Above: Aerial view of the border between existing neighborhoods and the former Concord Naval Weapons Station. Image credit: Scott Hein.
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Dominic Aliano, Edi Birsan, and Tim McGallian, Concord City Councilmembers, voted for Seeno/Discovery Builders and their partners as Master Developer of the former Concord Naval Weapons Station. Massive reuse project may now become a disaster for Concord and the region.
“On Saturday, August 21, 2021, three members of the Concord City Council threw the massive Concord Naval Weapons Station reuse project into jeopardy by choosing Seeno/Discovery Builders as Master Developer. It was a horrible decision. Based on the long and troubled history of Seeno/Discovery Builders, the extensive record shows this will be bad for Concord, and it will be bad for the environment,” said Ted Clement, Executive Director, Save Mount Diablo.
On August 21, Concord City Councilmembers Dominic Aliano, Edi Birsan, and Tim McGallian chose Seeno/Discovery Builders and their partners as Master Developer for the massive 13,000-house, 2,300-acre Concord reuse project.
In a vote that will define their political careers, Mayor McGallian, Vice Mayor Aliano, and Councilmember Birsan have chosen to stand in clear opposition to the will and best interests of Concord residents.
You can let them know how you feel here:
Tim McGallian, Mayor, (City Council District 5), email@example.com
Dominic Aliano, Vice Mayor, (City Council District 3), firstname.lastname@example.org
Edi Birsan, Councilmember, (City Council District 4), email@example.com
You can see the city council districts and which you live in here.
Councilmembers Carlyn Obringer (District 2) and Laura Hoffmeister (District 1) courageously voted against Seeno/Discovery Builders, and to select Brookfield as the Master Developer. We sincerely thank Councilmembers Obringer and Hoffmeister for making a good choice, and encourage all Concord residents to thank them too:
Seeno/Discovery Builders Was the Weakest Choice
City Councilmembers Dominic Aliano, Edi Birsan, and Tim McGallian chose Seeno/Discovery Builders even though Seeno/Discovery Builders and their partners were rejected in the previous selection, made the weakest presentation, were clearly the weakest candidate based on city staff review of qualifications, refused to provide required financial information, have a long history of unethical and illegal business practices, and have filed lawsuits against the city, the East Bay Regional Park District, and the Navy.
More than 90 percent of all public comment received by the Concord City Council clearly asked them not to choose Seeno or their partners.
The City of Concord will now negotiate a term sheet and other agreements with Seeno/Discovery Builders and begin work on a specific plan.
Save Mount Diablo’s Public Information Campaign
For the past two months, Save Mount Diablo has shared 36 newspaper articles and related legal cases about Seeno/Discovery Builders’ often unethical or illegal business practices in emails to our supporters and to Concord residents, and in social media.
They are a public record of Seeno/Discovery Builders’ activities.
For a brief overview, see our summary of the Seeno Way and our official comment letter to the Concord City Council.
What Did They Say?
You can watch the city council meeting to see what these councilmembers thought of what the vast majority of the public had to say.
Councilmember Edi Birsan was the first councilmember to make clear his support for Seeno/Discovery Builders—but his position was not a surprise. When hundreds of Concord residents contacted him through our Save Mount Diablo campaign, Birsan often responded, to defend Seeno/Discovery Builders—despite their long-documented troubled record.
Birsan attempted to blame Save Mount Diablo, which for 50 years has worked to protect land around Mount Diablo and which is widely recognized as moderate and pragmatic.
We’ve dramatically expanded Mount Diablo State Park, helped create Lime Ridge Open Space, helped negotiate the deal to create the new Thurgood Marshall Regional Park at the former Concord Naval Weapons Station, and just completed a $15 million capital campaign to protect nine properties.
Further, Save Mount Diablo recently received national recognition by being awarded renewed accreditation. To earn this, Save Mount Diablo provided extensive documentation and was subject to a comprehensive third-party evaluation prior to achieving renewed national accreditation—something only a minority of the country’s nonprofit land trusts have achieved. The Land Trust Accreditation Commission awarded renewed accreditation, signifying Save Mount Diablo’s continued ethical and sound practices.
We also legally challenged the Pittsburg City Council’s approval of Seeno/Discovery Builders’ Faria project, which would allow grading and development on the Los Medanos ridgeline overlooking the weapons station and the new regional park.
