CNWS Reuse - a big step for Concord
Development of the Concord Naval Weapons Station - CWNS for short - will be one of the most significant steps Concord takes in its history. The development is also known as the "Reuse Project", a name which arises out of the Department of Defense transfer of the decommissioned property into civilian hands, a process which began a few years after the inland portion of the CNWS was deactivated in 1997.
The Concord City Council was selected to act as the "Local Reuse Authority" in 2006. Reuse of the property represents an opportunity for Concord, but also significant challenges. At CCA, we know that one significant challenge is engaging residents and community stakeholders in a way which respects their input, their preferences, and their needs when deciding how to best develop a space this large.
Balancing public interests, private interests, and the common good
Some needs and interests are in tension: affordable housing is desperately needed, but for profit developers prefer to build market rate housing. Residents often want to preserve open space and not degrade their quality of life through adverse changes in traffic. Labor wants to move forward quickly to create jobs for workers, while others want to move more slowly, carefully and comprehensively. Transit planning and accommodating alternate transportation modes - such as bicycling and buses - is vitally important as more housing gets built, but this speaks to regional cooperation as well as internal Concord planning.
And at every stage of this process, one or another dimensions of politics arises. In the best sense politics is a healthy, if challenging, community conversation; in the worst sense politics devolves into conflicts over influence, profits, and private interests pitted against those of the public and the common good. The CNWS reuse process has had examples of both.
The City of Concord has a web page with considerable detail about the Reuse Project, which can be accessed here.
Where we are and how we got here
Public input into the CNWS development process is a fundamental priority for the Concord Communities Alliance. Between 2006 and 2012, work was done which resulted in the Concord Reuse Project Area Plan. Not everyone agrees on how "open and transparent" that process was. In 2015-16, a master developer candidate was chosen - Lennar. Not everyone agreed about that choice. In early 2020, the process of negotiating with Lennar was terminated by the Concord City Council because Lennar and labor could not come to terms on a Project Labor Agreement.
In April 2021, the City of Concord opened a Request for Qualifications process to identify a master developer candidate to replace Lennar. Three Statements of Qualification were received – from Brookfield Properties, City Ventures, and a combined team of Discovery / Seeno Companies / Lewis Group of Companies (Lewis) / California Capital & Investment Group (CCIG). Voluminous comments were received from the public in advance of the meeting on August 21st when the City Council, sitting as the Local Reuse Authority, would conduct interviews with the candidates and select one with whom to open negotiations.
Public comments were overwhelming against the selection of the Seeno group. Despite this, three members of the City Council voted to open negotiations with the Seeno group. Three votes are the minimum required for a City Council decision.
CCA condemned the August 21st decision for many reasons, but most importantly because it reflected a willingness of three City Council members to ignore public comments against Seeno due to their legal and ethical record as as well as significant urging that one of the alternative candidates be selected. Ignoring public opinion places the credibility of the process in question. Shortly after the August 21st meeting CCA opened a petition to reverse the Seeno decision. Nearly 2,000 people have support that petition.
On October 26th, the Concord City Council will take the next step in the possible selection of the Seeno group by approving - or not - an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement between the City and the Seeno group. CCA opposes taking this step with the Seeno group; please read our Open Letter below. We are actively campaigning against further consideration of the Seeno group.
Next Steps - Good Process
At CCA, we will do our best to invite people into engagement, because we feel very strongly that public voices and broad public interests should be the primary drivers of CNWS development decisions. We follow a long history of organizing and advocacy by groups such the CNWS Neighborhood Alliance and the Coalition for a Sustainable Concord in this regard.
CCA doesn't yet have an CNWS Action Team. If you are interested in building one - a forum for cross-pollenization with existing groups - we'd be glad to help. Contact us as [email protected].
We will post material here that we believe will be of interest to Concord residents and other stakeholders in this process. Please check back periodically for updates.