Building a Model Community for the 21st Century
Thanks to the work of the Community Coalition for a Sustainable Concord, of which Public Advocates is a core member, equitable smart growth is coming to the decommissioned Concord Naval Weapons Station. With 25 percent of the homes affordable to people with very low and low incomes, 70 percent of the land preserved as parks and open space, local hire and job training programs, and dense development clustered near public transit, this project will serve as a model for growth in the Bay Area and beyond.
The City of Concord’s plan to redevelop the shuttered Concord Naval Weapons Station represents an opportunity — and a risk — as big as the station itself. At eight square miles, the station is the largest infill development site in the Bay Area. It’s bigger than Daly City, which is home to 100,000 people. By 2040, the station is expected to house nearly 30,000 residents and provide more than 25,000 permanent jobs.
The project’s scale and prominence demand a visionary approach. It must be fair to all residents — including those from lower-income households — environmentally sound and built for the future.
Public Advocates is determined to help move Concord’s plans in the right direction. Our chief priority is ensuring that low-income communities and communities of color have access to affordable homes, quality jobs, reliable public transit, and healthy neighborhoods and parks.
Fortunately, we are not alone. In early 2008 we joined the Community Coalition for a Sustainable Concord (CCSC), a broad group of housing, labor, faith-based, neighborhood, environmental and smart-growth organizations. The coalition’s diverse members quickly recognized that we shared a comprehensive vision to remake the former Weapons Station — one featuring affordable housing, quality jobs, transit-oriented development, green construction and open space. We also recognized the need for a transparent and responsive public process.
These hallmarks of high-quality smart growth are deeply interrelated. For example, while Public Advocates sees affordable housing as a matter of civil rights and equity, we also know that it is good for the economy and the environment, enabling low-income workers to live near their jobs and avoid lengthy commutes that pollute the air.
The coalition decided that our best chance to create the redevelopment plan of our dreams was to work together — among ourselves and with the City Council and staff. Every member plays a critical role.
Public Advocates provides legal and policy expertise in the areas of environmental and civil rights requirements, affordable housing and transportation justice. We analyze planning and environmental documents with an eye for state and federal legal requirements, spearhead drafting of technical comment letters, and help our coalition partners identify and maximize strategic opportunities.
The coalition’s approach of engaging with the community and collaborating closely with elected officials and Concord city staff makes for an inspiring story. It also happens to be working.
On Jan. 24, 2012, the Concord City Council unanimously approved a visionary redevelopment plan. Highlights include:
- More than 3,000 affordable homes will be built on the station (25 percent of the total) for lower-income families, veterans, seniors and teachers. There will also be service-enriched housing for families that have been homeless and for people with disabilities. This huge number represents a remarkable victory for affordable housing advocates everywhere.
- Nearly two thirds of the land will remain open space — 3,500 acres, three times the size of Golden Gate Park. The space will feature a restored creek, views of Mount Diablo and a park connecting the existing city to new neighborhoods.
- Thousands of Contra Costa County residents will benefit economicallyfrom policies that encourage the use of proven apprenticeship programs for youths and veterans. The plan also includes a 40-percent goal of employing local building trade workers to construct the new community.
- Development will be clustered around the North Concord BART station, creating a transit-friendly community for thousands of residents and workers.
Much work remains to be done. Public Advocates, along with the rest of the CCSC, continues to play an important role “watchdogging” the plan’s implementation.
We have learned valuable lessons from our work in Concord, which we are now directly applying to the 6 Big Wins for Social Equity Network, and which we will use to advance our goal of bringing affordable housing to communities throughout the Bay Area.