A longstanding plan to remake the former Concord Naval Weapons Station in northeastern Concord into a new 2,300-acre community with 13,000 housing units and millions of square feet of commercial space will almost certainly be delayed, possibly by years, after the Concord City Council voted to not grant the current master developer an extension to negotiate with the area’s labor unions.
As part of a council “telemeeting” Tuesday in which the five councilmembers took part remotely in deference to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, several votes were taken in response to a letter from Lennar, the master developer of what is known formally as the Concord Community Reuse Project.
Lennar sought assurances from the City Council on four points — that the developer negotiated in good faith with labor representatives, that the developer could negotiate with individual trade groups rather than the blanket Contra Costa Building and Construction Trades Council; the specifics on what constitutes “prevailing wages;” and a six-month extension for the developer to negotiate with the unions.
The City Council voted 3-2 to not follow city staff recommendations to approve a 12-month negotiation extension, with added financial requirements.
“It delays the project, but doesn’t stop it,” Concord Mayor Tim McGallian said after Tuesday night’s vote. “We need to regroup and figure out what the next step is.”
A request for proposals from new prospective master developers will likely be put out in the coming months, he added.
In May 2016, the Concord City Council voted unanimously to select Lennar over Catellus as master developer of the first phase of the $6 billion project. Since then, planning has moved forward, including negotiations between Lennar and the Contra Costa Building and Construction Trades Council.
In October, Lennar and the trades council declared an impasse in talks. The stalemate centered on whether Lennar could 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 trades council’s overall request is about $546 million.
In January, the City Council told Lennar and the trades council to go back to the negotiating table and work out a deal. But no formal meetings ever took place.
Both Lennar and the unions had their strong supporters locally, and regionally. Tuesday night, city staff spent almost an hour reading some 20 emailed public comments into the record.
Some reflected the sentiments of Joshua Anijar, executive director of the Contra Costa Labor Council, who wrote in to say Lennar has not carried out good-faith negotiations and criticized what he called “Lennar’s attempts to fracture the labor community.”
Others agreed with Debra Ballinger, executive director of the advocacy group Monument Impact, who urged Lennar, the trades and the city to cooperate, compromise and get the huge development project moving ahead. She was interested in jobs and much-needed housing.
“We will all lose if we don’t,” Ballinger said.
The council on Tuesday night said they did not take part in any negotiations, and voted unanimously to not confirm whether they were carried out in good faith. The council also opted, by a 3-2 vote, to reject the idea that Lennar could negotiate with one or more of the individual unions rather than the trades council.
McGallian said part of the problem was unclear language in the “term sheet” that, essentially, laid out the rules for Lennar to handle labor talks and other matters. In any event, he said, the huge Concord Community Reuse Project is far from dead.
“The Navy’s not going to just pull the rug out from under us,” he said. “We’re still OK.”