WEST COUNTY TIMES
Friday, February 14, 1997
Page: A 1
EL SOBRANTE Annexation was the hot topic that nobody got to talk about at a Municipal Advisory Council meeting because too many people showed up to fit in the back conference room of the El Sobrante Library.
Between 300 and 400 people tried to cram into the room that fits 50; the crowd spilled into the parking lot.
So the Wednesday night meeting, part of which featured Tom Butt, Richmond City councilman and author of the resolution to study the possibility of annexation, was postponed to a later, unspecified date.
That didn't discourage the residents, most of whom were opposed to the idea of becoming part of Richmond, from forming clusters in the chilly night air to discuss the issue while the MAC's regular meeting continued.
By 10 p.m., more than 200 people had signed a petition opposing annexation.
"There's no way in hell that anybody wants to be a part of Richmond," said June G. Graham, who's lived in the El Sobrante Valley for more than 50 years.
Hers was a sentiment expressed by many, a feeling that valley residents don't want to be part of a city that has a "bad reputation." And there were the issues of higher taxes and widespread development if Richmond were to take over.
Butt contends that objections such as these are emotional; he remains undaunted in his push to put this issue up for discussion.
"It kind of hurts my feelings a little bit to hear people talk about (Richmond) like it's hell on earth," he said Thursday. "I'm not a proponent or advocate, I just want there to be a rational objective study and a rational objective debate."
The Richmond City Council voted to conduct a study that would look at the pros and cons of annexing the unincorporated part of the valley and North Richmond last December. The study is expected to be completed by next week.
Vice Mayor Donna Powers said the topic will be a discussion item on Tuesday night's city council agenda.
But most here aren't waiting for the study or the upcoming council meeting to express their objections.
"It's the most ridiculous thing we've ever seen," said Virginia Arnett of Lambert Road. "We've been here for 50 years. And they keep trying to grab us and grab us. The only thing they want is our taxes."
Pete Masterson, another resident of the unincorporated area, said if the valley were to be annexed it would be better to be part of Pinole.
"(Richmond) has a decaying industrial base and that's the kind of thing El Sobrante doesn't have and doesn't need to be concerned with," he said. "Pinole shares much more similarity."
Intermingled with talk opposing annexation were recollections of when the valley was filled with eucalyptus trees and when, as children, these residents would tramp through the pastoral landscape to the bay without hitting any development.
"We have large lots and we can still have agriculture," said Corinne Proctor. "If Richmond came in you couldn't have a horse, you couldn't have a chicken."
Some even suggested that holding another meeting would be useless.
"They're going to schedule another meeting," said Carole Delauter, in an expression of disbelief. "What for? The answer is no. We just want to be left alone."