What lies ahead for the CNWS Reuse Project now that Lennar is at the helm

What lies ahead for Concord Naval Weapons Station after Lennar is named Master Developer by Concord City Council

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

If ever there was to be a laboratory experiment of how all of the special interest groups, entitlement laws, and government regulations that make up the Progressive Agenda in California work, it would be the Concord Naval Weapons Station (CNWS) Reuse Project.

Concord City Council has allowed Lennar to bid for a $6 billion project with no competing offers.
Concord City Council has allowed Lennar to receive approval to be Master Developer for a $6 billion project with no competing offers.

With the crowning of Lennar-Urban as Master Developer at the May 11th meeting, the table has been set for the creation of a leftist utopia that would make Karl Marx proud.  Here is how it will all work.

Housing will be created that will cater to (A) Those who are at middle to low income levels that require government entitlements (B) People who are willing to live in multi-family dwellings with little privacy (C) Individuals with mental or other disabilities that require special services to function. (D)  Millennia’s  who can afford housing but prefer to live near mass transit (such as North concord BART) and are content to live in high rise apartments prior to starting a family.

Missing from this equation are the middle class and blue collar population which make up the largest components of  current demography for the region.  No one came forth from this group enumerating their interests in the Master Developer selection process.  At the same time the middle class are being asked to subsidize the less fortunate and others who want their special interests to be placed in the front of the line in developing the Naval Base.

Among this growing group of organizations and causes we have:

  1. Affordable housing advocates many affiliated with religious organizations. Even with the State and Federal Governments mandating at least 25% of units built fall into this category, this group wants a greater percentage of what is to be built in the new development. The only problem is that the larger number of these subsidized units built, the higher the selling prices of market rate properties in the complex.
  2. Special needs and the homeless. It is thought that if this growing segment of the population is to have their priorities addressed, than this will improve social conditions in society. The reality especially with the homeless is that having a roof over their head is a step in the right direction but not the entire answer. In virtually every case treatment for substance abuse and mental illness issues are just as important.  How this might relate to residents in the CNWS very much comes into play. Providing solar powered shopping carts to the homeless will not likely ease the security concerns of their nearby neighbors.
  3.  Open Space and environmental groups: With the vast majority of lands on the CNWS being devoted to parks and open space, the question comes up is who will be paying for the construction of bike paths, hiking trails, sources of water, and other amenities desired  for recreation purposes.  There are also soccer fields, parks adjacent to dwellings, and other facilities that the city wants to be built.  Like other amenities local government wants, the questions arises is if the developer has the economic resources to make everyone’s dreams come true4
  4. Year institution of Higher Education: On the CNWS lands. During the developer selection process talking about the possibility of having a campus of UC or the State College system has been much talked about especially by members of the Concord City Council. There is a consensus to allocate prime property near the BART station for this purpose.  While this is a great idea that the mass majority of citizens in the region desire, it will also take away prime space from residential and commercial developments putting more pressure on raising revenue from market rate housing.

    Will housing in the CNWS property be affordable for both the poor and the middle class who are being asked to subsidize them?
    Will housing in the CNWS property be affordable for both the poor and the middle class who are being asked to subsidize them?
  1. Churches, Public Schools & Non-Profits: These groups which want land bestowed to them for free or at discounted rates, also want a piece of the pie at the CNWS. They are an important component of society who has a place in this development which will eventually house over 40,000 new citizens of Concord.  Again we come to the situation that giving special consideration to these groups, someone whether it is the developer or tax payers are going to have to chip in if these entities are to be represented in the milieu of the new development.
  2. Commercial development: One of the most important components of the plans for the CNWS lands is job creation for both the local community and new residents of the area. As such, it will likely be necessary to provide incentives to attract large businesses to locate there. If past history is any indication, cheap land, facilities, and possibly lower property taxes will be required to attract these businesses.  Again, in doing this, more pressure to obtain revenue will be placed on the developer and the city to make ends meet.
  3. Project Labor Agreements (PLA): Put forth by organized Labor. With such a pact a near certainty, opponents of these agreements feel that PLAs bloat construction costs more than 20% because they feel independent contractors are excluded from participating in building the new properties.  Organized labor disagrees with this assessment but no one debates that California has one of the highest construction costs of anywhere in the United States.  However, it should also be noted government regulations, environmental laws, and expensive permit expenses, also contribute to added costs for conducting business in the “Golden State.”
  4.  Expense of Removing Toxic Waste from CNWS: Various estimates abound on the cost of removing or burying contaminants from the land left over by the Navy. Lead, arsenic, and even nuclear waste have been mentioned. Until proper surveys and testing is done, how much it will cost to remove hazmat (and who is to be pay for this) is yet to be determined.  This is why the Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs) should done in small segments as the process of dealing with Hazmat questions will take a long time to resolve.  Whatever the outcome of this question it is certain that large expenses will be involved for which those residing in the new development will ultimately be responsible for.
  5. Infrastructure expenses in the surrounding areas: It does not take a rocket scientist to realize that the amount of funds allocated in the Lennar proposal will not even come close to paying for improvements on existing roads, construction of new traffic arteries, and public transportation facilities that will be needed in the future.  Politicians, who live in a world that runs from election cycle to election cycle, try to claim that future needs are taken into account with projects such as the CNWS.  However, it is well documented that reality ends up being much different.

