Concord hits pause on Bay Area’s largest development

East Bay City delays contract approval to build 16K homes on former naval base

From left: Albert Seeno III and Albert D. Seeno Jr. along with the Concord Naval Weapons Station in Concord (Getty, Discovery Builders, Daniel Schwen, CC BY-SA 2.5 - via Wikimedia Commons, Friends of Isola delle Femmine)
From left: Albert Seeno III and Albert D. Seeno Jr. along with the Concord Naval Weapons Station in Concord (Getty, Discovery Builders, Daniel Schwen, CC BY-SA 2.5 - via Wikimedia Commons, Friends of Isola delle Femmine)

A $6 billion plan to build nearly 16,000 homes on the former Concord Naval Weapons Station is stuck in the mud – again.

The Concord City Council voted to delay a key contract for the Bay Area’s largest development over concerns about affordable housing and a family legal dispute involving a major developer, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

Concord First Partners had expected the city to pass a term sheet, or draft of a contract, to develop the 2,275-acre site with homes, schools, parks and commercial and retail centers on Concord’s north side over the next 40 years.

Six months ago, the consortium led by the Contra Costa County-based Seeno family had said a proposal to build 13,000 units in the East Bay city wouldn’t pencil out.

Then Concord and the developers agreed on a plan for 15,595 homes, and expected it to pass on Jan. 7.

Just before the meeting, however, the East Bay Times outlined a legal feud between Albert Seeno III and his father, Albert Seeno Jr., over control of the family’s building empire.

In multiple lawsuits, Albert Seeno Jr., 78, accused his son of erratic behavior, improper spending and trying to shut his father and uncle out of their own companies. In a letter for public comment, Seeno III denied the allegations.

More than 100 written comments were submitted to the council, many from residents urging the city drop the Seeno III-led Discovery Builders, one of three partners in Concord First, from the deal.

Discovery and Upland-based Lewis Group of Companies each have a 45-percent stake in the project, with Oakland developer Phil Tagami’s California Capital & Investment Group holding a 10-percent share.

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According to a court affidavit submitted by Louis Parsons, president of Discovery Builders, Seeno Jr.’s actions to “reassert control” of the family companies “have disrupted the business of those entities,” including “stop payments” orders to vendors, which placed the company’s projects at risk of liens and losing subcontractors.

The project to redevelop the former U.S. Navy yard, in the works for 20 years, has faced numerous hurdles, including the previous developer falling out of contract in 2020 and current delays in negotiations. The dispute comes more than four years after Lennar and FivePoint walked away from the project after they weren’t able to come to terms with the building trades.

The selection of Concord First Partners as master builder in October 2021 was controversial. Discovery Builders has taken fire for its track record for development, which includes a history of environmental and other legal violations.

Some Concord council members questioned Concord First’s affordable housing component.

The original 2012 plan called for setting aside 25 percent of 12,272 units, or 3,020 units, as affordable housing. The draft contract before the council increased the number of homes to 15,595 – but the number of affordable units stayed the same.

To make up the difference, the developers counted 879 accessory dwelling units attached to single-family homes as affordable units.

Councilmembers Laura Nakamura and Carlyn Obringer challenged the legitimacy of counting the ADUs — sometimes referred to as granny or in-law units — toward the project’s affordable housing goal. They said there would be no mechanism to ensure homeowners would rent out the units to those in need of affordable housing.

In light of the Seeno allegations, Obringer asked city staff about whether its financial analyst had reviewed the ability of Seeno III’s company to keep its financial obligations. Guy Bjerke, the city’s director of economic development and base reuse, said his staff had not and wasn’t sure whether it would be appropriate.

— Dana Bartholomew