CONCORD — Drafts of detailed renderings and land-use plans for the massive transformation envisioned for the former Concord Naval Weapons Station should finally be ready for community input by Nov. 14.
That’s a rapid acceleration for a project that’s taken nearly two decades and three different master developers to conceive the latest billion-dollar vision: tens of thousands of homes and millions of square-feet of schools, offices, shops and restaurants.
The current, bold timeline was unanimously approved during a special meeting Tuesday, when the Concord City Council — acting as the Local Reuse Authority — officially inked an exclusive negotiating agreement with Brookfield Properties — the first of many multiple legal agreements that will clarify final timelines, costs and strategies to develop the site’s remaining 2,350 acres of barren land.
The aim is to square away all of these details outlined in a “Term Sheet” for elected officials’ approval within the first few weeks of 2024.
Some of those conditions included promises to designate at least 25% of housing on the decommissioned Navy base site as affordable, hire 40% of its construction workforce from within Contra Costa County and mitigate hazardous contamination found on the property — a portion of land south of the still-existing Military Ocean Terminal Concord, which sits on the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
If all goes according to plan, that process will kickstart a 24-month timeline for the developer, Brookfield Properties, to hammer out several crucial planning documents, including a Specific Plan and Environmental Impact Report. At the same time, the city will tackle an Economic Development Conveyance agreement with the U.S. Navy to officially transfer ownership of the property to the city.
Brookfield’s team expects to have all the necessary entitlements ready for final approvals by Concord’s Planning Commission and City Council by Jan. 2026.
While that is a lot to turn around in such a short amount of time, Josh Roden, president of Brookfield’s Northern California land and housing division, was so confident that he signed the agreement before Tuesday’s 6pm meeting began.
“Yes, (this) is an aggressive timeframe, but we’re up to the challenge of doing that,” Roden said. “We’re extremely excited — we’ve already started meeting with some of the stakeholders, and we’re happy to be here and look forward to creating an amazing new addition to Concord.”
Concord Mayor Laura Hoffmeister chimed in to add that the city is allowed to approve administrative extensions for a few weeks, if paperwork is taking longer than expected.
Tuesday’s contract also requires the developer to pay $250,000 upfront for any costs the city incurs during the next 120 days of work, as well as reimburse the city for all upcoming staff time and expenses needed to process the extensive list of paperwork that still needs to be discussed between now and Jan. 2026.
Additionally, all Brookfield staff are forbidden from making any campaign contributions to current and future candidates for the Concord City Council — including councilmembers running for other offices — during that timeframe. It’s unclear if Brookfield’s myriad business subsidiaries are also barred from funding political campaigns.
Despite this forward momentum, current timelines for final phases of construction are not expected to be completed for another 30 to 40 years.
Tuesday’s vote was the first legally binding agreement signed with the New York-based developer and real estate giant, after the Concord City Council first selected Brookfield Properties as the master developer of the sprawling inland site Aug. 26.
Guy Bjerke, Concord’s director of economic development and base reuse, told the council several times Tuesday night that this process was necessary for the military to transfer ownership of the property to the city.
Bjerke said the project is too large, significant, and costly for the United States federal government to ever realistically consider selling the land to the city or allow local elected officials to handle the development directly. Plus, he said the feds need to ensure that there will be some economic success on the land, after handing over roughly 2,600 acres of the entire Naval site in 2019 to the East Bay Regional Park District, which has been preserved as Thurgood Marshall Regional Park.
But now that the city has secured an outside master developer that could provide the Navy adequate cost estimates and constriction timelines, Brookfield wants assurance that the millions of dollars and hours of work they will spend to give Concord a roadmap to complete the project will not go unrewarded.
Subsequently, Bjerke said a “poison pill” embedded in each of these contracts will ensure that all approvals will be null and void if the city doesn’t ultimately approve a final Disposition & Development Agreement, which would give Brookfield the right to take on the project, by 2026.
That administrative loophole harkens back to March 2020, when the city pulled the plug on its partnership with the property’s first developer, Lennar FivePoint Corp., after the company couldn’t settle key labor agreements with Contra Costa County builders.
Then the city scrapped plans from the project’s second developer, Concord First Partners, after the local development team unsuccessfully tried to acquire property rights to the former Concord Naval Weapons Station site before committing to any details of the project — arguing that the costs of building such a large-scale project were otherwise “impracticable.”
“That’s not an irrational fear, but there’s very little we can do, given the way our project is designed, ” Bjerke said. “If we don’t do the last approval (tentatively scheduled for 2026) … we have to start over. It’s all-or-nothing.”
Notably, Brookfield Properties, which is a distant subsidiary of a wealth acquisition fund tied to overseas investments from the Saudi and Qatari governments, signed the exclusive negotiating agreement through a new company called “BCUS Acquisitions LLC.”
Concord resident Hope Johnson said it was a “huge disappointment” that this unknown, legally separate company is involved. If Brookfield Properties were ever to declare bankruptcy after receiving the title to the land, she said she is concerned that the city would be forced to buy that title back from BCUS.
Roden, president of Brookfield’s Northern California land and housing division, said BCUS Acquisitions LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Brookfield Corporation. While setting up one of these types of entities is a “very common practice in the development world” for projects of this size and complexity, he said another, long-term business will be created once final development agreements are signed.
Now following Tuesday’s approvals, it’s officially too late to consider tapping any other developers to tackle the project, unless the plans falls apart.
Longtime Concord resident Eric Antonick made one last plea for the council to reconsider. He argued that the city should have tried to be more creative to allow the local community to help produce, invest in or even own the development, which has been estimated to potentially generate tens of billions of dollars once completed.
“I think we’re missing a huge opportunity here — we’re sitting on a goldmine, a virtual one,” Antonick said, comparing the current project on the decommissioned Navy base to Alaskan oil production, which doles out a portion of revenues to state residents. “We’re talking big money, and we’re basically looking for the residents of Concord to get scraps.”
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