CNWS Development - A Perspective and a Timeline
Kathy Gleason is a founding member of the CNWS Neighborhood Alliance, a group which was founded to give community members a voice in the development decision making process, and which grew to 1,800 families. Her experience with the Reuse Project process is invaluable, and CCA shares these observations - written last month - as both a record of successes and failures in the process, but also to preserve a terrific example of community engagement.
Following is a bullet point chain of events that transpired as I followed the development of the CNWS since 2005. These points represent my perspective as a resident living adjacent to the CNWS, and very interested and involved in the process from day 1. Along with Bev Marshall, we formed the CNWS Neighborhood Alliance to represent residents who advocated for less development and more open space on the property. Many of these points can be verified via the internet.
I find it very interesting that after over 16 years and the Seeno Company’s two prior unsuccessful attempts to obtain the property, the company is now in the running to be chosen as Master Developer of the CNWS.
- Kathy Gleason
- 2005 – A mailed invitation to attend a workshop at Centre Concord received by those living within 300ft of CNWS. I live adjacent to CNWS. Neighbors across the street did not receive the notice. Attendees were split into tables to discuss and report suggestions. Attendees were given a pre-printed form at the close of the workshop to choose a percentage of open space - 10, 20 or 30%. All wanted more open space.
- 2006 – January. After a busy Holiday Season at the Food Bank, I found a green flyer in a stack of junk mail indicating the city planned 24,000 homes on the CNWS site. The General Plan was to be approved in two weeks. I went to city hall, planning commission meetings, and City Council meetings. A group of us formed the CNWS Neighborhood Alliance. We held meetings in homes and yards, distributed flyers, and tabled at Safeway. We felt a development this huge would impact not only those living adjacent to CNWS but the entire city and surrounding cities. All should therefore be notified. We stormed City Hall, demanded they stop, back up and include all residents in this decision. This is why the CNWS Neighborhood Alliance formed - to promote resident input in the development process.
- 2006 – February. Tule elk were removed from CNWS on Feb 24. The public learned of the removal from the 6pm news Thursday evening, the Tule Elk were removed early the following Monday morning by volunteers from Rocky Mountain Elk Hunting Foundation. There was no time to organize a protest of the removal. ATV’s were used to chase them out of wooded areas, helicopters used to net them. Three elk died that were reported. They were netted up on the hills, then rolled down and broke their necks.
- 2006 – I called Phillip Ramsey at the EPA - I was concerned about toxic chemicals in dirt affecting residents near to CNWS when the soil would be disturbed by development. Ramsey’s reply: “Sometimes we have to sacrifice the short-term well-being of the few to ensure the long term well-being of the many.”
- 2006 – Watching a City Council meeting, I heard Mark Peterson say, “Should we tell everyone how we voted?” Mary Rae replied, “We have to vote first.” Council members then received forms, “studied them”, then officially voted. (I sat up in bed to make sure I heard what I thought I heard!) Residents eventually voted for Mark Peterson for DA to get him out of Concord.
- 2006 – I raised money and worked to elect Michael Chavez.
- 2007 – Shaw Environmental deal. The federal government worked up a deal to trade Shaw Environmental the CNWS property for money government owed Shaw for work on the Katrina cleanup. Residents knew Shaw worked with Seeno. I received an early morning phone call from Jason, George Miller’s aid in Washington DC - he encouraged me not to block the Shaw transfer. “You don’t really want to have to come to Washington DC to testify do you?” Representatives of the Navy attended a City Council meeting – Helen Allen knew Navy representatives were attending the meeting. Michael Chavez was the deciding 3rd vote to keep CNWS in the BRAC process and not transfer land to Shaw. The audience cheered when he voted!
- 2007 – August, Michael Chavez’s death. His commented to me before the meeting that he received a threat from Helen Allen: If he did not vote to turn the land over to Shaw she will ruin his business. Helen was a client of Michael’s Hair Salon business. Michael said he was under so much stress he was overeating and he joked that he would probably have a heart attack. He did. As Michael was receiving CPR and the room was clearing, Helen was heard calling Sal from her cell phone to tell him she thought Michael just died.
- 2007 – CNWS Neighborhood Alliance has grown to 1,800 families. Volunteers staffed a booth at Farmers Markets to educate the public on land Seeno already owned (Pittsburg hillsides and ridgeline), to push to support Measure WW (for the East Bay Regional Parks, EBRP) and to donate CNWS land to EBRP.
- 2007 – Residents attended many workshops to narrow down 2 plans – Concentration and Conservation or Clustered Villages. There was someone seated at every table or walking around to visit tables that was pushing for more development. During this time period an anonymous caller from the city told me “They are fooling you”.
- 2007 – November. Lydia DuBorg resigns as City Manager, reportedly under a gag order and with a pension. Guy Bjerke is appointed to fill Michael Chavez's City Council seat.
- 2008 – Second to last workshop where the Clustered Village Plan was chosen. Advocates had prepared their final comments to speak to preserve open space. We thought we (residents) actually had a chance and the final decision would be made fairly. Dan Helix (Community Advisory Committee Chair) opened the meeting and announced there would be no public comment period and CAC members would vote. Some CAC members were not present. CAC voted 10-7 to choose Clustered Villages. Within minutes Dan Helix railroaded through Clustered Villages and canceled the last meeting - where the final decision was supposed to be made, and adjourned the meeting. Attendees left wondering what happened and realized the Clustered Village Plan had just been railroaded through.
- 2012 – Seeno tries to trade Nevada land for CNWS.
- 2015 – City Attorney Mark Coon’s suicide, Oct 1.
- 2015-2016 – CNWS Neighborhood Alliance Steering Committee members met with all 3 Master Developer candidates and agreed that Lennar would offer the public the most and best community benefits such as restoring the creek, preserving open space, including more smaller parks and other items. CNWS-NA Steering Committee members recommended Lennar.
- 2016 – City chooses Lennar as Master Developer.
- 2019 – CNWS Neighborhood Alliance relaxed when land was deeded over to EBRP.
- 2020 – January - City Council ends Lennar negotiations over a union PLA dispute. The current City Council members were in place. I heard from a reliable source that the outgoing union president did not complete the PLA and the incoming president thought it was a done deal. It wasn’t.
- 2021 Three City Council members - McGallian, Birsan and Aliano - choose to move forward with negotiations with the Seeno group as Master Developer.