Concord sends Lennar, unions ‘back to the table’

Concord sends Lennar, unions ‘back to the table’
Union members came out in force at the Jan. 7 Concord City Council meeting to support labor agreements for the Concord Naval Weapons Station development.

While acknowledging an impasse in negotiations, the Concord City Council told Lennar/FivePoint and the Building Trades Council (BTC) to continue to meet regarding labor contracts at the former Concord Naval Weapons Station.
“Ultimately, if there is no agreement between the parties, this thing is going to die. I’m just trying to get you back to the table,” Councilman Edi Birsan said before the Jan. 8 vote.

Lennar/FivePoint has an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement (ENA) with the city to build Phase One on 500 acres. According to community reuse planning director Guy Bjerke, the term sheet states that the “developer anticipates entering into, and will negotiate in good faith to secure, one or more project labor agreements for project construction.”

To meet the Concord First objectives, Bjerke said the agreement also “obligates the developer to address local hire, vocational training and incentive programs for military veterans.”

Kofi Bonner of FivePoint told the council that the BTC’s plan “sinks the project, financially.”

“To be clear, no one can deliver the project envisioned by this community in the area plan, satisfy the agreed to community benefits and meet the Navy and city’s revenue objectives under the terms of the building trades’ PLA (Project Labor Agreement).”

Dan Cardozo, an attorney for the BTC, says Lennar hasn’t provided financial information to back up its claims. The consortium of local unions has submitted three Public Record Act requests seeking documents.

Near the end of the Jan. 8 meeting, Kofi Bonner of Lennar/FivePoint was quiet and reserved as he told the Concord City Council he was unsure how to move forward with union negotiations.

“We need to know what labor costs they assume,” Cardozo told the council. “The city could not provide the labor costs data because Lennar had only given it to the consultants.”

With both sides stating impasse, city staff had asked the council to determine whether Lennar satisfied the term sheet provisions. Instead, the council opted to push further negotiations.

That decision came on the second night of meetings. On Jan. 7, more than 100 people spoke at an overcrowded meeting that went until after midnight. Comments were largely pro-labor, while many said they wanted the two parties to work together.

The 4-0-1 vote (with Councilwoman Carlyn Obringer abstaining) asked the labor groups and the developer to “collectively refocus” to accomplish the following Concord First goals:

1. Forty percent local hire of all workers.

2. An apprentice program.

3. Veterans’ assistance and priority placement in the workforce and training.

4. A prevailing wage requirement that would ensure that project build out does not drive down area wage standards.
Bonner called the council vote “a little unclear” and “confusing.”

“I’m not sure this necessarily gives us some guidance to get out of this impasse,” he said. “Therefore, one wonders how one goes forward.”

Mayor Tim McGallian said the developer has several ways to meet the Concord First policies. “It can be meeting with unions or a number of other elements.”

Both the ENA and term sheet expire March 31 but could be extended. Lennar suspended funding for city work on the project on Oct. 31. Since then, about $37,000 a month for staff work has come out of the city’s general fund.

There was some discussion about how to proceed should the developer drop out. While Obringer noted that much of the city’s $14 million in expenditures “would have had to have been done anyway,” consultant Dahlia Chazan couldn’t say the same for the $15 million spent by Lennar.

“Much of the work that the developer has completed would need to be revisited by a new developer or by the city in order to identify a land plan that is feasible within the constraints of the union participation that’s been identified,” Chazan told the council.