Here is a quick rundown of some of the concerns that I have observed, having been involved with the development of the base:
The Seeno team. Actually, it is not the Seeno team. From observations, it would appear that the Lewis company, which is stronger, has a major role as indicated that the lead for the project is a Lewis vice president. People locally react negatively to the name “Seeno” and, thus, the critics will focus on that name regardless of the role they play in the new company.
Initial financials. Like City Ventures that bid for the base project, Concord First Partners is private. Its financials were not made public, but they were made available for a city staff-directed review – and were found satisfactory. First Partners fully cooperated, so they did comply with the requirements.
Traffic mitigation. No project can occur without proper traffic mitigations. This is a given under federal, state and local regulations.
Community benefits. I have no reason to question giving the community the benefits of affordable housing, parks and local workers, as these points have been echoed at all our meetings.
Local hires. It is more than bizarre to question whether they will hire local workers, when Concord First Partners has, as one of its partners, a firm that has for generations been headquartered in Concord, has built here with local workers and was the first company to make a full commitment with local trade unions – when all prior developers were unwilling. They were also the only ones who provided the assurance at the submittal of their summary of qualifications. The other two bidders had to be forced to comply in the last few days before the vote. And, Brookfield had a record of a dispute with New York unions on the very aspect of agreeing to a Project Labor Agreement and then not doing it.
Base cleanup. The Navy is responsible for the environmental cleanup of the base, not the developer. From the start, I have advocated for an environmental oversite group, which they are willing to cooperate with. However, their fieriest opponent refuses to even meet with them let alone join such an effort.
Litigation history. With California companies, litigation is part of the way things are negotiated and why we maintain 20% of all the lawyers in the country. Remember that there is plenty of concern about Brookfield’s record of litigations and payments of fines. Additionally, the actions of Brookfield in pulling out of the North Concord BART Station development reinforce the original decision not to go with them.
We still have hurdles to go over, and there has been good progress recently in moving things forward. We are not at the finish line yet, but we are grinding it out.
If you have concerns, talk to them, meet with them. That is what the city staff and the council are doing. If you want to know the history of my vote a year ago, then talk to me. As always, coffee at Peet’s is on me.
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Edi Birsan is a member of the Concord City Council. However, opinions expressed in this column are his alone and do not reflect those of the city. Send comments and questions to EdiBirsan@gmail.com.