a consultant to conduct a safety culture assessment of the refinery.
The Zoom link to attend the meeting: https://zoom.us/j/93337311208#success
Contra Costa Health Services will also host a public meeting on Monday, Sept. 25, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., to discuss the findings from the screening risk assessment evaluation that evaluated the impact of the 20 to 24 tons of metal-laden dust that fell on the community, and receive comments about the report.
The meeting is open to the public and will be held at the Contra Costa County Administration Building, Room 110A/B/C, located at 1025 Escobar St. The public can also attend via Zoom at the following link: https://zoom.us/j/97867911814#success
County to consider firearms safe storage ordinance on Tuesday
At Tuesday’s Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors meeting, county supervisors will consider adopting an ordinance requiring the safe storage of firearms in residences located in unincorporated areas of the county (including the parts of Martinez that lie outside city limits). The ordinance would require the use of a locked container or firearm safety device in homes where firearms are kept. Several cities in the county, including Walnut Creek, have passed similar ordinances in recent years (I have asked city officials in Martinez to consider a similar ordinance).
A county report with findings supporting the passage of the ordinance notes that firearms that are not stored safely may result in accidental firearm injuries and deaths; locked containers and firearm safety devices reduce the potential for firearm theft, including their diversion into illegal markets and use for gun-related crimes; firearms are now the leading cause of deaths of children in the United States; and that access to firearms increases the risk of death by suicide, particularly among adolescents and children. The complete report of findings can be read at this link: https://contra-costa.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=12298858&GUID=73AB04F3-F6D9-4F92-98FA-0564D6E0A120
Supervisor Candace Andersen said in an email Saturday that she first raised the issue of a safe storage ordinance in July, and “and am very happy to be bringing this ordinance drafted by our County Counsel for approval on Tuesday.”
“I continue to believe that this is a commonsense step toward keeping our community safer by keeping guns away from children, individuals who should not have access to them because of their propensity toward violence or their mental state.
“It will also reduce the likelihood of weapons being stolen during a burglary and used for the commission of other crimes.”
The proposed county ordinance can be viewed at this link: https://contra-costa.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=12298857&GUID=700CC942-2D03-4E05-BE87-094BA95D08E8
Tuesday’s meeting starts at 9 a.m. at the Board Chambers at 1025 Escobar St. and can be attended in person or via Zoom. The meeting will also include a COVID-19 update and a list of spending proposals for Measure X sales tax revenues for the 2023-24 fiscal year. The proposals can be viewed at this link: https://contra-costa.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=12298876&GUID=9E336952-27DD-4097-8DC7-60632398391F
The complete agenda with information on these items and how to attend is available at this link: https://contra-costa.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=A&ID=1120760&GUID=B3080F74-22BF-4CF2-9450-09EC08A4FDF6
Council meeting rescheduled
The City Council meeting originally scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 20, has been canceled and rescheduled for Sept. 27. More information on city meetings, including archived video from past meetings, can be found at this link: https://www.cityofmartinez.org/government/meetings-and-agendas
News and Views turns 1 year old
Monday marks the 1-year anniversary of this newsletter, which I started to try to fill the void of news coverage in our community ahead of the pivotal 2022 election, when voters elected our first new mayor in 20 years, among other key decisions. I had little in the way of expectations when I sent out my first post on Sept. 18, 2022, and told myself that if I hadn’t gathered at least 25 subscribers by the end of the first week, I’d drop the endeavor. A year later, the newsletter has nearly 700 subscribers, including more than 100 who have purchased paid subscriptions or contributed in other ways to help expand the content of the newsletter by allowing me to hire freelancers such as the author of the lead item in today’s post (for those counting, this is the 84th post since the newsletter launched).
Whether you’ve contributed financially to this endeavor or simply been a loyal or casual reader, I want to thank each and everyone who has taken the time to read, comment and engage with the reporting and perspectives the newsletter has provided over the past year (whether you’ve agreed with my views or not). My ultimate goal has been to give readers the information and context necessary to stay apprised of the key events, issues and challenges in our city and to form fact-based, thoughtful opinions about them, whether those views ultimately align with mine or not. As a 25-year resident of Martinez, I care deeply about this community and am an advocate for the causes I believe will best serve all its people, but I’m also a strong believer that facts, context and the public interest, not political agendas, individual ideologies or self-interests, should drive the narrative when it comes to local news. That is an idea I’ve tried to keep at the forefront in these posts over the past year.
There’s a popular saying that “democracy dies in darkness,” and I hope I’ve done at least a little over the past year to shine a light on Martinez government and politics, along with the community as a whole, so that we can ultimately work together to make our hometown a place that serves the interests and needs of all our residents.
Thanks again for your support and reading, and I’m looking forward to even bigger and better things over the second year of Martinez News and Views!