Birsan claimed Save Mount Diablo’s use of the words “Albert Seeno Jr.,” “Albert Seeno III,” and “Seeno family,” in sharing newspaper articles about Seeno/Discovery Builders was somehow un-American: “I’m very disappointed in Save Mount Diablo . . . I’m disappointed in the membership . . . Put aside the misinformation . . . I am so furious at people who attack families . . .”
Ignoring the long, documented record of Seeno/Discovery Builders breaking environmental and other laws, Councilmember Birsan minimized it as: “Albert [Seeno III], you put your foot in your mouth.”
Councilmember Birsan attempted to suggest that all the controversies predated the current generation of Seenos (they don’t) and invited Albert Seeno III to agree that none off them were actually him.
We disagree. Seeno/Discovery Builders’ history is well-known. Considering the years of work, the massive scale of this project, and the potential for the public to greatly benefit or be irrevocably harmed by it, we place more importance on the business record of the companies responsible for building it and the legal history of its owners and managers than Councilmember Birsan seems to. The three councilmembers have just initiated years of controversy.
Vice Mayor Dominic Aliano added: “I agree with everything that you [Councilmember Birsan] said.”
Mayor Tim McGallian and the other councilmembers cited good labor policies as a reason they chose Seeno/Discovery Builders, but since all three candidates had project labor agreements with the Building Trades Council, this justification makes no sense.
At the end of the day, when speaking of Seeno/Discovery Builders, Mayor Tim McGallian said he wanted to: “Go with that individual who can actually fulfill what the community has asked us to fulfill. . . .They’re truly fulfilling what the community has asked for.”
Mayor McGallian, the community that you were elected to represent overwhelmingly asked you to reject the Seeno/Discovery Builders and their partners. You did the opposite.
Now that the 3-2 majority of the Concord City Council selected the Seeno/Discovery Builders and their partners as Master Developer, the City of Concord plans to enter into an exclusive negotiating agreement with Seeno, Discovery Builders Inc., Lewis Group of Companies, and California Capital Investment Group.
Over the coming months, if the City of Concord and the companies involved agree on a term sheet, and a specific plan for some or all of the development, Seeno/Discovery Builders and their partners will be fully vested in their role as Master Developer and be in charge of building 13,000 houses, millions of square feet of commercial facilities, greenways, parks, and other building types over more than 2,300 acres of the former Concord Naval Weapons Station.
Having already chosen Seeno/Discovery Builders and partners in the face of massive public opposition, the majority of the city council likely intends to enter into a formal agreement and to accept the specific plan that will be produced.
We have no reason to believe that Seeno/Discovery Builders and their partners have the ability to hold to the community’s vision already adopted and laid out in the Reuse Plan back in 2012 of smart, climate-friendly, transit-oriented communities that provide affordable high-quality housing, buffered and connected by greenways and parks, and taking full advantage of the North Concord BART station to reduce traffic.
We believe it’s likely that Seeno/Discovery Builders and their partners will try to change the goals and objectives of the Reuse Plan; reduce parks, open space, and other public benefits; and construct things as cheaply and quickly as possible with as little public input as they can get away with in order to maximize their profits.
What Does It All Mean?
Everyone who made their voice heard and asked for the Concord City Council to reject Seeno/Discovery Builders and their partners should be proud. You responded to our call to action, and made a clear recommendation. Unfortunately, the majority of the council went with Seeno/Discovery Builders. That’s not the end of it.
Stakeholders have worked on this project for 15 years. The Reuse Plan is supposed to include significant public benefits, including parks and open space, high-quality affordable housing, good jobs, and sustainable design that would reduce the climate crisis.
Except for Building Trades’ opposition to the former Master developer, Lennar, for not agreeing on a project labor agreement, opposition to the weapons station project has been limited up to this point. For a project this size, that’s unheard of.
With Seeno/Discovery Builders and their partners in charge, that could change very quickly. What could have been a great project is now in danger of becoming a disaster.
We’re planning next steps, and in the coming months, we’ll need local residents who are committed to making their region a better place and holding decision makers accountable. We can’t do it without you!
