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Concord Under Coercion; Seeno & Phil Tagami Change CNWS Proposal
by Space
CFP has completely altered their proposal and conditions for the Concord Naval Weapons Station redevelopment project. With this coercion tactic, council has to accept the terms or walk away. Pressure isn't the only thing being built. In the backdrop, a 90,000 square-foot private storage facility is being constructed on the other side of HWY-4, across from the CNWS site.
Tuesday 5.24. 6:30PM
Council Chamber, 1950 Parkside Drive

Zoom meeting: 883 3786 8675
Passcode: 397207

At Evora and Willow Pass Roads in Concord (California), a 90,000 square-foot private warehouse is under construction to hold the Seeno collection of antiquities, art and taxidermy. This facility is being built on the other side of highway-4, across from land which was once a Naval Weapons Station. This former military depot --- now just grassland dotted with some empty storage bunkers --- is being planned to become the city's western extension, if the city can find a developer to work with.

The Seeno family are wealthy property developers with a controversial history, including (but not limited to): threatening to kill a former business partner, purposeful destruction of a native burial ground, purposeful destruction of habitat for protected plant and animal species, and financial crime related to a casino. Former business partners have accused the Seeno family of extortion and racketeering. The FBI raided their office in Concord for financial crimes. To avoid incarceration, Albert Seeno made a plea deal, while a senior manager took the blame and went to prison. Due to scandals related to a development project in Coyote Springs (Nevada), the Seenos are banned from seeking new contracts in the state of Nevada. Meanwhile, the family is still operating in the state of California, and are managing to get embroiled in new scandals.

Phil Tagami, a former politician and current investor, is so known for his own controversies in Oakland that there is a Wikipedia page about him. Tagami has partnered with the Seenos to create a investment-development company called Concord First Partners (CFP). CFP was one of three developers that were under consideration for an Exclusive Negotiation Agreement (ENA) regarding the Concord Naval Weapons Station (CNWS) redevelopment project. This development project is to include new housing, space for business, and a potential university, as well as other amenities. In September of last year, CFP was chosen despite massive public opposition from environmental groups, community organizations and numerous individual residents. The council vote was 3 to 2 in favor of Concord First Partners. The yes votes were from Dominic Aliano (now currently mayor of Concord), Tim McGallian (was mayor last year), and Edi Birsan (currently also a candidate for county supervisor).

There was anger amongst Concord residents after the people's choice for developer, a company called Brookfield, was rejected for CFP. A group of concerned residents approached the central committee for the Contra Costa Democratic Party. That committee was asked to vote on a statement of opposition against the awarding of the ENA to Concord First Partners. Councilperson Birsan was on the committee and did not recuse himself from speaking or voting on the matter. The committee voted not to oppose the decision made by the majority of Concord city council, with a vote 33 to 8. Specifically, it was stated by the committee that opposing the Seeno family would jeopardize political incumbents in the 2022 election. It was strongly implied that the Seenos were responsible for the placement of politicians. The Seenos are political influential in Concord and other parts of Contra Costa County. When drafting the ENA, the same Concord council-members who voted for Seeno rejected an amendment that would ban political contributions from persons associated with Concord First Partners.

During city council deliberations, the labor unions were key supporters of Concord First Partners. While all three development companies under consideration agreed to essentially the same union labor agreement, CFP was the first to agree to the union demands. The previous iteration of the Concord Naval Weapons Station redevelopment plan fell apart when the formerly chosen developer Lennar would not agree to a union labor agreement. This led to Concord having to start the hunt for a developer over from the beginning. As CFP was quick to respond to the unions, those unions assumed they had found a strong ally. However, now just a few months later CFP has walked back any promises made to the unions. In their latest communications to city leadership, CFP has said they no longer will support the union agreement.

Also in their latest communications to the city, CFP is asking to negotiate a Development Agreement before an EIR (Environmental Impact Review) is done. In May of last year, a Seeno housing development called Faria, proposed for the Pittsburg hillside, became the subject of a lawsuit by Save Mt Diablo. The Seenos had not done a proper environmental review. In February of this year, the Contra Costa Superior Court found in favor of Save Mt Diablo. The Seenos requested new trial, but in April the Contra Costa Superior Court again found in favor of Save Mt Diablo. The Seenos did not analyze the impact that a large-scale hillside housing project would have on air quality, traffic, Pittsburg’s water supply, and endangered plant species. Previously in Pittsburg, in 2002 the developers were caught filling in 2 ponds --- habitat for the endangered California red-legged frog.

The Seenos also did not do a proper environmental review for their Coyote Springs property in Nevada, which the family took ownership of in 2010. The region of Coyote Springs is habitat for desert tortoise and a endangered fish species called 'moapa dace'. In Concord, the Seenos have violated environmental law in the past. In 1987, the developer was caught by Concord police cutting down two-dozen old growth oaks. If Concord city council agrees to a Development Plan before an EIR is properly and fully complete, such a decision would likely lead to future litigation against Concord First Partners and the city of Concord.

In the ENA timetable, Concord First Partners were supposed to have completed a Term Sheet by last month. They requested an extension, which scheduled them for the council meeting of Tuesday May 24. Instead of completing the Term Sheet, they submitted a list of demands including dropping out the labor agreement, and dismissing the EIR until after the Development Plan is approved. As for the Term Sheet, they are asking for another 3 month extension. They also are requesting for an extension on the Specific Plan, moving it to the year 2025. The city of Concord wasted years trying to negotiate with Lennar, which cost the city millions of dollars only for Lennar to walk away. The city could end up potentially wasting more time with CFP.

In 2016, it appeared developer Catellus was going to get the ENA, and Lennar was to be rejected. Catellus had popular support from Concord residents. According to then-councilperson Dan Helix, Catellus's proposal beat Lennar's in 6 out of 10 key elements. However, Lennar was brought back into consideration after the developer gave a political donation to Tim Grayson, who was presiding as mayor at the time while also vying for a position in in the California State Assembly. Catellus and residents argued that the donation was against the consideration rules set by Concord city council.

Twenty-five percent affordable housing was agreed upon by Concord First Partners. CFP is walking back from this, too. Last fall, they had no problem with this goal. They now assert that the affordable housing goal is unfeasible. CFP has not presented an estimation for what percentage of affordable housing they can offer. The first phase of the redevelopment project is supposed to focus on apartments and townhouses. In this high-density section of the project, affordable housing is an important element.

Concord city council is now considering a totally different proposal from the one CFP presented when the developer won the ENA. They additionally are requesting Enforceable Right to the property upon completion of a first-draft Development Plan, which according to city staff could set up a situation where CFP ties up the property in litigation if a final-version Development Plan is not agreed upon. Does the city stay with an unpopular, controversial developer that has already shown a willingness to break agreements? Does it continue to negotiate with a developer that wants to alter the timetable? Will Concord city council reopen dialogue with Brookfield, which had been the popular choice by residents and environmental groups? Meanwhile, the Seeno's are watching a 90,000 square-foot private storage facility being built, where they will keep their treasures.
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editor please fix titleSpaceTuesday May 24th, 2022 8:46 AM
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