CONCORD – Despite a chorus of public criticism, controversial and controversial family-owned construction companies Seeno will remain solely responsible for the most ambitious East Bay housing project in recent memory.
In a unanimous vote by the city council, the companies on Tuesday entered into an exclusive agreement to oversee the long-awaited renovation of the Concorde Naval Base, which includes 13,000 new homes and millions of square feet of office and retail space – the equivalent of living space. small town.
A development team led by Discovery Builders, formed by a member of the Sino family, along with partners Lewis Concord Member, LLC and California Capital and Investment Group, will work with the city to faithfully bring the project to completion.
The city and developers will try to clarify financial details and develop a concrete plan for the use of land owned by the US Navy over the next six months. Over the next two years, both sides hope to find out what impact the project will have on the environment, at which point the Navy plans to hand over the land to the city after it has been evaluated for toxic waste.
Back in East Bay for generations, Seeno companies have a track record of litigating government agencies and fighting environmental groups and housing advocates, although they have also developed strong relationships with local workers.
Board members Karlene Obringer and Laura Hoffmeister, who voted for rival developer Brookfield Properties during the selection process in August, decided to continue working with the Seeno team on Tuesday. Both urged city officials to ensure that key features of the possible construction – including a guarantee of 25% affordable housing among new homes – are sustained in negotiations between the two sides. They also pushed for an agreement to protect against future litigation by the companies.
“I expect the development team to work in good faith with the community, the city council, city staff and key stakeholders,” Obringer said at the meeting.
Part of the board’s decision was motivated by a desire to continue working on the project after a long period of inactivity. The city hit an impasse last year with former main developer Lennar Corp, who left after refusing to hire local construction workers.
“If we were to change course today, I’m not sure how many people, given what happened to Lennar… would want to come and be part of the process with Concord,” said Guy Bjerke, director of economic development for the city. meeting about the prospect of abandoning Seeno and restarting the search for a developer.
Bjerke also warned that if the city returns to square one, the navy may become impatient and decide to auction off its former weapon land instead of handing it over to Concorde.
While many of the public comments at Tuesday’s meeting focused on Shino’s controversial story, there were dozens of other speakers who praised the companies’ efforts to recruit local unions.
“We need workers who are well trained on the job,” said Israel Avila, a local carpenter, “and we need advice to support good partners like (Seeno’s team).”
The new agreement will protect Concord from legal action by the development team if both sides get stumped over project details.
To the dismay of Sino’s critics, Bjerke said the agreement also effectively prevents the council from arbitrarily changing its mind. Any disagreements in the future will have to relate to the details of the project, not Shino’s track record.
Discovery Builders, the head of Seeno’s group, recently settled a lawsuit he filed last year against East Bay District Park to stop the transfer of nearby land to the Navy to create a new regional park. As part of the settlement, Discovery agreed to postpone residential developments in Pittsburgh so that it does not invade the park’s landscapes.
The companies have also previously sued the Navy to stop handing over land to rebuild the Concorde naval base – a short-lived lawsuit the developer filed after losing to Lennar in a previous search for a top developer in the city.
One of the many residents who called for a meeting on Tuesday criticizing Shino is concerned that nothing could stop companies from one day deciding to use the lawsuit as a weapon in negotiations.
“It seems really naive and really irresponsible to think that our community will be immune to the same behavior,” said Kat Hanna.
Councilor Edi Birsan, who vigorously defended the Sino family from what he called personal attacks from critics at the August council meeting, said Tuesday that he does not expect the company’s litigation history to be a factor in the naval weapons project.
“There is no developer without original sin,” Birsan said, adding later, “there will be so much attention on this development that I think we will get a damn good job.”
In recent weeks, Shino’s opponents have struggled to change the council’s mind through political pressure, but their efforts have been unsuccessful. Last week, the Democratic Party of Contra Costa County easily voted against a resolution against Sino’s election after party members worried that such a stance would jeopardize Concorde board seats in future elections.
As part of Tuesday’s agreement, the council will not be able to accept political contributions from development team members or their subcontractors.
Hoffmeister, one of two councilors who did not vote for Sino in August, has demanded that city officials make sure the details of the agreement are bulletproof so that the council does not end up in hot water in the future.
“I was bold and tried one of the other candidates one last time,” Hoffmeister said of the selection of the lead developer. “I was not in the majority position.”