Saturday Surprise with City Council tabbing Discovery/Seeno team for Naval Weapons project

Concord Naval Weapons Station

CONCORD, CA (Aug. 22, 2021) — In a surprising 3-2 vote at a special Saturday remote meeting broadcast on local television and the internet, the Concord City Council selected a joint venture between Discovery Homes/Seeno Companies, Lewis Planned Communities and California Capital Investment Group as the master developers for the 2,300-acre Concord Naval Weapons Station mixed use community.

After more than nine hours of presentations and questioning of the three candidate representatives, and despite heavy public opposition, councilmember Edi Birsan, vice mayor Dominic Aliano, and mayor Tim McGallian opted for the locally based, family owned Seeno company over Brookfield Properties and City Ventures LLC.

Councilmembers Laura Hoffmeister and Carlyn Obringer voted for the publicly traded Brookfield Properties which assembled a development team that included Sunset Development Company, long-time developers of Bishop Ranch Business Park in San Ramon.

Watch the Master Developer Selection Meeting Video

“Who do we have the most leverage with? Birsan said. “A multi-billion-dollar Wall Street firm [Brookfield] or a group of three companies all who have their reputations on the line and are invested in making this thing work?”

Discovery Homes was among the candidates vying for master developer in 2016 when the council selected Lennar Corp. but didn’t have a strong enough team to make the final cut, Hoffmeister noted. They were stronger this time with the addition of the Lewis Group and CCIG of Oakland, but not strong enough to sway her vote.

The Discovery/Seeno companies are headquartered in Concord and have been building homes in Contra Costa for over 80 years.

The Lewis Group of Companies was founded in 1955 and lists itself as one of the nation’s largest privately held real estate development companies. The Lewis Group focuses on developing mixed-use planned communities and residential subdivisions in California and Nevada, as well as building and owning rental communities, shopping centers, and office and industrial parks.

According to their website, CCIG is a Bay Area market leader in commercial real estate sales and leasing. For over 25 years their focus has been on Northern California, specifically the East Bay/Oakland. The firm has brokered commercial sales and leases valued at over $1 billion with lease transactions in excess of 2.5 million square feet.

“I’ve been to Bishop Ranch, I’ve seen it develop,” Hoffmeister said. “They’ve already gone through this experience and delivered it. Discovery has a team in place, but no performance to show.”

“It was a matter of ‘this is what I’ve done’ as opposed to ‘this is what I’m going to do.’”

Public opposition to the Discovery/Seeno group was heavy, based mainly on the company’s negative history with environmental issues. Save Mount Diablo mounted a strong campaign against the company and is currently suing the City of Pittsburg for approving the Faria project, Discovery Homes’1,650-unit project planned for the ridge between Concord and Pittsburg adjacent to East Bay Regional Park District Thurgood Marshall Park.

A lawsuit brought by Discovery Homes against the EBRPD earlier this year was settled last week, according to Birsan.

Albert D. Seeno III follows his father and grandfather as head of Discovery Homes. The company has a well-documented litigious history and environmental violations.

Birsan quizzed Seeno on his involvement and the councilman said he was satisfied that, “he wasn’t involved in the stuff that came down. The sins of the father should not be visited on the son,” Birsan said.

This was the second time the council has been through the CNWS master developer selection process. A deal with national homebuilder Lennar Corp. tanked over labor issues in March 2020 when the council refused to extend their Exclusive Negotiating Agreement. At that time, Hoffmeister and McGallian wanted to grant the extension but were overruled by Obringer, Birsan and Aliano.

The city has been firm from the beginning on requiring local labor for all construction on the project. All three candidates this time had project labor agreements with the Contra Costa Building Trades Council by the time of their presentations. Local labor supported the Discovery/Seeno candidacy while stating they were the first of the three to sign a PLA.

With the selection made, the city will begin work on an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement and Term Sheet with the winning candidate, a process that is likely to take several months. “If we don’t get what we want, we take another swing at it,” Birsan said.

That will seem a short time frame if it finally gets the CNWS project headed towards turning the first shovel of dirt in the decades-old effort. Concord envisions13,000 homes (25 percent affordable housing), retail businesses, office space, tournament sports complex, schools, parks and perhaps a college campus to the Naval property that the city has yet to take ownership of.

The meeting agenda contained the Concord staff report prepared by Director of Economic Development and Base Reuse Guy Bjerke, presentations by the three candidate companies as well as correspondence submitted on the issue from the public and organizations.