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Bad Deal: Seeno's and Tagami's Newest Proposal for Concord

by LOL
The latest term sheet proposal by the Concord First (yes, really that's their name) Partners is a bad deal for Concord. Not only is it more of the same sprawl that fails at addressing climate challenges, the proposal reinforces the widening economic disparity in the region.
"Concord First", a partnership of Phil Tagami and the Seeno family, held the first of of two public meetings revealing their term sheet proposal for the Concord Naval Weapons Station redevelopment project. This is the last step in the process ahead of the January vote by Concord city council to finalize or cancel the contract with the development team.

The majority of Concord city council (3 for and 2 against) agreed to enter into an exclusive negotiations with Concord First. This negotiation period had to be extended twice, as the developers were not transparent about their financial standings, and were late meeting deadlines for paperwork. Concord First was chosen to negotiate with over Brookfield, despite Brookfield having no trouble offering a fully transparent and fully completed proposal, and despite Brookfield being supported by a majority of Concord residents. Concord First Partners repeatedly told the city they would have a hard time penciling out the required affordable housing requirements. Brookfield had no such issues. Concord's exclusive negotiation period with Concord First is nearly at it's end. What choice will city leadership make? Do the choose Concord First, try again to work with Brookfield, or some third option?

Phil Tagami is the developer who in 2011 wielded a shotgun, threatening to shoot protesters whom had broken off from an Occupy Oakland march to exercise 'diversity of tactics'. (True fact.) Tagami entered into litigation this summer against Oakland, over his desire to build a coal terminal. This is not his first lawsuit against Oakland over the same issue. It's been an ongoing dispute for almost a decade. Oaklanders don't want a coal terminal, and the city has a ban against the transportation and handling of coal. Tagami wants to be exempt from the city's ban. While it is unlikely that Tagami would try to import coal into Concord (although one never knows), there could be some other kind of regulatory exemption that Tagami feels entitled to while developing the Naval Weapons Station project. Tagami has a history of aggressive litigation, and doesn't partner amicably with city governments.

The Seeno's also have a history of insisting on exemptions to environmental regulation. They are currently tied up in a lawsuit over a housing development project for the Pittsburg, CA hills. They have other paused project in Nevada. Their Coyote Springs development has been on hold for years, because the Seeno's want to exceed their water rights. Regulators and activists in Nevada are trying to protect a species of fish called the Moapa dace. If the Concord First Partners contract is finalized, the city of Concord is going to have to constantly observe, and repeatedly challenge the Seeno family in regards to following environmental law and water restrictions. Their pattern of behavior is set. There will be lawsuits, as the Seeno's test to see what they can get away with. These inevitable issues will lengthen the development timetable. Staying on the issue of water restrictions: given the unrealistically verdant and lush sketches in the Concord Naval Weapons Station proposal, it does appear the developers are greatly overestimating how much water is going to be available.

The development proposal envisions the northern end of the project (closest to the freeway) as denser, urban neighborhoods. This is the area that will be built first. The affordable units on this project can be priced for 80% of mean income, which in the Bay Area is thinly stretching the definition of affordable. The harsh economic reality of rental prices is reflected in the proposed food bank. The very first groups of housing units to be constructed, according to the presentation, will be for the workers building the community. Concord First pays the workers to build the housing, and the workers pay so much rent back to the developers that they need to have a food bank on site. Concord First reinvented feudalism.

The southern end of the proposal are typical suburban neighborhoods of detached homes, and ample yards. As for the affordable housing requirements, instead of town-homes or apartments, some of the homes will have backyard Junior Accessory Dwelling Units. JADUs are units sized at 500 square feet or less. JADU's could in theory be easily taken off the market, reducing the number of affordable units available. Someone who buys a home with an adjacent JADU isn't legally compelled to rent out the accessory unit. JADU's can be helpful for people who need them to house a family member or friend, and state law already allows homeowners to build such units. JADU's should not be part of the city's required minimum number of affordable units to be built by the developer. They should be an available option to the buyer of a home. As it would be easy for JADU's to be used other than intended, and thus taken off the rental market, the city needs to commit to having apartments and town-homes in the southern neighborhoods of the Naval Weapons project. There are also social and psychological differences between renting a shed in someone's yard and having a apartment or town-home. The two options offer different levels of control over one's living situation, and control over one's privacy. There is a different dynamic between living in a landlord's yard, and living in a unit where one rarely has to interact with a landlord.

The Concord First team is vague about next-generation transportation. Concord needs people-moving solutions that reduces car usage, while conveniently transport people and goods. There needs to be a full commitment to renewable energy to power the electrical grid. Water recycling and rain water-capture is necessary. The Concord First team hints at exploring these ideas, but hasn't reveal a detailed plan to show what technologies will implemented to meet such challenges. Is the Concord First team going to take environmental concerns seriously? Will they listen to the experts and the activists? Or will Concord First have to be dragged and sued into accepting the changing realities of the world?

The majority of Concord's council put the city into a bad, and greatly-unpopular position of having to negotiate with particularly notorious developers. One of those council persons payed the price at the polls, and lost his re-election. Tim McGallian chose to ignore the voice of the people who said no to Tagami and the Seeno's. McGallian has lost his seat, but the damage is done and the city is stuck in a difficult position. Does the city turn down the final approval of the contract with Concord First? This would mean having to start the bidding process over again, for a third time. Or does the city plow forward with partners who are not trustworthy to stick with an agreement, who won't agree to local law or environmental regulations, and will likely stall the project through litigation. The city must stand firmly for environmental stewardship, community benefits, and equitable housing.
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