A balding white man with gray hair seated at a microphone in a government meeting. A nameplate shows he is Dave Aleshire.

Pickleball Has Craneway Pavilion’s Future in Question

A balding white man with gray hair seated at a microphone in a government meeting. A nameplate shows he is Dave Aleshire.

Richmond City Attorney Dave Aleshire told City Council on Tuesday that the city and the developer that leases Craneway Pavilion need to come to a new understanding. (Screenshot captured by Samantha Kennedy / The CC Pulse)

By Samantha Kennedy

Residents left Richmond City Council’s meeting on Tuesday still uncertain what comes next for Craneway Pavilion. 

A pickleball court opened this past weekend at the historic public site, drawing players and protestorsmany dressed like Rosie the Riveter — alike. For months, many have opposed the pickleball presence, saying the venue’s use as the court alone would make it inaccessible to the general public. But Orton Development, which leases the pavilion from the city, stands by its use and reportedly continues to operate the court.

In a staff report to the council, City Attorney Dave Aleshire proposed the city and Orton work out a compliance agreement that includes reducing the pickleball space, figuring out event usage and classifying pickleball as an “interim use.” 

Aleshire said that in his conversations with Orton, the developer seemed open to some suggestions but had not yet agreed to anything. 

Some took things further and criticized the actual lease with Orton, which began in 2004 and requires Orton to pay $1 each year. It lasts 55 years but will continue to renew after, according to staff. 

Council member Cesar Zepeda asked Aleshire what might allow the city to void or otherwise cancel the contract with Orton. 

In response, Aleshire said he didn’t want to give public legal opinions on complicated legal matters that could “upset the developer.” He again suggested negotiating a compliance agreement with Orton. 

Orton’s initial application for a pickleball facility and restaurant was rejected by the State Lands Commission in July 2023 because, as a members only facility, it would not be open to the public and because it would not serve a statewide interest. 

Orton revised the rejected proposal, including removing the members only status, and in a March 11 email to Aleshire, said the project continues as a restaurant and event venue where everything is allowable under the current regulations and permits. 

“Orton previously withdrew [its] Administrative Permit Application and is seeking no new approval,” the report from Aleshire states. 

Aleshire said he contacted Orton in response to the grand opening that took place March 23 and 24, saying they weren’t authorized to open the facility. But Orton said they were allowed to host events at the venue, so Aleshire said no enforcement was taken. 

“How long is the event for?” asked Zepeda. In checking the website days after the event, he said people could sign up to use the pickleball courts as late as 10 p.m.

Aleshire said that is “a legal issue [he] doesn’t want to take a position” on if the council should direct him to negotiate an agreement with Orton. 

At the council’s direction, the city will try to enter into negotiations with Orton.

Richmond Steelers recognized

After winning its national championship in December, the Richmond Steelers 9-and-under football team stood on another big stage Tuesday — in front of City Council. The team was honored for its achievements on and off the field at the meeting. 

“The mayor, city council and the citizens of Richmond stand united in celebrating the accomplishments of these young stars, who exemplify the very best of our community’s values of perseverance and excellence,” Mayor Eduardo Martinez read from a proclamation.

The team won its national title 13-8 at the end of last year, beating out the Los Angeles Chiefs. The path to the national title also included league and regional championships.

But the path to victory hasn’t been easy for the Richmond Steelers. Head coach Namon West III said practice was sometimes hindered by crime and park conditions. That included practicing without lights. The organization also puts great importance on players’ academic success.

These obstacles and expectations don’t slow players down. In addition to winning on the field, many of the players also lead at school — earning straight A’s and participating in student government. 

Council member Doria Robinson, whose brother was a Richmond Steeler at one point, said he recalls the impact the organization had on him. 

“The Steelers was the place where he got to see what it could be to be a man,” said Robinson, adding  “…he just said it helped him grow.” 

West later asked the council to stand behind the team and support football the same way soccer was being supported. 

“Everything (the council does) in Richmond, we just don’t want to be forgot about,” said West.

In her comments, Robinson told the organization of the support she could lend and just how important their voices are. 

“We talk diversity, but if we don’t support and act and do everything we can to be diverse in all of our actions and our allocation of resources, then it’s only talk,” she said.

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