Ukiah tribe pushes $1.5 billion Richmond casino resort

Plans are inching forward for a massive hotel and casino resort on the shores of San Pablo Bay, one of two proposed in Richmond by North Coast Indian tribes.

A draft environmental report has been released for the Ukiah-based Guidiville Band of Pomo?s $1.5 billion, ?vibrant, five-star entertainment district and destination resort? planned at Point Molate, just north of the foot of the San Rafael?Richmond bridge.

The 266-acre project on the site of a former U.S. Navy fueling depot and old winery complex was unveiled five years ago. But the release of the 5,284-page environmental document has rekindled debate between supporters, who say it will bring jobs and economic vitality, and opponents worried about traffic, noise and air pollution.

It also has revived charges of ?reservation shopping,? in which tribes are criticized for seeking urban land far from their rural base for a casino.

?This is an off-reservation gaming facility about 117 miles from the original Rancheria,? said Cheryl Schmit, casino critic and director of Stand up for California, a gambling watchdog group. ?A casino operation in this location is much more market-friendly to gaming than out in the sticks in Mendocino County.?

She called it a ?blatant and self-serving scheme? that benefits the tribe?s investors.

The project is likely years away from breaking ground, assuming it can overcome numerous objections and legal challenges. The land still needs to be taken into trust for a reservation by the federal government. And the governor and State Legislature need to approve a gaming compact.

The tribe, which has the backing of the City of Richmond, wants to build a 1,100-room hotel, a casino with up to 3000 slot machines, a 2,500-seat theater and a ?retail village? with 30 to 75 retail shops. There could also be almost 400 housing units with some set aside for tribal members.

About 5,000 parking spaces would be built in a subterranean parking structure, along with an additional 2,500 parking spaces in a seven-level garage.

A ferry terminal with service to San Francisco and other points also is proposed.

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