Concord leaders leaning toward village land-use concept on shuttered military base
By Tanya Rose
Contra Costa Times
November 19, 2008
CONCORD — City leaders leaned Monday night toward a plan that focuses on building small villages framed by parks on the mothballed Concord Naval Weapons Station.
This "clustered villages" concept calls for 28,900 people, 12,300 housing units and about 3,200 acres of parkland and open space. That's 64 percent of the base's 5,028 inland acres, which is the part slated for development.
Council members won't choose a final plan until Jan. 12.
The other alternative — the "concentration and conservation plan," calls for more parks and open space — 3,680 acres. But there are no small villages, complete with their own schools and miniature retail hubs, in this plan.
Councilwoman Helen Allen said she didn't like either plan, both of which were two years in the making. She said she appreciated the hard work that went into them, but that neither "seemed like Concord."
Both proposals call for intense development near the North Concord BART station and along Willow Pass and Olivera roads. That would yield taller buildings with retail and commercial uses at the street level, and residential units on top floors. Thousands of people would be packed into 126 acres that abut the BART station.
Environmentalists on Monday called this "smart growth" because people would live near a major transportation hub, presumably ditching their cars. And, they said such plans leave more land available for parks and open space.
Allen called it "kind of dumb growth."
"Are we going backward? I know people are going to hate me for my opinions but Concord is not San Francisco. What happened to our beautiful suburban single-family community?
"There's no class to this development. It's just a whole bunch of stuff stuck together. Dense areas are good for young adults, but I'd hate to raise a child on the fifth floor. Let's just go standard. That's what Concord is all about," Allen said.
Mayor Bill Shinn, who favored the clustered villages concept but would like to see development a little less dense, said plans that focus on getting people off roadways and into buses and BART trains are the way of the future.
"Unless we can all quit having sex, this is what we have to do," Shinn said. "We have population growth issues and we need to deal with them."
At the urging of groups such as Save Mount Diablo and the Greenbelt Alliance, Shinn and Councilman Guy Bjerke said they would like to see East Bay Regional Parks District included in the planning more than they have been. He also said that though the numbers might look overwhelming, the growth would happen in 20 or 30 years.
Councilwoman Laura Hoffmeister supported the clustered villages concept, but she said she'd like to look into the idea of a larger greenbelt or buffer zone in between new development and existing homes. She, along with other council members, said she also wanted to see a California State University campus — planned about a quarter of a mile away from BART — to be even closer to the station.
Several Antioch officials attended the meeting, urging Concord to keep cars off Highway 4.
"Don't do it the way we did in East County where we brought in all this development and then let the roads catch up," said Gary Agopian, an Antioch school official who challenged county Supervisor Federal Glover this month and lost.
"You're adding a small city in close proximity to Highway 4 and in reality, those people will all have cars."
Councilman Mark Peterson said he'd like to consider setting in stone any decisions on open space so that 10 years from now, a future council couldn't change the designation.
But he also said he doesn't want to put all the city's hopes into transit-oriented development.
"I want empirical data showing that people will actually use BART if they live near it," he said. "We all love our cars."
The council will not choose a preferred plan until its Jan. 12 meeting. Monday night was the first time in the two-year planning process that the council formally weighed in on the plans, which were chosen by a resident-led panel. The next meeting is Dec. 1.