Concord Naval Weapons Station. (Photo by ellenm1/Flickr)

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The master developer and the labor consortium poised to build a new 2,300-acre residential and commercial community on the former Concord Naval Weapons Station land were directed by the Concord City Council this month to resume meeting and redouble their efforts to break an impasse over labor agreements stalling the project.

This move headed off, at least for a while, the possibility of the huge project suffering a major delay — or perhaps canceling it altogether.

The Jan. 8 vote of 4-0-1 — Councilwoman Carlyn Obringer abstained — came in response to an impasse between the Contra Costa County Building and Construction Trades Council, a consortium of area labor unions, and Lennar Concord, LLC, the lead developer of the weapons station remake, formally known as the Concord Community Reuse Project.

The crux of the impasse is whether Lennar can afford to use as many labor union workers as county labor leaders propose. Lennar officials have said that the difference between Lennar’s overall labor offer and the Building Trades Council’s overall request is about $546 million.

Since June 2018, the developer and the union consortium have met nine times, and reached an impasse in October.

Councilman Edi Birsan offered a motion that directed Lennar and the Building Trades County to “refocus” back at the bargaining table and arrive at an agreement they both support. Recommended goals include 40 percent of labor hires being from Concord; an approved apprenticeship program; priority for veterans in hiring and training; and paying at least a “prevailing wage” to hired labor.

These were all recommendations only, as such changes to the long-established “term sheet” of listed requirements of the developer needed to be on the council meeting agenda for changes to be made.

Kofi Bonner, co-COO of FivePoint-Lennar and of the reuse project, told the council he was confused over the new recommendations, and wasn’t sure they present a significant way around the impasse. But beyond that, officials from both Lennar and the Building Trades Council on-hand agreed to meet soon, at a date to be determined.

The reuse plan for the 5,000-acre weapons station site — one of the biggest such projects in Northern California — calls for building 13,000 residences, commercial and office space, a college campus and other amenities on 2,300 acres. Most of the development would be near the North Concord-Martinez BART station, just south of state Highway 4 on Concord’s northeast edge.

The City Council was choosing from among three basic paths forward. The council could have deemed Lennar’s efforts to secure labor agreements insufficient; in that event, Lennar faced relinquishing its role as master developer for Phase 1 of the reuse project. The council could have deemed Lennar’s labor agreement sufficient, allowing the project could move forward with Lennar at the helm.

The council chose a version of the third option, to postpone a decision and have the developer and labor leaders keep working to find common ground.

Lennar is charged by the city with securing those project labor agreements.

The Jan. 8 council session was actually a continuation of a meeting that started the previous night and continued for 6-1/2 hours of staff reports, discussion with Lennar and Building Trades Council officials and public testimony from more than 80 speakers.

That night, hundreds of area union members and their supporters crowded not only the council chambers but an overflow room and the courtyard at City Hall. Soon before adjourning their meeting just before 1 a.m., Concord council members said they wished they had had a bigger venue for the meeting, and that it was too late to reserve a bigger space for the following night’s continued meeting.

Bonner said that his company would walk away from the Naval Weapons Station reuse project if it isn’t satisfied with labor agreements. While Bonner and others acknowledged Lennar used all union labor at its recent project at Hunters Point in San Francisco, several people also said San Francisco’s housing market makes the extra cost of union labor to developers less affordable in Contra Costa County.

The U.S. Navy is awaiting a resolution of the Concord project labor agreement issue, and progress on a draft specific plan on the former weapons station land, to resume negotiations with the city for formal sale and transfer of the property.

The northernmost part of the old weapons station, north of Highway 4, continues in operation as the Military Ocean Terminal Concord.