A Project Years Over 15 Years in the Making
More than 15 Years of Work
More than 15 years after we began our work on the Concord Naval Weapons Station (CNWS) Area Reuse Plan, changes to this more-than-5,000-acre swath of land between Concord and Pittsburg south of Highway 4 are happening. Eventually, more than 12,000 housing units are envisioned, and 69 percent of the area has already or is planned to become protected city parks, greenways, and conservation open space. None of the large conservation gains won on this project could have happened without the extensive cooperation and collaboration efforts we have engaged in.
In 2005, the Navy approved the closure of the 5,046-acre inland area of the CNWS, a landscape comprised of rolling hills, grassland, and oak woodland dotted with bunkers and old railroad tracks. This is public land and the public should benefit from its reuse.
Even before 2005, Save Mount Diablo saw the huge opportunity that this vast area of mostly undeveloped land represented for wildlife habitat protection, outdoor recreational experiences, and other public benefits. We also recognized that others saw great opportunities of a different sort and that by working together, we all had a better chance of accomplishing our own separate goals and winning much more than would be possible if everyone went it alone.
In 2007, we joined with Concord residents around CNWS, labor unions, interfaith groups, affordable housing advocates, and other environmental organizations to form the Community Coalition for a Sustainable Concord (CCSC). Over the next five years, as Concord prepared the Area Reuse Plan, which would be the blueprint for future use of the CNWS, the CCSC worked to make its vision of a vibrant mix of jobs and affordable homes in walkable neighborhoods surrounded by protected open space become reality.
As a result, when the city adopted the Area Reuse Plan in 2012, more than 3,500 acres of land were designated as parks, greenways, and open space. Much of this would eventually become a new regional park owned and managed by East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD). Affordable housing guidelines were also set, greenway buffers between existing residents and new development would be created, good jobs would be secured, and transit-oriented mixed-use development would be built to capitalize on the North Concord BART Station and keep as many cars off the road as possible.
Lennar was chosen for Master Developer for the former Concord Naval Weapons Station.
More than 2,200 acres of land transferred from the US Navy to the National Park Service and then from the National Park Service to the East Bay Regional Park District to create what’s now designated as Thurgood Marshall Regional Park, Concord’s first regional park. Several hundred more acres would be eventually transferred to the new regional park.
In July, the board of directors for the East Bay Regional Park District unanimously approved the final land use plan for the new regional park, which is three times the size of Angel Island and bigger than Tilden, with 27 miles of new trails. This approval is the necessary step before the first phase of the park can be opened, the area south of Bailey Road.
Lennar backed out of Master Developer position, and the Concord City Council started a new search for a Master Developer position.
In August, Albert Seeno III and Discovery Builders filed a lawsuit against the East Bay Regional Park District, delaying the opening of the new regional park.
In February, the Pittsburg City Council unanimously approved the nearby Faria project, which would allow Seeno Discovery Builders to build on top of the ridgeline overlooking the regional park. We filed a lawsuit challenging Pittsburg’s approval, hoping to push development away from the ridgeline to protect the park.
The East Bay Regional Park District Board of Directors unanimously approved a permanent name for Concord’s new regional park: “Thurgood Marshall Regional Park – Home of the Port Chicago 50.”
In June, there were three candidates for the Master Developer position. One of them included Seeno/Discovery Builders. We began educating the public about Seeno/Discovery Builders’ long history of breaking environmental and other laws, and not acting in the public’s best interest. Their business practices have been unethical and illegal.
On August 21, 2021, Concord City Councilmembers Dominic Aliano, Edi Birsan, and Tim McGallian chose Seeno/Discovery Builders and their partners as Master Developer for the massive 13,000-house, 2,300-acre Concord reuse project. (See the top of this page for more recent updates.)
Our hope is that we will be successful in the future by doing what has worked so well for us in the past: collaborating with different stakeholders to accomplish goals that benefit the entire community.
Reuse Area Land Use Plan. Note that this image is intended to a general concept for full build-out of the entire reuse area over the next 30 to 40 years, does not reflect current or pending specific project approvals, and does not show the full extent of the new regional park. The specific plan will have more recent maps when it is released. Image credit: Hart Howerton (consultant to the former Master Developer).
Map of Concord Hills Regional Park from the final land use plan approved by East Bay Regional Park District’s board of directors in July, 2020. Image credit: East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD).