Rail box cars at the Concord Naval Weapons Station will soon be removed

SFGate - Contra Costa Blog

The City of Concord announced this week that several rail box cars will be removed from the Naval Weapons Station throughout the next few months.

Here's the information, direct from the city....

As part of the clean up of the Concord Naval Weapons Station, the Navy will begin a project in May to disassemble and transport components of several hundred rail box cars from the base. The box cars will be transported to a facility in Pittsburg to be cut apart as scrap and recycled. As the contractor begins to mobilize the first week in May, residents may notice an increase in truck traffic on Pt. Chicago Highway as supplies and heavy equipment are delivered.

The team on the base will disconnect the wheels and axles from the box cars and the box of each car will be loaded on to a flatbed truck for the trip to Pittsburg. Wheels and axles will be stockpiled and moved in bulk to the recycling yard on trucks.

Before the box cars are moved, brush along an existing road within the site will be trimmed and the road repaired under the observation of an environmental scientist certified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Trucks will exit the base onto Willow Pass Road and follow Highway 4 to Pittsburg. There will be approximately five trips per day on and off the site for hauling the vehicles. During ingress and egress to the site by transport vehicles, traffic control measures will be in place.

The project is expected to take several months.

For more information, contact the Concord Reuse Project office, 925-671-3001."

Concord to weigh taking ownership of parts of Naval Weapons Station

by Paul Thissen
Contra Costa Times

CONCORD City leaders for the first time are considering a possibility they said would never happen: that Concord might end up with deeds to some of the Concord Naval Weapons Station land.

The Department of Defense still has years of work before it can shed the property, and no decisions have been made about when or how that would happen. But for the first time, the city is formally considering the possibility that it might take ownership of parts of the former base.

Locally, the work being done by the city's staff and consultants is primarily to rewrite the base reuse plan the detailed federal document developed over four years and dozens of public workshops into the city's general plan, which gives it the force of California law.

The idea is to keep exactly the same plan, said Ellen Greenberg of Arup, the city's consulting company. But some ideas are refined, such as putting job centers immediately next to the BART station in the transit-oriented development area to maximize BART ridership, she said.

But the city must also pay attention to shifts in federal policies.

When the Department of Defense announced the base would close, it said it wanted to auction off the land to the highest bidder.

But with new leadership installed by President Barack Obama, priorities have shifted. Now the federal government is more inclined to give the land to cities at a discounted rate if they can create jobs on the site.

Those cut-rate transfers to local governments, called "economic development conveyances," were more common in the 1990s. But during President George W. Bush's administration, federal law changed so most base property would be auctioned off at fair market value.

Late last year, Congress voted to again allow economic development conveyances, partly at the request of House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, who wanted to help San Francisco get Treasure Island. Local governments do not get the land for free, but can negotiate a discounted rate.

Since the law change, Concord has gotten "a lot of indication" that the Department of Defense prefers economic development transfers, at least for the moment, said Michael Wright, Concord's base reuse manager. But much of that indication comes from what is going on at other bases, and does not necessarily set what will happen in Concord.

The military's preference comes in part because they want to get rid of the land, and potential cleanup liabilities, according to Wright.

"They believe they can move the property quicker this way," Wright said, noting that the federal government and San Francisco argued for 10 or 15 years over the fair market value of Treasure Island.

The potential cleanup liabilities mean the city would need to evaluate whether it was worth taking any of the property.

The change is fascinating, said Councilman Mark Peterson, because the City Council has spent years trying to correct a misconception that the city would end up owning the property.

"Now "... there may be parts of the property that the city might have the opportunity to do that," Peterson said. "It's interesting to me to see how things change with administrations."

He added that even if the city has the opportunity, it might not be the right move.

"That is full of pitfalls," Peterson said, "and may not be the road we want to go down."

Tree thinning project to begin May 17 on the Concord Naval Weapons Station

The United States Forest Service (USFS), in coordination with U.S. Navy BRAC office, will begin a tree thinning and trimming project on the Inland portion of the Concord Naval Weapons Station on Monday, May 17. The project is expected to take four weeks. Work will be conducted Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The Forest Service planted and was responsible for maintenance of eight eucalyptus and pine tree plantations (or groves) on the site under lease from the Navy. The initial plantings occurred in the late 1960s.

The program will create a more defensible fire break between the plantations and existing neighborhoods along the western boundary of the base and will thin out smaller trees and debris to reduce fire fuels. The thinning of the plantations will also enhance the growth and health of the remaining trees and provide better habitat for birds and other wildlife on the base. A Forest Service biologist will be on hand to oversee the management of birds in the area.

The plantations are set aside as open space for recreation and habitat protection in the City of Concord's recently adopted Reuse Plan for the base.

For more information, contact Tim Howard, USFS Timber Management Officer, (530) 647-5382.

Concord Naval Weapons Station planning shifts focus to environmental, labor concernszzz

CONCORD At February's public hearings on the Concord Naval Weapons Station, residents and activist groups lined up at the microphone to plead their cases: Support local-hire policies. Mandate environmental building standards. Require more affordable housing.

Often, they were unsatisfied with the council's response: Not now. We will deal with that later.

Later starts now. On Tuesday, the City Council unveiled a list of topics it wants to study and revisit.

At the meeting, a handful of those same residents, activists and union leaders praised the council.

"I basically wanted to thank you for listening to the community," said John Chapman of the Greenbelt Alliance. "A framework is just a framework, but it's a great start."

On Feb. 23, the city approved a reuse plan for the shuttered base that includes 12,272 housing units, 28,800 residents, 26,530 jobs and a park bigger than Tilden Regional Park on the 5,028-acre site.

That plan lays out the rough blueprint for what will be built where. It includes the legally mandated review of the environmental effects of the plan.

But on the advice of its staff, the council decided not to include specific labor and environmental policies that could be handled later.

Tuesday's council resolution specifies which of those policies it will look at, including rules that would require hiring local construction workers, paying them a living wage and meeting environmental construction standards.

The city also will look at extra ways to assuage noise and traffic concerns of neighbors on West Street, Denkinger Road and near the North Concord BART station.

In addition, the city will look at whether the those who will work at the remade base will be able to afford to live there.

The additional studies will be done as the city codifies the plan into the city's general plan, which is what will give it the force of law.

"I look forward to an intelligent discussion of some of these issues, and I think we'll all be educated, frankly," Councilman Mark Peterson said. "I think we all have preconceived ideas about different things "... and I think we'll all probably be surprised about some of the things we learn."

Councilman Bill Shinn, an ardent supporter of more stringent affordable housing rules, took the chance to rib Peterson, who has been more skeptical of them.

"I look forward to Mr. Peterson's education in voting for affordable housing," Shinn said with a grin. Laughter filled the chamber.

Also on Tuesday, the council extended the contract of a consultant who is studying whether the weapons station should be added to the city's redevelopment agency. The move would impose additional state requirements on development there but give the city a greater share of its property tax revenue.

Mayor Guy Bjerke summed it up: "We're not done. There's still work to be done."

Concord approves Naval Weapons Station plan

CONCORD After four years and three dozen public hearings, the City Council on Tuesday approved the "clustered villages" plan for the Concord Naval Weapons Station.

Years remain before the Navy can sell the base and before anything will be built on the site.

But Tuesday's vote at a crowded meeting lays the final development blueprint to add 12,272 housing units, 28,800 residents, 26,530 jobs and a park bigger than Tilden Regional Park to the 5,028-acre site.

The plan would put higher-density, transit-oriented development near the North Concord BART station, along with three "villages" along the southwest border of the base in the area known as "bunker city."

It leaves about 65 percent of the site as open space or park land, including almost the entire area east of Mount Diablo Creek.

The plan passed on a 3-2 vote, with Vice Mayor Helen Allen and Councilman Mark Peterson dissenting.

In the coming months, the city must amend its general plan to include the provisions of the plan to give them the force of law.

In passing the plan, the three-vote majority added the option that an area zoned for low-density housing east of Mount Diablo Creek could instead be used as park land.

Councilwoman Laura Hoffmeister said she did not want fewer low-density homes overall, but wanted to see if there was somewhere else in the plan to put them.

Peterson supported the plan in general, but voted against it because he said he could not support any change to the plan at the final meeting.

He said he considers adding the option to use that space as park land as a change.

Vice Mayor Helen Allen voted against the plan because she believes it represents the wishes of the interest groups who packed city meetings, not the wishes of Concord residents. She said the plan should be put to a citywide vote.

Last year, Allen supported the plan in the final vote in January 2009, but she had previously opposed it. At the time, she said she was being "benevolent" by voting for the plan.

Twenty-nine people spoke to the council before the vote.

Many represented the Community Coalition for a Sustainable Concord, which includes environmental, labor, housing and neighborhood advocacy groups.

The coalition had submitted a list of additional mitigation measures they wanted the city to include, on such issues as affordable housing, environmental protections and rules to require hiring local workers for construction projects.

Council members said they supported many of the ideas presented and wanted more information on local-hire rules, but that they would consider them later with the general plan amendments. They said they believed they were approving a strong and legally adequate plan and environmental review that could be tweaked later.

It was disappointing that the city did not take the coalition's suggestions, said Samuel Tepperman-Gelfant, an attorney with Public Advocates, a nonprofit law firm that is a member of the coalition.

The environmental review they passed does not meet legal standards, he said.

Reuse Project draft Revised EIR review period extended

The City of Concord is extending the public review period for the draft Revised Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the proposed reuse plan for the closed Concord Naval Weapons Station. The draft document was released on August 28, 2009 and had an original due date for comments of October 15, 2009. Written comments will be accepted until the close of business on October 26, 2009. This increases the review period to 60 days.

Comments should be sent to the attention of:

    Michael W. Wright
    Director, Community Reuse Planning
    City of Concord
    1950 Parkside Dr M/S56
    Concord, California 94519

Wright can be reached at (925) 671-3019 or michael.wright@ci.concord.ca.us if there are questions about the extension.

CD copies of the draft Revised EIR can be obtained from Pam Laperchia at the Concord Civic Center or by calling (925) 671-3001. The document can also be viewed and down loaded from the City's Reuse Project website at www.concordreuseproject.org. A printed copy and electronic copy of the report is available in the Concord Public Library, 2900 Salvio St. The Concord Public Library can also provide computer access.

After the public review and comment period is completed, a Final EIR will be prepared. The Concord City Council will consider the Final EIR before it takes action to certify the document and officially adopt the Reuse Plan.

For more information, contact the Concord Community Reuse Project office, (925) 671-3001.

Reuse Project revised Draft EIR available for 45-day review

The revised Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the proposed reuse plan for the Concord Naval Weapons Station is now available for a 45-day review period.

The revised DEIR addresses the Preferred Alternative (Clustered Villages) as well as the Concentration and Conservation Alternative and the No Project Alternative.

The Concord City Council unanimously approved the Clustered Villages alternative as the Preferred Reuse Plan Alternative in January 2009.

The 45-day public review period begins Aug. 28 and ends Oct. 15. Written comments should be directed to Michael Wright, Director of Community Reuse Planning, City of Concord, 1950 Parkside Drive, MS/56, Concord, CA 94519.

The comment period will close at 5 p.m. on Oct. 15.

The document is available for review at the Concord Community Reuse Project Office at Concord Civic Center, 1950 Parkside Drive, Wing A, or at the Concord Public Library, 2900 Salvio St., or on the Concord Community Reuse Project website, www.concordreuseproject.org.

Copies of the document are available upon request on compact disc by calling Reuse Project Executive Assistant Pamela Laperchia, (925) 671-3001 or can be picked up at the Concord Community Reuse Project Office at the Concord Civic Center. Printed copies can be ordered through Ms. Laperchia for the cost of the printing.

After the public review and comment period is completed, a Final EIR, which includes response to all submitted comments, will be prepared. The Final EIR will also include a response to all comments received on the May 2008 draft EIR that covered the original seven reuse alternatives. The Concord City Council will consider the Final EIR before it takes action to certify the document and officially adopt the Reuse Plan.

For more information, contact the Concord Community Reuse Project office, (925) 671-3001 or visit www.concordreuseproject.org.

Draft EIR on preferred alternative reuse plan to be released

On January 12, 2009 the Concord City Council, sitting as the Local Reuse Authority (LRA), designated a preferred alternative reuse plan for the Concord Naval Weapons Station.

The LRA also directed staff to conduct further environmental review, under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), of the preferred alternative and a second alternative that was sent to the LRA by the Community Advisory Committee.

The City wishes to notify you, or your organization, that the draft EIR prepared in accord with CEQA will be released no later than Aug 28, 2009. There will be a 45 day review period and a specific date for receipt of written comments will be provided on the day of release of the draft document.

Please address any questions to:
Michael W. Wright
Director, Community Reuse Planning
City of Concord
1950 Parkside Dr M/S56
Concord, California 94519
Office: (925) 671-3019
Cell: (510) 847-4262

Navy initiates fire safety program at Concord Naval Weapons Station

The U.S. Navy is working with the U.S. Forest Service to bring the various tree plantations on the shuttered Concord Naval Weapons Station into compliance with fire safety standards. The Forest Services leased the land from the Navy where the tree plantations are located.

There are approximately a half dozen plantations or groves of trees on the base planted by the Forest Service over the years to test the viability of different tree species in the East Bay climate. Several of the plantations are now overgrown and have spread closer to the neighborhoods bordering the western edge of the weapons station than is considered prudent from a fire safety perspective.

To create a defensible space between the plantations and the neighborhoods of approximately 75 feet, the Forest Service will have contractors marking trees to be removed because they have died or because they present a fire hazard, and assessing the detritus (bark, leaves, fallen branches etc) on the floor of the plantations to plan for its removal.

The Navy's goal is to protect neighborhoods close to the stands of trees from fire danger. There are no plans to remove any of the tree plantations.

The information gathered and proposed actions and schedules will be submitted to the Navy by the Forest Service in the form of a management plan. The Navy will provide the City of Concord with the plan so that it can be shared with residents prior to any tree removals.

The Forest Service is responsible for coordinating with appropriate state and federal wildlife agencies before and during removal actions.

Questions can be addressed to Esther Ewell, (619) 532-0766 of the U.S. Navy.

Controlled Burn at Concord Naval Weapons Station

Residents and commuters may see or smell smoke coming from the Concord Naval Weapons Station this month. The Contra Costa County Fire Protection District will be conducting a Wildland Readiness Exercise on the base, which includes controlled burns, the cause of the smoke. The controlled burn area will be on grass lands in the middle of the large bunker complex west of Mt Diablo Creek.

The training will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the following days:

  • Wednesday, June 17 through Saturday, June 20
  • Monday and Tuesday, June 22 and 23
  • Friday, June 26, through Sunday, June 28

Firefighters will set controlled burns on the property to practice their firefighting skills and test their equipment.

A recent press release in the Contra Costa Times indicated that firefighters would be taking heavy equipment off-road, but this is incorrect and is not an activity permitted under their license from the Navy.

Questions can be directed to Emily Hopkins at Contra Costa Fire, (925) 941-3505, or the U.S. Navy BRAC Office, Michael Mentink (415) 743-4729.

Report: Bay Area has ample room to grow

The Bay Area has ample room within its existing communities to house and employ the 2 million new residents projected to call the region home by 2035, according to a report unveiled Wednesday.

Titled "Grow Smart Bay Area," the Greenbelt Alliance's new study makes the case that the Bay Area can say no to suburban sprawl and still accommodate new residents and jobs.

Alliance researchers consulted with planning experts and analyzed the development potential of some 40,000 vacant or underutilized sites located near existing transit and other public services.

Researchers identified seven "smart spots" where they believe higher density development makes sense, including along San Pablo and Telegraph avenue corridors through Oakland and Berkeley, and swaths of low density swaths near BART stations in southern Alameda County.

In Contra Costa, the alliance concludes that more intense development could occur near BART stations in Walnut Creek, the former Concord Naval Weapons Station and in Pittsburg.

Smart growth proponents say attractive, walkable neighborhoods near public transit with a range of home sizes and where residents can work and shop nearby reduce traffic congestion, crime and air pollution, and allow for more efficient delivery of public services.

The 50-year-old alliance has for many years advocated the siting of new homes, shops and offices within city limits as a means to curb suburban sprawl and protect open space. It has been one of the most vocal proponents of growth boundaries including Contra Costa County's urban limit line.

But the latest report signifies the alliance's intent to ramp up the political pressure on local and state leaders to implement smart growth policies.

"I see the stars aligning for smart growth," Greenbelt Alliance Executive Director Jeremy Madsen told several hundred people gathered in San Francisco on Wednesday morning in the famed Carnelian Room with its panoramic view of the Bay. "At the federal, state and local levels, we are increasingly seeing a willingness to use legislation to encourage smart growth."

The concept has undeniably gained momentum, fueled, in large part, by concern about the Bay Area's infamous traffic congestion and the rising costs of providing services such as water, roads, transit and schools.

A regional coalition called the Bay Area Alliance for Sustainable Communities, Contra Costa County and its cities, among other regions statewide, have adopted smart growth blueprints in the past few years.

While the blueprints are advisory, the most significant smart growth legislation is a bill signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last year that ties state transportation dollars to local land use decisions.

Smart growth proponents also expect the state's new greenhouse gas reduction regulations will spur the adoption of further policies that encourage the construction of housing, shops and offices near transit.

Read the Greenbelt Alliance's new growth report at www.growsmartbayarea.org.

Reach Lisa Vorderbrueggen at lvorderbrueggen@bayareanewsgroup.com or 925-945-4773 or www.ibabuzz.com/politics.

Concord Naval Weapons Station planning right on track

City leaders say there could be development at the shuttered Concord Naval Weapons Station as early as 2015 but that it won't be completely built out with a university campus, sprawling park and streets for about 30 years.

"This is going to be done in a lot of phases," said Mike Wright, the city's project director.

The 5,000-acre base was closed in 2005 as a cost-cutting measure. Since then, Concord has held dozens of hearings to learn from residents what they want the land used for in the future.

The Concord City Council in January unanimously approved a plan for the base that includes intense development near the BART station, "greenways" that would connect people to a college campus and three small residential villages framed by manicured parks. There will be biotech and research office areas, along with retail and smart-growth public transportation systems.

This "clustered villages" concept calls for 28,900 people on the base about 12,300 housing units plus about 64 percent of the land set aside as open space.

The environmental study for the project will come out in mid-June or July, Wright said. The public will have 45 days to comment on it, and then the final version will come out late this year. The city will then certify the proposal and make changes to the city's general plan, he said.

"There was a time when we had a lot of public hearings, and now that that's done, people are probably wondering what's next," Wright said.

During the next few months, studies will be done on the biological and cultural resources on the land, Wright said. The U.S. Navy will likely dispose of the land in 2010.

"Eventually, each individual housing development or project has to come in front of the City Council for approval, so it'll be awhile before we start seeing things out there," Wright said.

Cal State East Bay will have to decide on its plans, plus lobby for state funding for a branch campus at the base, and the East Bay Regional Park District will have to wait until the U.S. Navy cleans up contaminants on the base before kicking off plans for a regional park.

Wright, who has worked on similar projects in the past, said this is one of his favorites.

"I wouldn't mind living there," he said.

'Clustered Villages' smart growth option selected for weapons station reuse plan

CONCORD - The City Council selected the Clustered Villages alternative as the Preferred Reuse Plan for the Concord Naval Weapons Station at its meeting January 12. The Council also approved a federally-mandated companion Homeless Accommodation Plan for the project.

The City will submit the plan to the Navy by the January 30 deadline, where it will undergo additional environmental review. At the same time, the City will submit the Homeless Accommodation Plan to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) where it will be reviewed for compliance with base reuse mandates.

At the January 12 meeting, City Council members expressed their appreciation to the members of the Community Advisory Committee and to all members of the public who participated in the numerous meetings, hearings and workshops conducted over the past three years. They encouraged everyone to continue to follow the process as the plan moves forward into the environmental review phase.

The Clustered Villages alternative features retail, residential and commercial development near the North Concord BART station, a series of three pedestrian-friendly villages west of Mt. Diablo Creek, and designates about 65 percent of the 5,028-acres site as parks and open space. The plan includes land for a number of community amenities, including a tournament-level sports complex, a university/education center, a public safety training facility, and a variety of types of active and passive parks. The plan will undergo additional environmental review by the City before it is adopted as the City's final Reuse Plan sometime this summer.

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Concord leaders debating homeless accommodations on weapons station land

CONCORD - City leaders are debating how to accommodate some of the county's homeless population on the shuttered Concord Naval Weapons Station.

City Council members are trying to decide whether Concord should put $25 million into a trust for homeless services and housing throughout the county, or instead approve a plan for 260 "homeless" housing units on the former military base. The federal government, through its base closure laws, requires that communities overseeing a base closure dedicate part of the land or money made off it to homeless causes.

Amie Fishman of East Bay Housing Organizations told the City Council on Monday she favors the "homeless" units be spread among 12,000 units of proposed affordable housing units on the base.

"This doesn't serve the entire need countywide, but it puts a dent in the need," she said, noting that homeless people should be able to stay in the units until they can get on their feet, with no stringent time limits.

"We urge you to not settle for $25 million," Fishman said.

A trust, regardless of how much goes into it, would be funded through development.

The cost for housing and services at the base will likely be around $78 million, including construction, operation and maintenance over two decades. Of that total, $23 million would go to building the 260 units.

Councilman Mark Peterson said he liked the idea of a large food bank on weapons station land, and an employment center to help the homeless in their job searches. Others liked that idea, too.

"We're struggling with whether to build actual housing units versus a trust fund," he said. "We're trying to figure out the best use of money. I just need more information before making a decision. How many families would be supported by the units versus (by) the money?

"My gut reaction is that the trust fund is a better way to approach it because it's immediate, rather than five or 10 years out," he said. "And we're not only meeting needs in Concord, but in Clayton, Martinez, Walnut Creek and Pittsburg. Do 260 units really meet the needs in all those places?

"Yet we have the experts here telling us that people only stop being homeless if they have permanent housing, so I'd just like more information."

There are about 4,000 homeless people countywide, and in a given year 10,000 to 12,000 utilize services offered by soup kitchens, food banks or the like, said Councilman Bill Shinn.

"We have to be careful when we talk about the homeless - they're not under bridges and peeing on trees," he said. "That's a stereotype."

Shinn said he liked the idea of a trust fund, but wanted to make sure $25 million, which is the staff recommendation, would be enough money.

Councilman Guy Bjerke said he supports the trust fund idea because it would bring relief as early as 2010, which is when the Navy is expected to transfer the land.

"But I also know that when homeless housing providers are competing for land in the open market, they generally lose," said Bjerke. But this land might be had at a discount or even for free, he said, through the federal base closure process.

"Simply giving them money doesn't give them an advantage in the free market. But I also recognize that more often than not, development tends to produce one-time dollars (developer fees) at a point of sale but it doesn't generate ongoing revenue. So I struggle with the concept of moving forward with a project that has ongoing (maintenance and operation) expenses. We need to figure out a way to meet those ongoing obligations."

Councilwoman Laura Hoffmeister also said she liked the trust fund idea, but perhaps balancing that with some standard housing out on the base.

"It's a balancing of needs with other development opportunities," she said.

"If we say great, we're going to build all these units out there, then maybe we don't get as much open space as we wanted. All these things are trade-offs - we can't just keep piling up out there."

Antioch speaks out about Concord naval station

Planning for the 5,000-acre Concord Naval Weapons Station has officially entered the next political phase: neighborly advice.

Antioch Mayor-elect Jim Davis and a constituent cadre created a buzz when they testified last week for the first time at one of Concord's precursor hearings to the city's selection next year of a development plan on the mothballed base.

"I would like to invite someone from your group to come out to Antioch and hold workshops," Davis told the Concord City Council. "You want to get our buy-in rather than our opposition."

That's an understatement.

Some 280,000 people live east of the Willow Pass interchange on Highway 4, a choke point for East County commuters headed west to work each morning. Davis wants the Concord plan to include sufficient upgrades on Highways 4 and 242.

Davis is putting together an East County confab with Oakley, Pittsburg and Brentwood to talk about the Concord project's impacts.

Privately, Antioch's praise of regional cooperation drew a few snickers.

This is the same city, after all, where voters expanded the growth boundary and some of its most prominent officials denounced past regional planning initiatives.

And where has Antioch been for the past two years while Concord was doing all this planning?

"What can I say except that there's a new sheriff in town," Davis said. "We don't want to tell Concord what to build there. We just want to know how it's going to affect Highway 4."

POKE. Davis managed to get in a dig at outgoing Antioch Mayor Don Freitas, the man he beat Nov. 4 in his second run for the seat.

When Concord Mayor Bill Shinn advised Davis that the city had for months offered to share its plans with Antioch, Davis said he wasn't aware of it.

"My predecessor didn't share that information with the council," Davis responded.

That's a cheap shot, said an Antioch councilman. City staff provides the council members with regular weapons station planning updates ... but you have to read them.

WHY IS HE HERE? Antioch resident and unsuccessful Contra Costa County supervisor candidate Gary Agopian's testimony at the Concord meeting generated plenty of speculation.

No, Agopian is not using the Concord issue as a ploy to win an appointment to the vacancy on the Antioch City Council created by the election of Davis as mayor.

The day after this hearing, Agopian - who lives in Antioch - unequivocally told the council he does not want the job.

But, yes, Agopian is "very interested in running again for supervisor in four years," he said.

UMBRELLA, ANYONE? While some folks contemplated the Antioch component, Concord Councilwoman Helen Allen threw a water balloon onto the whole plan.

Neither of the two station development proposals under consideration are "world-class," she said.

And what would make them world-class?

"A major water feature," Allen said.

Hmm. Maybe the Bellagio in Las Vegas would be willing to build a replica of its famous fountain?

MAYORAL SIDESTEP: Allen says she has asked Councilwoman Laura Hoffmeister to take her mayor's shift next year.

Under the City Council's rotation schedule, it would have been Allen's turn to be mayor in 2009 followed by Hoffmeister in 2010.

"I've been mayor five times, twice in Clayton and three times in Concord," Allen said. "Why not let someone else do it?"

Both women are up for re-election in 2010, and it's a public-relations boon to run with the mayor title.

It's unclear if Allen will run again. She tried to withdraw her candidacy in 2006 but failed to do so in time for the county to remove her name from the ballot - and she won.

Hoffmeister says she has made no decisions about 2010 but is willing to take on the mayor's job if the council wants her.

"It's Helen's decision whether or not to step out of the rotation," Hoffmeister said. "Beyond that, I have no idea what the council will do."

Either way, Allen's request will almost certainly infuriate current Concord Mayor Bill Shinn.

He has asked his colleagues to reappoint him as mayor for a second year in order to maintain continuity in the weapons station planning process.

"Read my lips: The answer is no," Allen told Shinn.

GOT POLITICS? Read Inside Politics for the latest happenings at www.ibabuzz.com/insidepolitics:

  • San Ramon Mayor Abram Wilson says he will run again in 2010 for state Assembly, setting the stage for a rematch with newly elected Democrat Joan Buchanan.
  • Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, will give away to residents of his district two pairs of inaugural tickets in a lottery. Sign up online by midnight Nov. 30 at www.georgemiller.house.gov/inauguration.
  • Famed Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein visited in Santa Rosa for the first time the man known for 33 years only as Deep Throat.
  • Eleven people pulled papers to run March 3 for a seat on Alamo's first Town Council.

AND FINALLY: Moving trucks will show up Tuesday outside the offices of Assemblyman Mark DeSaulnier in Martinez and Sen. Tom Torlakson in Concord.

The men swapped seats in this month's election, courtesy of the voters, and now they have to exchange digs.

Wouldn't it be cheaper to repaint the signs out front?

Council leaning toward "clustered villages" plan for Concord Naval Weapons Station

CONCORD - City leaders leaned Monday night toward a plan that focuses on building small villages separated by parks on the mothballed Concord Naval Weapons Station.

The "clustered villages" concept calls for 28,900 people, 12,300 housing units, 26,500 jobs and about 3,200 acres of parkland and open space. That's 64 percent of the base's 5,028 inland acres, which is the part slated for development.

The other alternative - the "concentration and conservation plan," calls for more parks and open space - 3,680 acres. But there are no small villages, complete with their own schools and miniature retail hubs, in this plan.

Both plans call for intense development near the North Concord BART station, along with preservation of ridge lines and hillsides.

"I like the clustered villages approach because it spreads the development out a little bit, but I think it's still too dense," said Mayor Bill Shinn.

The council will not choose a preferred plan until its Jan. 12 meeting. Monday night was the first time in the two-year planning process that the council formally weighed in on the plans, which were chosen by a citizen-led panel.

Concord Council to take up Naval Weapons Station plans

CONCORD - For the first time, city leaders will embark on choosing a land use plan for the shuttered Concord Naval Weapons Station, weighing in on the number and locations of parks, and the placement and quantity of development.

Instead of holding the City Council meeting in the smallish chamber at the Civic Center, leaders will meet at 6:30 p.m. Monday in the Concord Senior Center to accommodate expected a larger crowd.

Housing and environmental organizations have been watching the city's years-long effort to come up with new uses for the base's 5,028 inland acres. And finally on Monday, they will get to talk with the full City Council about what they want to see happen on the former military station. Members of the public are encouraged to attend, too. In fact, Councilman Guy Bjerke said, the more the merrier.

"I hope people will come and explain why they like one of the options, or what they'd like to see changed, and I'd like to see people be as specific as they can be," he said. "Whether it's a different (greenbelt) buffer or wanting to see more active park areas east of (Mt. Diablo Creek), we want to hear it."

The council will continue to discuss the plans at a Dec. 1 meeting, and the panel is expected to make a final decision Jan. 12. There are two plans on the table. The "clustered villages" proposal calls for 12,300 housing units and a population of 28,880, with 65 percent of the land designated as open space and parks. The "conservation" plan contains more concentrated development, and more open space - 73 percent - than the other plan. However, that plan contains fewer "active" parks, land that is developed with park uses, versus open space. This proposal calls for 10,040 housing units and 21,260 jobs.

Both proposals preserve the hills and ridgelines, and they include hiking trails, a sports park and education facilities, plus a park in the central and eastern portions of the property. Both plans also put most development near the North Concord BART station.

The clustered villages proposal, however, features more roads connecting residents to parks. Also, retail and bus routes are closer to the rest of the city.

Amie Fishman, executive director of East Bay Housing Organizations, said she is happy with the general concepts, but she wants the city to put in writing some guarantees regarding housing for the work force, seniors and those with special needs.

"Frankly, there are families making less than $40,000 per year and they make up the work force," she said. "If they don't get housing, they'll be clogging up the roads and creating traffic jams, and this will not be a smart growth project after all."

Putting the guarantees in writing, she said, gives developers a sense of what their constraints and opportunities will be. Fishman also would like to see the city put in writing that it will not renege on promises about open space years down the road.

Kathy Gleason of the Concord Naval Weapons Station Neighborhood Alliance is passing fliers around in Concord neighborhoods encouraging them to attend the Monday meeting. Her organization wants to see 80 percent open space on the base and wants to see a large linear park separate new development from "old" Concord.

We Recommend Peterson and Shinn in Concord

THE CITY of Concord is on sound financial footing, but city leaders face major decisions on development of the Concord Naval Weapons Station and revitalization of the Monument Corridor.

To lead the city through these significant issues, we recommend that voters re-elect the incumbents who have done a solid job of leading the city in recent years, Bill Shinn and Mark Peterson.

La Shawn Wells, CEO of Western Career College and the only other candidate in the race for the two seats up Nov. 4, strikes us as a candidate with potential who should stay active and prepare himself for a future campaign.

But for now, we're sticking with the veterans who are better versed in the key issues facing the city.

Peterson, a deputy district attorney for more than 20 years, has been a member of the City Council since 1995. He has been a part of the leadership that has brought stability to the city and overseen projects such as the new police station, construction of a new senior center, downtown development including the Brenden Theaters and an increased police force.

Shinn, a retired sheriff's commander, is a 50-year resident of the city and has been on the council for four years. He has watched the city grow from a population of 22,000 to more than 125,000, making it the largest municipality in Contra Costa County.

Shinn and Peterson recognize that development and open space must be balanced in plans for the Concord Naval Weapons Station land, an area roughly the size of the city of Pleasant Hill.

They want the region to feature something distinctive, something "world class." As Peterson said, "It has to be out-of-the-box, not just housing and open space, but perhaps biotech or some kind of green industry."

As for Wells, he rightly points out that it's critical that the council continue to listen to residents. We hope he will remain an active participant and contributor to the process.

Community group endorses "clustered villages" land-use plan for Concord Naval Weapons Station

CONCORD - A 19-person residents' group has endorsed a plan for the Concord Naval Weapons Station that boasts 12,300 housing units and a population of 28,880, with 65 percent of the land designated as open space and parks.

The Community Advisory Committee met 36 times in two years, and Tuesday's decision was the group's final vote on what should go on the former military base's 5,028 inland acres. The Concord City Council, however, will get the final say.

The committee decided to approve the "clustered villages" plan as the endorsed, preferred alternative. It also decided to forward a second plan calling for more concentrated development, fewer parks and more open space than the clustered villages approach - just in case the City Council wants to look at that one, too.

The vote was 10-7 in favor of the proposals, with two committee members absent.

A neighborhood group is crying foul, though, arguing there isn't enough of a green buffer or linear park planned between existing neighborhoods and the new proposed development in the clustered villages plan. Most of the development concentrates around the North Concord BART station along the northwest tip of the property.

"This alternative was obviously being pushed through, railroaded through," said Kathy Gleason of the Concord Naval Weapons Station Neighborhood Alliance. "We're going to go into the neighborhoods to explain to people what was chosen, and that now is the time to speak up."

In the past, environmental groups have liked the framework of the proposed development, including the locations of where houses and commercial complexes will be concentrated, and where the parks and open space will physically sit. But they say there are too many homes, which will lead to too many people and too much traffic.

Concord Reuse Project Director Mike Wright says the plans' housing numbers are higher now in mid-September, the last time the committee discussed the plans.

"We tweaked the plans so we could have more park land and buffer area, but because of that, we had to concentrate the development in the villages a little more than we had. And parks cost money to build. So if we add more parks, we have to have a way (through development) to pay for that."

Proposed housing units in the clustered villages plan went from 11,950 two weeks ago to 12,300, and a buffer between old and new neighborhoods is between 175 feet and 350 feet wide.

"We tried to be as responsive as possible, but you can't make everyone happy," he said.

Gleason worries about the traffic impacts on the rest of the city, and pointed to a controversy in 2006 in which the City Council attempted to plan housing units on the weapons station - around 13,000 units - but backtracked when the community objected.

She also said she was surprised the advisory committee took a vote Tuesday, rather than waiting until another scheduled meeting next week.

Dan Helix, chairman of the citizen committee, said that the committee had more than enough meetings, plus workshops, and engaged in the "most transparent public process" he'd ever been a part of.

"I don't think any of this was much of a surprise," Helix said. "We talked, we announced that the decision might be made, and everyone understood. The public was involved every step of the way."

The City Council is expected to discuss these plans at its regular Nov. 17 meeting.

Pleasant Hill BART Dirt Being Picked Up By Navy

PLEASANT HILL (CBS 5) - Bay Area Rapid Transit is getting rid of dirt at the Pleasant Hill station, tons of dirt the U.S. Navy wants.

Beginning Thursday, trucks will make over 7,000 trips from the Pleasant Hill lot to the Concord Naval Weapons station. The Navy said it needs the dirt to cap a landfill at the station, where wood, metal, paint cans and dummy munitions. Trucks are expected to make 110 round trips a day for the next few months.

Our video report has more. Click here for video.

Safety first at former weapons station?

Somewhere along Highway 4, where munitions were shipped off to war decades ago, Rich Grace envisions a public safety mecca.

It is on those Concord Naval Weapons Station grounds that the Contra Costa assistant fire chief and Sheriff's Department officials want to build a $200 million state-of-the-art training center for firefighters and law enforcement officers.

And they hope the Navy will deed them the 120 acres they need through a military program that allows government agencies to obtain old base property for free or at a discount.

"It's a unique opportunity to acquire land centrally located in our county, and that's why we want to take advantage of it," Grace said. "If we can build a joint structure and realize some economies of scale, then it just makes sense to build a world-class training center."

While Bay Area public safety agencies have a handful of small training facilities, the region lacks a one-stop shop for the bulk of training needs. A recent county survey shows nearly 6,000 law enforcement officials a year from across the state would use this facility -- paying fees to the county and boosting the economy.

The county's proposal is one of 10 that various government agencies and nonprofit groups have pitched for the weapons station, a 5,000-acre property for which the city of Concord is now in the midst of planning new uses.

The Emergency Responders Complex, which the county prefers to build between Clyde and Highway 4, would provide training facilities replicating virtually any public safety incident.

A machine-operated stream would allow firefighters to save people in fast-moving water. Officers would practice their enforcement driving skills on paved and off-road tracks. A five-story training tower would have a dual purpose -- one day firefighters could extinguish high-rise flames, the next day a SWAT team could use it to practice rappelling.

The complex also would include an indoor shooting range, police K-9 training site, and props to simulate plane crashes, trench fires, chemical spills and collapsed buildings. The county would plan to move its Fire District headquarters, fire dispatch center and a backup emergency operations center to the site.

Drawing up the facility's wish list is the easy part. Finding a way to pay for it as the county struggles with long-range financial planning is the hard part.

Even if the Navy gives 120 acres to Contra Costa County for free through a public benefit conveyance, construction costs would add up to $203 million. This comes at a time when supervisors are trying to devise ways to pay a $2.6 billion bill -- twice the amount of the county's annual budget -- for retired workers' medical expenses over the next 30 years.

The training complex is not an all-or-nothing proposal and could be scaled back if funding comes up short, said Supervisor Susan Bonilla of Concord.

"You want to include everything you could possibly want in your proposal," she said. "Then we can make some choices of what we can afford. This facility will (ensure) that our own local law enforcement personnel are receiving the very best level of training."

To fund the Emergency Responders Complex, the Fire District would look to sell its headquarters in Pleasant Hill, a 40-year-old training center in Concord and a vacant 12-acre parcel along Highway 4 in Antioch. Those sales would net between $22 million and $27 million, according to a consultant's report.

The county would potentially look to bonds, federal Homeland Security grants and developer impact fees to cover the rest of the construction and equipment costs, said Dale Varady, a retired Contra Costa sheriff's captain working on the project.

The Sheriff's Department also would save money by ending a lease for its 2.5-acre training site in downtown Pittsburg, he said.

The county's Emergency Responders Complex is competing with nine other proposals for free or discounted land at the weapons station. Some other ideas include a Cal State East Bay campus, a 3,000-acre regional park and 210 residential units for the homeless.

The Concord City Council plans to make recommendations as early as this summer, with the Navy holding the ultimate authority to agree to all, some or none of the proposals.

"If we could get a site (for the Emergency Responders Complex) and it works out, I think it would be advantageous to the public safety community," said Concord Mayor Bill Shinn, a retired sheriff's commander. "I've got 100 percent support for it."

Navy issues Notice of Surplus

After several months of postponement, the Navy published the Notice of Surplus for the Concord Naval Weapons Station in the Federal Register on March 6. According to Department of Defense regulations and the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) statutes, the issuance of the Notice of Surplus commences the timeline for preparation of the community's Reuse Plan and screening for homeless providers and public interests.

The notice indicates that portions of the base will be directly transferred to the U.S. Army and the U.S. Coast Guard. The notice confirms that 5,028 acres of property in the inland area will be available for civilian reuse.

The Navy will retain ownership of the property while the Concord City Council, acting as the Local Reuse Authority (LRA), works with the community to prepare a Reuse Plan for the former military base. The Navy will also retain the liability for clean up of the contaminated portions of the inland area.

Concord to jump into planning as soon as Navy gives go-ahead

City and Navy leaders say the Concord Naval Weapons Station could be declared surplus property within three weeks, paving the way for Concord to begin a blizzard of public workshops and community planning ventures.

The first public event, planned for March 17 as a "get the facts" campaign, will feature base-closure experts talking with people about how the process of planning for the shuttered station's future will work. Event details have yet to be set.

After that, the actual planning -- the meaty environmental reports and the community decisionmaking -- will begin. That should be finished by summer 2008, according to new estimates.

The Navy will still have to sign off on the final plan. In light of other base closures nationwide that are five to 10 years behind, residents won't likely see earthmovers at the base for years.

"I'm sure the Navy is still looking at how they can do things their own way within the process, but that they're going forward with the surplusing is good news," said Concord Vice Mayor Bill Shinn.

"As far as we can tell, everything is moving ahead."

For six months, the Navy delayed the act of surplusing , which formally deems the land open for planning. The act also serves as the statutory trigger point for Concord leaders to start putting together a blueprint for future uses of the mothballed base's 5,170 acres.

There will be a blend of parkland, offices and neighborhoods at the base, but no one knows what the exact mix will be.

The Navy had wanted time to study the merits of trading the land to the Louisiana-based Shaw Group in exchange for $1 billion in badly needed military construction projects. City leaders argued this would have pulled the process out of the federal Base Re-Alignment and Closure (BRAC) law, yanking planning authority away from Concord and putting it in developers' laps before a framework for the base could be completed.

Mike Wright, Concord's reuse project director, said he and others have been breathing easier since Feb. 6, when Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy Wayne Arny announced the Navy would surplus the base, kicking the BRAC wheels into motion.

Arny had argued for months that the city could still do its planning regardless of when or how the Navy sells or trades the land.

"We can't do this without you," he said Feb. 6.

Wright described the surplus act: A notice is placed in the Federal Register -- that posting is the actual act of surplusing. Once that happens, the city has 30 days to put out its own notices, notifying any local or state nonprofit groups or other agencies that might be interested in the base land. That could include groups interested in building facilities for the homeless or other public uses.

"This is basically coming out and telling the whole world that, 'OK, it's official now, this land is ready,'" said Ken Mitchell, a base reuse consultant and former Navy spokesman. "It says, 'If you have an idea of how this land should be used, let us know.'"

All environmental planning, along with a community reuse plan meant to lay out new uses, will be done by June or July 2008 -- about 17 months from the date of surplus, Wright said.

"I think the Navy may still be interested in using the exchange authority as a method for unloading the land," Wright said, referring to the conveyance tool that allows for a land-for-services trade.

"It probably wouldn't just be Shaw, but a whole host of competitors."

Navy officials had been interested in trading the land early on, rather than waiting for the city-led planning process to wrap up, because it needs military construction such as dormitories or air strips because of the war in Iraq.

Mitchell cautions that even under the BRAC process, the Navy has to give the final approval.

"And I'd be very surprised if the Navy approves a plan to turn it into a 5,000-acre park, for example," he said. "The Navy is looking at this for fair market value, yet at the same time they're looking for consensus in the community. Otherwise, they'd have to deal with (Sens. Barbara) Boxer and (Dianne) Feinstein and everyone else."

He also noted that base closures elsewhere are behind schedule -- a liability in wartime, when the military is in need of cash generated from land deals.

"Unfortunately, too many agencies -- federal, local, nonprofit -- look at this as free money, free building, and no one really stops to put themselves in the Navy's position," Mitchell said.

Wright says the city's timeline is ambitious, and plans will be done quickly.

Concord has been gearing up for planning efforts since May. Most of the base, which makes up 25 percent of the city's land, was closed under the 2005 military base realignment and closure process.

Navy staff to answer questions on station (At Feb. 6 Meeting)

U.S. Navy officials are coming to Concord from Washington, D.C., for a public talk on the Concord Naval Weapons Station next month, a day after a key planning deadline.

Navy deputy assistant secretary Wayne Arny and his staff plan to fly in to give a presentation at the Feb. 6 City Council meeting. The public is invited to come with questions about the 5,170-acre mothballed military base, which stretches from Willow Pass Road to Highway 4.

City officials had said Arny would come to town Tuesday, but both sides weren't ready.

The news comes after much haggling between the city and the military over when the Navy will "surplus" the base, or officially deem the land open and ready for development.

After delays in November and again in December, Arny asked his higher-ups for yet another delay -- 90 days from Jan. 22. City officials begrudgingly supported the earlier delays, saying they needed to cooperate with the Navy. They objected, however, to the latest 90-day request, opting instead for a 14-day delay.

By law, the Navy doesn't have to honor the city's wishes on delays, but in this case it did. The new surplus decision deadline is Feb. 5 -- the day before the council meeting. That doesn't mean there won't be further delays, however.

Concord, which was named the ruling authority over the shuttered base's future by the Department of Defense last year, has been pushing for this surplus determination. Without that trigger, city leaders are in a sort of planning limbo, unable to move forward with a community-driven blueprint of what type of housing, business and open space should exist on the base's vast acreage.

The Navy, however, has said it needs more time to look into the advantages of selling the base to Louisiana-based Shaw Group in exchange for $1 billion in military construction elsewhere. City officials are critical of that proposal, saying that selling to a developer now would essentially yank planning power away from the community before the blueprint is finished.

"The 14 days is a sort of compromise," Vice Mayor Bill Shinn said. "It's not the length of time they wanted, but it's something."

"I feel we're essentially getting blown off by the Navy," Shinn said. "They want more time to look into this Shaw proposal, and meanwhile, we're just sitting here with questions that haven't been answered."

He referred to a question-and-answer interchange that is supposed to be happening between Concord and the military in writing. The "exchange authority," or statutory language that would allow the Navy to make a land trade with Shaw, is new law and hasn't been used in this capacity. Because of that, the city has questions for the Navy, and the Navy is supposed to be sending answers on how this use of the law would play out.

"Most of the answers we've gotten have been superficial -- not the type of thing that brings parties toward an understanding," Councilwoman Laura Hoffmeister said.

But Councilwoman Helen Allen said she supported the Navy's 90-day request, saying more time to explore is better, and perhaps more complete answers will come in time.

"I support a longer extension because I'm for exploring all avenues," she said. "I don't think this (base will be developed) tomorrow. It's obviously going to take a number of years, and the only way to really be in the know is to sit down and talk.

"Sometimes that takes awhile."

City calms down after furor over Navy base

Concord officials and federal lawmakers were outwardly angry about the U.S. Navy's apparent about-face on the Concord Naval Weapons Station in mid-November.

They spoke of broken trust, even betrayal. They wrote strongly worded letters and called emergency meetings.

Weeks later, the tone regarding the future of the 5,170-acre shuttered base is decidedly more calm, with everyone saying they're taking a deep breath and a step back. This new unemotional outlook, say the parties involved, will lead to happier outcomes for everyone.

City officials say they feel if they play nicely now, they could ultimately regain control of planning uses at the base -- probably a mix of open space, housing and businesses.

"This shouldn't be about personalities," said U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, whose district includes the weapons station. "It should be about the merits of the issue."

It turns out that Miller is the architect of this more measured stance, having met with both city and Navy officials during the past few weeks in Washington, D.C., where he urged peace -- at least temporarily.

The base controversy began Nov. 13, when Navy officials hand-delivered a letter to City Hall saying they were considering selling the shuttered base's inland acres to a private company, the Louisiana-based military contractor Shaw Group. The result: Concord leaders, along with the public, wouldn't have time to draft plans for base uses the way they say the Base Re-Alignment and Closure Act (BRAC) has specified. This news came after the city had set out its timeline and hand-picked a community advisory group.

At the City Council meeting on Nov. 14, the day after the letter came, Councilman Mark Peterson called the news "very, very troubling," saying the Navy's move could be illegal, given the historic BRAC requirements.

Councilwoman Laura Hoffmeister called the Navy's consideration of the Shaw proposal a "slap in the face," given past conversations between the city and the Navy in which everyone seemed to be on the same page.

That night, the council said it would fight for its planning rights.

In mid-December, however, those strong tones began to dim, followed by city leaders announcing that they would accept a 30-day delay in the process. They did this despite the fact that it puts the city in a sort of planning limbo -- the exact scenario local leaders said they wanted to avoid.

The delay is in the Navy's "surplusing" of the military base, or formally declaring it closed and ready for development. That is the trigger point for Concord's next phase of planning, and the date has been put off three times so far. It was scheduled for Nov. 9, then Dec. 21, and finally Jan. 22.

Peterson, who has since become mayor, said at the Dec. 12 council meeting he supported the January date because it would give the city and the Navy time to engage in a question-and-answer information exchange.

In an interview the next day, Vice Mayor Bill Shinn said the city will have to deal with the Navy in the long term, throughout the land transfer, so it makes sense to cultivate a healthy relationship.

"The way I see it, we can have a negative relationship with the Navy right out of the gate or we can take a break, collect our emotions, and craft our questions and issues intelligently," he said.

"That is key," he added. "When (then-Mayor Susan Bonilla) met with the Navy in November, the meetings were less than satisfactory and the Navy in some cases was condescending. We need to take our time with our questions, make sure we're asking the right things."

Also, there was a changing of the guard at the council level recently. Bonilla stepped off the council Dec. 5, and then-Vice Mayor Peterson stepped up to the top spot. Shinn, who was a councilman but wasn't privy to the first set of meetings, stepped into the vice mayor spot and said he needed to be brought up to speed.

If the Navy goes through with the Shaw proposal, Shaw wouldn't pay cash for the base. Instead, as payment, the company would perform roughly $1 billion in military construction elsewhere.

"This proposal could have some value to the federal government," Miller said. "And I have an obligation to taxpayers and to the Department of Defense to at least see whether this makes sense. It's a very substantial amount of money for military construction, dollars that are hard to come by. We have to ask the question, could this be a good deal?

"But at the end of the day," he added, "the test is whether the deal is good for the city."

He said if Concord isn't on board after the information exchange, he will go back to the stance that he, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, took in November supporting Concord.

The council, said Shinn, felt that it would be best to go along.

"The Navy are the big boys in town, and they're saying, 'Yeah, we have to play with (Concord), but it's really our property, so we're going to go forward.' So if we don't listen to our friends in D.C., the Tauschers and the Millers, we're going to lose out," Shinn said.

Mike Wright, the city's reuse project director, said Concord's planning efforts have been set back about 90 days. However, his office hasn't been idle.

"We're going to have to put a plan together one way or the other," he said. "It may turn out not to be a reuse plan, but a general plan. Either way, we're moving ahead so that when January 22nd rolls around, we're ready."

The Navy's stance on the delay: Deputy Assistant Secretary Wayne Arny says it will give both sides a chance to consult each other. After the question-and-answer session, there will be a meeting with Peterson and Shinn. After that, there will likely be a public meeting.

Navy Says It Plans to Work With Concord

Days after the U.S. Navy declared that it might sell the shuttered Concord Naval Weapons Station to a private company, military officials Monday said that they do not want to stop Concord leaders from planning the base's future.

Navy Deputy Assistant Secretary Wayne Arny, who flew in from Washington, D.C., for an impromptu afternoon meeting at Concord City Hall, said that contrary to recent speculation, the Navy had always intended to involve Concord leaders in plotting future uses for the 5,170-acre military station.

It was the first time he had spoken at length with Concord officials since last week's bombshell announcement.

"The meeting went well; we had some very good dialogue," he said of the two-hour session that included his staff, Concord Mayor Susan Bonilla, and representatives from the offices of Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, and Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez.

"We don't want to bypass Concord," Arny said.

As for the Navy's announcement Nov. 13 that it was considering an unsolicited proposal from military construction firm The Shaw Group to acquire the base in exchange for building military facilities elsewhere: "We're exploring that as an option," Arny said.

Bonilla said the message she received last week was that Navy officials planned to do much more than explore -- that they seemed "very serious" about the Shaw proposal.

She and others were outraged, saying that federal laws surrounding base closures require the city as the formal planning authority to decide on levels of open space, housing and businesses before the land changes hands, not after. The Navy, Bonilla had said, seemed to be violating its own rules.

However, she said she felt good after Monday's meeting.

"We still feel there's a long way to go, and we'll continue to work on this," she said, noting there are plans to talk with Arny and his staff after Thanksgiving.

She said they did not discuss the Shaw proposal, but rather the technical nature of the Base Re-Alignment and Closure Act (BRAC) and the act of "surplusing" the base, or deeming it formally available for private development. That surplus determination was supposed to come Nov. 9.

However, after receiving the Shaw proposal, the Navy decided to postpone until Dec. 21 its declaration of the base as surplus. That determination, Bonilla said, is the trigger point for Concord to move ahead, according to BRAC.

"Only after the surplus determination can we move ahead with our next planning stage with various community groups," she said.

"Until that happens, we have to question the Navy's commitment to us."

If the Navy trades the land to Shaw in exchange for the building of military facilities -- dormitories and air strips, for example -- before the city's planning process is done, it will be the first time the Navy has done so using a provision within the BRAC statute. The "exchange authority," as it is called, has been used only by the U.S. Army to date, and it was used on smaller pieces of land.

Arny said that the Navy fully intends to follow the law, and that Concord will retain zoning and entitlement authority over the land.

Concord Public Meeting

Representatives from the Navy, including Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy Wayne Arny, spoke at a Concord public meeting regarding the duties and functions of the Navy within the Reuse Process.  Mr. Arny and colleagues spoke at length on the roles that the City, environmental agencies and the Navy play in conveying the Concord Naval Weapons Station along the reuse timeline.

Attendees of the meeting were allowed to ask the Navy representatives questions about the process.  Key points from the meeting include:

  • The Navy will clean up contaminants based on negotiations with environmental agencies.  Mr. Arny stated that a rule of thumb would be to clean up an area to the standard prior to the Navy constructing facilities on the base.  This may have implications for the vast open-space area requested by many in the community.  However, it was stressed that the Navy views the Concord NWS as relatively "unencumbered" environmentally (i.e. the base does not need a lot of cleanup).
  • According to Mr. Arny, one of the most important factors is for each group to know its role within the process
  • He went on to say that when the conveyance part of the process comes, the Navy will favor subdividing the base and selling to multiple developers. 
  • 115 acres of the Inland Area will go to the U.S. Army.  The Army will assume environmental responsibility of the parcel.  A similar deal will be made with the Coast Guard regarding its housing units.

The Navy's FY 2007 remediation plans include developing cleanup strategies and schedules with regulatory agencies.  Such plans will focus on key tasks such as a munitions response program.