Concord Continues Negotiations on Naval Weapons Station Redevelopment Deal

Concord, Lennar Urban, Concord Naval Weapons Station, Catellus, Bay Area, Concord City Council
Concord, Lennar Urban, Concord Naval Weapons Station, Catellus, Bay Area, Concord City Council
Aerial view of the Naval Weapons Station

By Daniel Smith

A Concord City Council pared to three members by potential conflicts of interest voted unanimously Wednesday night to send its staff back to the bargaining table with Lennar Urban, the only applicant left in a two-year process to select a developer for the Concord Naval Weapons Station site.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime, unparalleled opportunity,” said Councilman Dan Helix, who led off the council comments Wednesday after two nights of public testimony that started April 5. Listing eight conditions for staff to seek from the developer including widening the Willow Pass Road bridge on the base and a stronger commitment to affordable housing, Helix demanded, “Back up the rhetoric with guaranteed dollars.”

[contextly_sidebar id=”lRhLkePtF1dH4vQORQFs7E0GTpk1188y”]Project planning director and former Concord council member Guy Bjerke told the council that staff will return with a new set of terms from Lennar in May.

The federal government approved closure of the base in 2005 and declared the inland 5,000-plus acres to be surplus property in 2007. After Concord developed and adopted a reuse plan in 2012, eight firms answered the call for applicants to be master developer of the site. Three presented proposals to the council last year, and Miami-based Lennar and Catellus Development Corp. of Oakland were selected to continue in the process.

Catellus alerted the city in September to contributions by Lennar associates to then-Mayor Tim Grayson’s campaign for state assembly. While investigating the claims, City Attorney Mark Coon leapt to his death from a Walnut Creek parking structure October 6. Grayson subsequently returned $16,800 in contributions and recused himself from the selection process. Council member Ron Leone is also conflicted out of the decision by law because he lives less than 500 feet from the site. Catellus withdrew its proposal last month and was refunded a $250,000 deposit.

Asked after Wednesday’s meeting whether having only one applicant strips the city of leverage, Mayor Laura Hoffmeister replied, “I think we have more. It’s actually created a better situation for us … We can get the best of both [proposals].”

After the council vote, Council member Edi Birsan remarkably requested “a chance to talk to these guys” before the May meetings, but Hoffmeister rejected the idea, citing state Brown Act provisions. The Brown Act is an act of the California State Legislature, authored by Assembly member Ralph M. Brown and passed in 1953, that guarantees the public’s right to attend and participate in meetings of local legislative bodies. The act was enacted in response to mounting public concerns over informal, undisclosed meetings held by local elected officials.

Lennar representatives insisted that the now thrice-delayed decision over six months to award the master developer contract for the base redevelopment was not a setback for the developer, despite the mounting controversy surrounding the company’s bid, and a list of unresolved issues with the City that has grown from five items to eight in just the past week.

“We’re excited about it,” Lennar spokesman David Satterfield of G.F. Bunting and Co. said of the council direction to continue negotiations. “We’re happy we’re still here.”

The city’s reuse plan for the site calls for up to 12,272 housing units and 6.1 million square feet of commercial space on 2,300 acres of the former base. In prior meetings, the council has told Lennar representatives that the company needs to shoulder more of the cost toward infrastructure improvements and building units for low- and very low-income households. The entire project, one of several military base redevelopments Lennar is working on in the Bay Area, is estimated at $6 billion in construction costs.

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