“If You don’t Want Us, You Gotta Set Us Free” – Albert Seeno III
By David King
At the continued special council meeting on Saturday, January 28, the Concord City Council rejected the Concord First Partners’ (CFP) Term Sheet for developing the former Concord Naval Weapons Station (CNWS) and directed staff to let the Exclusive Negotiating Agreement with CFP expire on Jan. 31, 2023.
Obringer began the day by asking about Concord First Partners’ experience with Superfund Cleanup. But it was her question regarding statements made by Louis Parsons, President of Discovery Builders regarding claims in an East Bay times article suggesting the internal family litigation between Albert Seeno, Jr. and Albert Seeno III has disrupted the business of Discovery Builders.
Albert Seeno III approached the podium to intercept that line of questioning.
He stated he cannot talk about ongoing litigation, but Discovery Builders business is not affected by the lawsuit. “Everything’s good,” he assured, then interjected his directive to the Council to fish or cut bait.
“We have a wonderful term sheet here… We all agree. We never had a bad word with each other, we worked together… If you don’t want us, you gotta set us free. That’s it, it’s that simple. We worked our tails off. We worked our buns to the grindstone….
“We love the City. You gotta love us and let us go. We gotta know our destiny. I want nothing more, and I think my group wants nothing more than to plan the project…. (By dragging this out) It’s just not fair for us. We spent a lot of money to get to this point…
“We’re gonna do a great job for you guys. We’ve listened to everybody. Hundreds of meetings, 500 in-person meetings with stakeholders, all the different groups, LRA, Guy, company, thousands of phone calls, and probably 10,000 manhours of effort.
“I have a lot of respect for the City Council. I’ve known some of you for 25 years. I’d rather you tell us what you want to do, and what the intentions are. And I can go to a picnic with my wife, go see my kids. I got a birthday party I can be at. I’m sure a lot of people here would rather be somewhere else than probably sitting here. I say that with all due respect. Just let us know our destiny so we can move on and deploy our $20 or $30 million somewhere else over the next couple of years. We would really appreciate it. “
The tone was sincere but intimated his frustration.
Here is a summary breakdown of the Council’s comments:
Lobbying in favor of the Term Sheet, Aliano emphasized that it was the Council that created an RFQ (Request for Qualifications) process that was unanimously approved which determined the policy of certain things Council wanted to see and mandated requirements and sent that out to developers. Staff selected three candidates who could meet those policies. The Staff recommends accepting the Term Sheet that is offering the City everything it asked for: jobs, affordable housing, education, parks, open space, and at a lesser ROI guarantee to the developer. He also stated his preference to work with a Main Street company rather than a Wall Street company (referring to the choice of selecting CFP over Brookfield).
Vice Mayor Birsan spent his time dispelling many of the accusations concerning Albert Seeno III, as well as the unfairness of holding one generation of a family business accountable for a previous generation’s malfeasance. He also spent time disparaging Brookfield’s history as well. His point being that there are no perfect operators from which to choose, nor will there be.
But Mayor Hoffmeister and Councilmembers Obringer and Nakamura found issues with the Term Sheet.
Hoffmeister stated that the JADU proposal, while creative, does not offer the city concrete affordable housing that it can count on since there are no deed restrictions in place to force individual homeowners to rent it out at affordable levels or at all.
She also questioned the viability of adding additional units.
There was concern that as issues are addressed when developing a specific plan, each change would trigger ongoing financial impacts to the project including potential environmental, clean-up, traffic, and added costs.
The Master developer team missed the importance of the area plan’s elements including creating a buffer area from existing homes, connectivity to cluster villages, integrating GoMomentum’s need for an Autonomous Vehicle testing site.
Obringer voiced concern that no one informed the city of pending litigation when it involved a significant player of the CFP partnership.
“My main job is to protect the City from Legal and financial risk and to listen to People of Concord,” Obringer stated. “There is deep distrust about moving forward.”
Nakamura challenged the level of transparency and Integrity. “There is insufficient information to evaluate either fairness or feasibility, from a financial perspective. Asserting the right to confidentiality is a choice. And it is not one that reputation for transparency can be built. Without the ability to compare directly who gets what under the financial model, community benefits can’t be adequately evaluated,” stated Nakamura.
Hoffmeister summed it by stating that the master developer has too many distractions that have divided the community based on the hundreds of emails and comments sent to the Council. “I’m looking for a partner that can unify the community,” Mayor Hoffmeister said casting the deciding 3-2 vote.
Hoffmeister, Nakamura and Obringer voted not to approve the Term sheet and end the Exclusive Negotiating Agreement with Concord First Partners. Aliano and Birsan voted to accept the Term Sheet.
In a phone meeting with the Navy and Staff on Monday, January 30, the Navy reassured the city that they are still interested in helping Concord execute an area plan.
Bjerke stated the staff will return to Council with recommendations for next steps for the Base Reuse Project in the coming weeks.