Concord takes weapons station testimony as plan heads for approval
By Paul Thissen
Contra Costa Times

February 10, 2010

CONCORD It all depends who you listen to.

Some lauded the city's plan to redevelop the Concord Naval Weapons Station as a brilliant combination of all the best ideas for the base. Others said it is a decent plan that needs to be tweaked.

And some said the whole plan should be scrapped.

The City Council took about two hours of testimony at a Tuesday hearing on the plan to add as many as 12,272 housing units, 28,800 residents and 26,530 jobs to the 5,028-acre inland portion of the weapons station.

The council is set to approve the plan and its final environmental review Feb. 23.

Most of the testimony centered on the "clustered villages" plan, selected as the preferred choice by the council in January 2009. It would include dense development near the North Concord BART station and three smaller "villages" along the southwest border of the property in the area known as "bunker city."

Council members did not comment extensively Tuesday on their views. Instead, they asked questions of city staff members they wanted answered before the Feb. 23 meeting.

Union representatives and housing advocates pushed the council for more affordable housing, more research about the match between jobs and housing, and for a policy requiring local construction workers be used at the base.

Council members, in turn, asked the city's staff to bring back more information about the legal ways of requiring contractors to hire local workers, and about adding affordable housing to the plan.

Environmental groups said they were glad the city had agreed to make a climate action plan to reduce greenhouse gases, and to work on restoring Mount Diablo Creek sitewide, rather than working on it one parcel at a time.

But environmentalists said more details are needed and that the regulations need more teeth.

"Significant impacts are identified but the actual mitigation is punted," said Samuel Tepperman-Gelfant of the nonprofit law firm Public Advocates, Inc. "Some things should be dealt with at later stages in the process, but (the problem is) it's deferred without guidance in the (environmental report), so basically we're left at this stage with a giant question mark."

Members of the Concord Naval Weapons Station Neighborhood Alliance, which includes several people who live next to the base near Concord Boulevard, said the "clustered villages" plan should be scrapped. The city should switch to the "concentration and conservation" alternative plan that centers all development near the North Concord BART station, said Kathy Gleason of the Neighborhood Alliance.

"I don't really think we have community consensus here," Gleason said. "We, the community, ask you to select the 'concentration and conservation' alternative."

Residents of North Concord fought back, saying it was not fair for residents along Concord Boulevard to complain about added traffic, extra noise and worse views over the base while residents of North Concord would be affected most under either plan.

"A large part of our community doesn't want to be bothered by it," said Stephen Hoobler, a North Concord resident. "They want the benefit of these things but they don't want to share the responsibility, and that means sharing the traffic."

Contact Paul Thissen at 925-943-8163.

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