Citing the unique opportunity to hire local labor, the Concord City Council unanimously rejected AvalonBay’s project on city-owned property near downtown on April 9.
“I believe that there is an opportunity to develop this property right, in a way that is going to benefit the community – not just in the future when it’s built, but as it’s being built,” said Mayor Carlyn Obringer.
“This is public property – we have to satisfy a public benefit,” said Councilman Edi Birsan. “And sometimes we have to hold the line on a couple things.”
Birsan said the council needed to go back to the Request For Proposal (RFP) stage “and remind everyone involved that we’re in it together for a quality project that benefits Concord.”
At issue was AvalonBay’s inability to increase union labor hires beyond 15 percent of total construction costs. While reiterating the company’s commitment to a quality project, AvalonBay senior vice president Nathan Hong continued to tell the council the project wouldn’t be economically viable with higher labor costs.
“We’d be stuck with a delta on the project that we, and I think other developers, could not overcome,” Hong said.
AvalonBay has had meetings with unions and the Building Trades Council since November 2018, but local labor groups have continually urged the city to reject the project. However, members of the local carpenters union spoke in support on April 9.
The city has been negotiating with AvalonBay since summer 2017 on the $120 million mixed-use project that called for up to 310 housing units and 6,500 sq. ft. of retail at 1765 Galindo St. In order to move the project forward, the developers offered five affordable units at the low-income level, a $300,000 community benefit fund and a $50,000 art fund.
At the April 9 meeting, AvalonBay proposed adding $1.1 million more in community benefit by swapping the five affordable units for a $650,000 payment to the city as well as reducing the retail to 2,000 sq. ft. and giving another $450,000 to the city.
While Councilwoman Laura Hoffmeister initially showed support for the plan, she ultimately joined her colleagues in voting to dump the project.
“All the other projects downtown – you don’t see any dirt turning,” she said before the vote. “This is a project that I think has the real momentum to follow through. This gives us an opportunity to get something going on this property.”
Councilman Tim McGallian said he was concerned about the community’s perception of the vote. “There was so much more to this than just we struggled to find a deal to approve housing tonight,” he said, “because it wasn’t the right fit for the community in terms of what it could mean for all of us.”