Your Turn: Advice for the Concord City Council: Don’t leap without parachute
Greg Feere, Melissa Hippard, Rosanne Nieto, Samuel Tepperman-Gelfant
Concord stands poised to take an enormous step that will shape the East Bay for generations: creating a community on the long dormant land of the Concord Naval Weapons Station. Whether this is a leap to a better tomorrow or a plunge to an uncertain future depends on the environmental and social safeguards built into the project now.
Later this month, the Concord City Council will consider a Reuse Plan and Environmental Impact Report for the Weapons Station, an area larger than Pleasant Hill. The Community Coalition for a Sustainable Concord urges the council to deal with key outstanding issues necessary to create a truly world-class project before approving the plan.
The good news is that the project has taken flight on a hopeful course. A year ago the City Council decided to forego outdated, car-dependent sprawl and move toward a green and family-friendly plan that emphasizes walkable neighborhoods near BART, while preserving two-thirds of the site as permanent open space.
But safeguards protecting the environment, jobs and affordable housing must be put into place to ensure that the plan realizes its potential.
Environmental review of the project is incomplete. Measures to mitigate its impacts on traffic and greenhouse gas pollution are toothless. The plan falls far short on commitments to lock in the promised benefits of its compact development footprint — local jobs near affordable homes, public transportation and preservation of natural resources. Nor is there an adequate commitment to protect Mount Diablo Creek.
We know what will happen if the city doesn’t plan ahead. A UC Berkeley study concluded that without better labor and housing planning, the project will create just one home for every 11 moderate and lower-income jobs — forcing 15,000 workers into long commutes or overcrowded houses. This is bad news for our community and our planet.
Concord should prepare before it jumps into this enormous development. There is time to commit to smart housing policies that will create healthier neighborhoods where residents can walk and bike on safe streets, and reduce traffic and greenhouse gas pollution. We want the city to:
- Match local residents with local jobs and affordable housing opportunities to reduce commutes.
- Negotiate Project Labor Agreements requiring local state-registered apprentice programs ensuring job opportunities for Concord residents.
- Enact a living wage and benefits ordinance to create thriving households.
- Reduce the number of low-density estate homes that most cannot afford while increasing family oriented neighborhoods of townhomes and apartments.
These steps must be taken now. The planning necessary to make this project succeed will only get more difficult as the land is divided up and sold off. Forward-looking decisions by the Concord City Council today will ensure that weapons station growth enhances the city’s vibrant, family-friendly reputation and improves its economy tomorrow.
Until then, we’re flying without a parachute.
Feere is CEO Contra Costa Building Trades Council, Hippard is campaigns director for Greenbelt Alliance, Nieto is with CNWS Neighborhood Alliance, Tepperman-Gelfant is staff attorney for Public Advocates Inc.