Concord Naval Weapons Station: Getting it right means getting it in writing

By Steve Older, Guest Commentary Bay Area News Group

This year, the Concord City Council will make the decision of a generation and finalize plans for the future of the shuttered Concord Naval Weapons Station by selecting a master developer. The choice is important, but the conditions attached are critical.

When agreements matter, we get them in writing. Too often developers have made lofty promises, but the benefits to the community never materialized. That’s why the Concord City Council wisely approved a master plan for the base in 2012 with open space, affordable homes and the blueprint for middle-class jobs.

Let’s not underestimate the scale of this development. At 3,500 acres, the area to be protected as open space is three times the size of Golden Gate Park and includes a restored creek, sweeping views of Mount Diablo and a linear park that connects to existing neighborhoods.

Virtually since the base’s closure in 2005, the Community Coalition for a Sustainable Concord has worked to ensure a master plan that protects open space, provides affordable homes near transit and creates good jobs for the people of Concord.

Now it’s time to make sure that the development of the base brings this vision to life. Getting it right means getting promises in writing, including important commitments around open space, affordable homes and good jobs.

Concord residents and workers at the former Naval Weapons Station helped build the American Dream in Contra Costa County. Good jobs on the base helped feed families, build homes and send kids to school for a chance at a better life.

Our public investment in the base brought prosperity to past generations and can fuel success in the future, too. If we get it right, re-use will offer opportunity and sustainability to future generations, right here in Concord, including our youth, veterans and working families.

Too many jobs today are low-wage and part-time. Too many homes are unaffordable for seniors, working families and people who have lived in Concord for generations. Too many of our cherished farms and natural landscapes are being lost to sprawl development.

It doesn’t have to be this way. A world-class development will set new standards for other communities to follow and reflect the Concord community’s broad support for policies and programs that redevelop this historic area with a commitment to the future.

The Naval Weapons Station has the potential to open a new and exciting chapter in Concord’s economic vitality and community resilience. As it becomes even harder to find affordable homes in the Bay Area, new development at the base provides a unique opportunity to improve the jobs-housing balance while meeting the strong demand for pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods and new, protected open space.

Concord can ensure that future residents enjoy the city’s prosperity without having to commute long distances, saving time, money and our environment.

A community benefits agreement, signed long before the master developer breaks ground, puts important commitments in writing so that Concord can make sure that re-use brings results. The agreement should provide:

  • Good jobs for Concord youth, returning servicemen and women, through a community workforce agreement, labor peace and respect for current bargaining units.
  • Affordable homes for families, seniors and veterans.
  • Environmental protections including open space, parks, wildlife, tree and habitat preservation.
  • Walkable neighborhoods with transit access for youth, seniors, and workers for quality of life and traffic reduction.
  • Safe clean-up of toxics

Prior City Council members looked at these issues and made it clear that Concord would expect nothing less than a world-class project that delivers results like open space, affordable homes and middle-class jobs. As the City Council makes this important decision, we’re hoping that leaders with vision and commitment to the community will get it right—and get it in writing—because our future is too important to leave to chance.

Steve Older is President of the Central Labor Council of Contra Costa County, AFL-CIO. Contributors to this piece include: Gloria Bruce, executive director, East Bay Housing Organizations; Joel Devalcourt, East Bay regional representative, Greenbelt Alliance; Rosanne Nieto, steering committee Concord Neighborhood Alliance; and Sam Tepperman-Gelfant, senior staff attorney, Public Advocates.

This article was originally published on September 27, 2015 by the Contra Costa Times

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