Concord City Council rejects CNWS term sheet; sets Seeno ‘free’
CONCORD, CA (Feb. 15, 2023) — The Concord City Council is looking for their third Concord Naval Weapons Station master developer after rejecting Concord First Partners’ proposed term sheet at a tedious and contentious 13 hour marathon meeting over two Saturdays in January.
At the Jan. 28 meeting continued from Jan. 7, Councilmembers Laura Nakamura, Laura Hoffmeister and Carlyn Obringer voted to reject the term sheet granting Albert Seeno III’s emotional plea for the council to either approve it or “set us free.”
“You can trash us, you can trash me, you can embarrass me in front of my partners and my union friends,” Seeno told the Council. “Just let us know our destiny so we can move on and deploy our $20 or $30 million somewhere else…”
Seeno holds a 45% interest in the partnership that includes The Lewis Companies and Oakland businessman Phil Tagami.
Councilmembers Dominic Aliano and Edi Birsan voted to approve the term sheet.
“This is the best term sheet we will ever see,” said Aliano who is strongly pro labor.
Birsan defended his vote in an impassioned 45-minute “talk fest” that touted the local Seeno company over the publicly held Brookfield Corporation, also a master developer contender—preferring “Main Street over Wall Street,” he said.
Affordable housing requirement
In Feb. 2020, the Council’s previous developer, Lennar Five Point, walked away from the $6 billion, 2,225-acre project after failing to reach a wall-to-wall project labor agreement with the building and trades unions. Lennar could not make the deal “pencil out” at their required rate of return with 25% of the planned 12,275 homes affordable, below market rate housing.
To make the project financially feasible CFP proposed adding over 3,300 homes with 879 of them Junior Accessory Dwelling Units attached to single-family homes. They wanted to count the JADUs toward the 25% affordable housing requirement. This proved unacceptable to Hoffmeister, Nakamura and Obringer. Without deed restrictions on the privately owned JADUs, there’s no guarantee they would be available as affordable units, Hoffmeister said.
The term sheet also falls short when looking at the neighbors’ desired buffer zones and green space, Hoffmeister said.
Equally distasteful to the three was a bombshell East Bay Times story just two days before the Jan. 7 meeting that revealed interfamily lawsuits and counter suits between Albert Seeno III, sole owner of Discovery Homes, and his father Albert Seeno, Jr., which could prove disruptive to the project.
World class project
“We have a world class project at our hands,” Nakamura said. “Therefore, we have an obligation to world class integrity.”
“There is insufficient evidence to evaluate either the fairness or feasibility from a financial perspective…” she said.
Nakamura defeated incumbent Tim McGallian in November 2022, campaigning on a “no to Seeno” platform.
McGallian was a strong CFP/Seeno supporter.
Councilmembers Aliano and Edi Birsan held fast to their positions even when it was obvious that Nakamura’s election shifted the political landscape away from CFP.
With a second master developer in their rear-view mirror, the Council directed Economic Development and Base Reuse Director Guy Bjerke to look at options for going forward. Bjerke anticipates bringing these to the Council at the Mar. 14 meeting.
“The Navy has been through this process before on several other bases,” Bjerke told the Pioneer. “They understand the political landscape changes, and they are willing to work with us to make this happen.”