Concord Naval Weapons station developer ready for ‘robust’ talks with residents

East Bay Times gets it so wrong! CNWS is NOT $40 million in the hole

CONCORD, CA (May 9, 2024) — [Editor’s note: On the front page of the May 6 issue of the East Bay Times, there is a story by Katie Lauer with the headline “Concord trying to dig out of $40 million hole at Concord Naval Weapons Station.” The story is so egregiously wrong, that we are compelled to print the city of Concord’s response.]

In a letter addressed to the editors of the East Bay Times dated May 6, 2024, Concord Mayor Edi Birsan wrote:

The May 6 article published by the East Bay Times in the print edition of the paper about the redevelopment of the former Concord Naval Weapons Station by the City of Concord is poor journalism. The headline is misleading and inaccurate, and the article fails to reflect the accomplishments of the City in moving the project forward. Specifically, the article title in the printed version of the paper reads: “Concord trying to dig out of a $40M hole at Navy weapons station.” This is patently false, and apparently the editors of the paper figured this out as the online version of the article has a headline that is accurate: “Concord: Expenses nearing $40 million for Naval Weapons Station Project. Here’s how the city is paying the bill.” As a newspaper that has reported on the project since its inception, your team should know better and work harder to avoid spreading misinformation.

In a major failure of clear and accurate reporting, the article fails to document the progress the City/Local Reuse Authority (LRA) has made as of a result of its investments in the project. Below are significant steps the City has taken to ensure the success of this complicated project, none of which were acknowledged in your article:

  • The City surveyed and established property boundaries allowing for the transfer of property; this work was a critical step that was necessary to facilitate the Public Benefit Conveyance to the East Bay Regional Park District of approximately 2,600 acres of land to create the Thurgood Marshall Regional Park in This is a clear public benefit of the project and City expenditures were critical to it occurring.
  • The Reuse Plan and Environmental Impact Report was adopted in 2010, following three years of community engagement. This is a critical step legally and practically for the future development of the base.
  • The Reuse Area Plan and environmental amendments were adopted into the City’s General Plan in 2012, also a critical legal and practical step for the development of the base.
  • After much consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and completion of many technical studies, the City was able to obtain a Biological Opinion permitting the transfer and development of the entire project area; all 5,000+ acres in 2017. Again, another legal and practical step allowing the future development of the base.
  • The City has, through consultation and preparation of a variety of technical documents, supported the S. Navy with the 2017 completion of their Environmental Impact Statement which is another legal and practical necessary step in support of the future property transfer.
  • The City, working with the community and technical experts developed and adopted a Conceptual Plan for the Tournament Sports Complex in 2019; this plan is helping to guide the future development of this very important public amenity.
  • The City created and guided the work of the Blue Ribbon Committee’s Campus District Vision Framework which was accepted by the Council in This document will help bring another important community amenity that is also an economic development tool to the CNWS.

All of the above efforts were accomplished while City/LRA leadership and staff, and our consultants, have also been:

  • Monitoring the S. Navy’s clean-up of the property, ensuring protection of the community and the City’s interests in the property.
  • Facilitating the interim use of the base for autonomous electric vehicle (EV) testing by GoMentum, supporting the advancement of EV technology and regional economic
  • Coordinating law enforcement and fire district training on the base property, supporting the community’s public safety providers.
  • Recruiting a community-supported master developer to author and implement a Specific Plan and redevelop the base consistent with the community’s and council’s adopted vision.
  • Negotiating an Economic Development Agreement with the S. Navy on financial and other terms for property transfer—a necessary step to allow transfer of property.

The article also mistakenly says the Reuse Project is almost $40 million “in the hole.” That is a false statement. The $40 million is a tally of project expenses – not debt. All but $14.6 million was paid for by federal grants, regional grants, redevelopment funding, or master developer reimbursements, and were investments to move the project forward. Those investments do not require repayment. The $14.6 million in actual debt (loans from the City to the LRA) will be repaid by the future project with interest. This was explained to the Times reporter, and she was provided documentation of this fact, and still the article misstates it.

Lastly, contrary to a statement in the article, all project costs, including staff time, are being reimbursed by the master developer. Reimbursement is a normal practice the City uses for all development applicants to ensure all risk for failure is borne by the applicant and not Concord taxpayers.

The City acknowledges that the reuse of the CNWS is a complicated project planning for thousands of housing units and millions of square feet of commercial space. It involves obtaining approvals and permits from numerous federal, state, and regional agencies covering the protection of endangered species, clean-up of contaminated areas, and the provision of necessary roads, sewer, water, power, and other infrastructure.

To do all this work properly – the City, acting as the LRA, has engaged in a robust community engagement process and retained experts to help our staff comply with the Base Realignment and Closure process and all regulatory requirements for a project of this size. The work takes time.

I am submitting this letter as the Mayor of the City of Concord. The City remains committed to a transparent public process as we work to redevelop the Base and we hope that the Times does better in relying on factual information in future articles. We ask that the paper print this letter so that your readers have accurate information.