Article published Feb 10, 2005

© The Press Democrat. For copyright information view our User Agreement

Pomo unveil plans for scaled-down casino
New-lookSan Pablo casino about half the size of originally proposed facility

A Sonoma County Indian tribe unveiled plans Wednesday for a scaled-down version of its proposed EastBay casino, describing it as "tastefully designed" without flashing Las Vegas-style signs.But critics were not appeased by the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians' plan for a 342,000-square-foot gaming hall with 2,500 slot machines in San Pablo, an economically depressed city near the east end of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.The original design called for twice as many slot machines in a nearly 600,000- square-foot facility.
"It is fundamentally flawed," said Hans Hemann, chief of staff for Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, whose district includes San Pablo.The new plan merely puts a "face-lift" on a "monstrous project" that will add 34,000 more vehicles to congested Interstate 80 every day, he said.
The two-story casino, proposed for a 9.5-acre lot owned by the tribe, would be more than twice as large as the 148,000-square-foot Costco store in Santa Rosa.
River Rock Casino, operated by the Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians in the AlexanderValley, is 68,000 square feet.
Last summer, the Lytton Pomo plan for a casino with 5,000 slot machines and up to 600,000 square feet created a political firestorm.
The tribe immediately cut the number of machines in half, but the uproar prompted Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to withdraw his deal with the tribe from legislative consideration.
The deal, known as a compact, remains controversial because the San Pablo casino would be the first California Indian gaming hall in a major metropolitan area. It is the only one of 10 compacts negotiated by Schwarzenegger last year that lawmakers balked at approving.
Tribal officials said the revised plans were fashioned after a monthlong "listening process," a series of meetings with San Pablo community groups.
San Pablo officials have heartily endorsed the casino, which the tribe says will provide about 3,000 jobs and contribute more than $600 million a year to the state's economy.
It will pay 25 percent of gaming revenue, about $155 million a year, to state and local governments.
The revised plan emphasized that the casino will not use any Vegas-style neon signs or include a nightclub, entertainment venue, hotel, spa, shopping arcade or convention center.
It will be "tastefully designed to relate to downtown San Pablo," with 115,000 square feet of gaming space, a large parking structure, and strict controls on serving alcohol, the tribe said.
Hancock opposes any casino larger than the 70,000-square foot card room that now occupies the tribal property, Hemann said.
The Legislature, which conducted an informational hearing on the proposal last month, has not scheduled reconsideration of the newest casino proposal.