CONCORD, CA (Sept. 8, 2023) — With the developer promising “one team, working together,” the City Council unanimously selected Brookfield Properties as the new Master Developer for the Concord Naval Weapons Station.
“We are excited to be here,” said Josh Roden, Northern California president for Brookfield Properties in San Ramon. “Concord Naval is quite special. It’s amazing.”
The council, sitting as the Local Reuse Authority, made the decision on Aug. 26 after the only other candidate – Housing America Partners – withdrew its application. According to Guy Bjerke, Concord’s director of Economic Development and Base Reuse, Housing America’s paperwork didn’t provide enough information to be considered.
“While we would prefer to have more developer teams to choose from, we are fortunate to have a company with Brookfield’s reputation and capabilities continuing in our process,” Bjerke said.
A second chance for Brookfield
Brookfield Properties, based in San Ramon, will be the third developer for the 2,300-acre project – after the council cut ties with Lennar in 2020 and Concord First Partners earlier this year. CFP was chosen over Brookfield in 2021. Brookfield has been involved in six Northern California master planned projects, including Pier 70 in San Francisco, BLVD. in Dublin and Bishop Ranch in San Ramon.
Calling its contingent of 11 subcontractors an “unmatched toolbox,” Roden said they will “refresh” the 11-year-old CNWS plan. “We look forward to reimagining what it will become, while respecting the area plan and the countless hours that you all have invested already,” he said.
“Concord is a blank slate where we can deploy all that we’ve learned to create a next generation project for the East Bay,” added Alex Mehran Jr., president and CEO of Sunset Development – the San Ramon-based commercial arm of the project and a major developer in the county for decades.
Mayor Laura Hoffmeister noted that the city has examined about a dozen developer applications over the years. “And I stand by the fact that I think the Brookfield/Sunset information is still by far the best,” she said.
Hoffmeister, who favored Brookfield rather than CFP in 2021, “applauded” Brookfield for returning to the council after losing out in that previous round. “I think we do have something we can move forward with and work with,” she said.
Labor agreement up front
Because a Project Labor Agreement was a sticking point with previous developers, the current application process included a requirement for a PLA.
Joan Ryan, Concord’s Community Reuse planner, confirmed that Brookfield has executed a PLA with the Contra Costa Building & Construction Trades Council. “This will establish a robust construction work program, including a goal of 40 percent local hire and a comprehensive program of training, hiring and retention of construction workers – including apprenticeships from certified joint labor management programs,” she told the council.
Bill Whitney, CEO of the trades council, called it an “excellent” PLA.
“It is a wall-to-wall PLA, which covers everything from mobilization to de-mobilization, which is maybe 40 or 50 years down the road,” Whitney said during public comment.
And given legal questions swirling about CFP, the city analyzed four litigation cases and three years of Brookfield’s financial records. Paul Silvern of HR&A Advisors called the company “very strong and appropriately scaled for implementing the Concord Naval Weapons Station project.” He also noted the company’s Moody’s rating of “stable.”
Another developer controversary?
The East Bay Times last week published a story titled “Records reveal Concord Naval Weapons Station developer has ties to Saudi, Qatari money.” The paper said that Saudi Arabia’s sovereign Public Investment Fund and the Qatar Investment Authority have significant investments in Brookfield Asset Management, the publicly traded parent company of Brookfield Properties that had 2022 revenue of $92.8 billion.
The Times article also mentioned Trump family business dealings with Brookfield and the sovereign wealth funds’ reported human rights abuses. Both Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been accused of “sportswashing” in recent years with their high-profile involvement in international sports, particularly golf and soccer.
Bjerke told The Times that city officials knew and investigated local Brookfield Properties connections to an immense international asset management company but were unaware of the specific sources of Brookfield’s finances and any connection to Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
He told The Pioneer that Brookfield Asset Management’s “deep pockets” are needed for a project that will require “hundreds of millions of dollars to get off the ground.” Bjerke added that the entire project – which will be the largest development in the Bay Area with an estimated 14,000 homes plus commercial, retail, recreational and educational components – was once estimated to have a price tag of $6 billion.
Moving project forward ‘better, faster’
To speed up the negotiating process, the city asked Brookfield to review the previous Exclusive Negotiating Agreement (ENA) and Term Sheet. Concord’s legal consultant Gerry Ramiza summarized Brookfield’s comments as “minor wordsmithing” or questions seeking clarification.
“I’m confident based on what we saw on those comments that we’d be able to work through and get to an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement relatively promptly,” Ramiza told the council.
“I think we can move forward a little bit better, a little bit faster,” Hoffmeister said. “We’re that much further down the road than we were before. I think that will serve us well as we move forward with the next steps in the process.”
Councilmember Laura Nakamura, who was elected based on her opposition to CFP, said she was happy to support Brookfield.
“The residents of Concord want to move forward,” she said. “With collaboration and community input, I believe that Brookfield has made a commitment. They made a commitment to the process two years ago, and they are still here with us.”
Ryan said Brookfield intends to start by rebuilding Willow Pass Road with Phase 1 infrastructure, as well as extending infrastructure into the tournament sports complex.
The city plans to consider the ENA on Sept. 19.
Jay Bedecarré contributed to this story.
Bev Britton graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of North Dakota and moved to the Bay Area with her soon-to-be husband Jim in 1986. She was features editor at the Contra Costa Times in Walnut Creek before becoming managing editor of the Contra Costa Sun in Lafayette in 1995. She retired from newsrooms in 2001, but an ad for the Clayton Pioneer drew her back in. The family moved to Lake Wildwood in the Gold Country a few years ago - but working at the Pioneer keeps her in touch with her old neighborhoods in Concord and Clayton.