    As the Master Developer for the CNWS Kofi Bonner and his team have a lot of special interests to please
    As the Master Developer for the CNWS project,  Kofi Bonner and his team have a lot of special interests to please
  1. The lack of water on the CNWS lands: Listening to the endless parade of speakers who have come forth with their  lofty visions during the developer selection process, one would think that the property is some kind of nature’s wonderland where all kinds of wild animals and abundant plant life exists. Unfortunately, this is hardly the case. Most of the CNWS property is a wasteland of chaparral with a few scattered oak trees where the absence of H2O does not allow much to flourish.  Trying to fantasize that residents of the region will flock to this alleged paradise might be considered a “leap of faith” The only way open space can be made beneficial to the public is by pumping precious water resources into the Naval Base lands.  This could prove to be costly and face opposition from environmentalists. Sounds like law suits waiting to happen.

With all of the expenses and liabilities to be incurred not to mention the special interest groups grabbing for a piece of the pie with both hands, the job of any developer making ends meet and hopefully making a profit are challenging at best.  This might be a major factor in Catellus, faced with perceived obstacles from local government in Concord and various organizations wanting their piece of the rock, decided to withdraw from being considered to be Master Developer.

It also explains why Lennar plans to build at least 200 market rate homes bordering Willow Pass before having to construct affordable ones.  By the time Lennar has to construct (at least 10 years from now) low income dwellings, they hope the market improves or more government subsidies are available.

For Kofi Bonner trying to manage his ex-military base empire is no easy task.  In the coming years he will no doubt want to use the leverage gained by managing the CNWS project that Concord City Council member Dan Helix has referred to as a “gold mine” to finance this venture and others in Lennar’s portfolio.

All I can say is “good luck guys”.

 

 

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

Concord Council set to rubber stamp Lennar as CNWS Master Developer

Despite numerous warning signs, Concord Council is set to name Lennar as Master Developer for the $6B redevelopment project for the former Concord Naval Weapons Station

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

As  Concord is scheduled to make its decision on the selection of a Master Developer for the Concord Naval Weapons Station project on May 11, the City Council are acting like courtesy clerks at Safeway offering their constituents “paper or plastic” to wrap up the deal for Lennar-Urban.

Valerie Barone, City Manager Concord California
” Valerie Barone, Concord City Manager under fire from CNWS selection process critics

Proclaiming “transparency” in claiming Lennar’s proposal is superior to the one of Catellus which dropped out of the running a month ago, does not hide the fact that meat and potatoes Council is selling are tainted with financial problems.

Many prominent citizens feel Lennar’s shortcomings far outweigh any promises it makes to the city. No amount of “paper or plastic” gestures Council offers citizens can white wash the stench.

An item slipped into the Concord City council agenda on May  authored by Guy Bjerke states:

On Tuesday, May 3, 2016 Lennar Urban informed the LRA that Lennar Corporation is contributing several of its assets to FivePoint Holdings LLC and that other projects in which the Lennar Corporation retains an ownership interest will be managed by FivePoint Holdings LLC. FivePoint Holdings LLC will also manage Lennar Concord LLC, as a Lennar Corporation asset, as proposed in Section 25. b. ii. of the Revised Lennar Term Sheet.

Let’s take a look at this Lennar Subsidiary to see if Concord’s future should be placed under their umbrella. Here are the facts that should be considered before the city and Lennar do a ring exchange at the altar:

1. Five Point Holdings is an outgrowth of LandSource which went bankrupt in 2008. Mare Island also went under, approximately 1.6 billion dollars was lost by investors including 922 million dollars by the public pension funds protecting government workers in California Lennar was the fiduciarily-responsible manager of both entities. Now Concord wants to attach their future to this star.

2. After the bankruptcy, LandSource debt was acquired for a very steep discount by distressed debt buyers like Third Avenue Fund, now in an SEC-supervised liquidation. Other funds involved with Five Point include OCH Ziff Capital, Marathon Asset Management, Castle Lake L.P., and Anchorage Capital. These companies all have one thing in common; they have no desire to continue working with Lennar, and would be the first in line to receive funds should Five Point Holdings have an IPO stock offering to raise capital.

3. Over half the present assets of Five Point are tied up with the Newhall Ranch Development in Santa Clarita. Earlier this the year the California Supreme Court threw out their Environmental Impact Report (EIR) as being marginally fraudulent in their estimates for potential traffic, creation of over 269,000 tons greenhouse gases, and for the possible destruction of the Santa Clara River basin. The court ruled a new EIR must be completely redone which will likely render the project valueless for years to come.

4. Given the sad state of the Newhall Ranch development, it would appear Lennar is anxious to prop up Five Point Holdings which is struggling to raise capital to finance their operations. As an indication on May 2nd, Lennar did an 8K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission withdrawing their proposed stock offering for Five Point. While they cited a “choppy IPO market” for taking this action, speculation in financial markets indicates investors had little or no interest in buying what they are trying to sell.

5. After the disaster with the collapse of Land Source, investment banks, which are normally major players in developing projects such as the Concord Naval Weapons Depot, are reluctant to get involved with Lennar which further handicaps their ability to borrow in financial markets to fund their venture.

Concord's Mayor Laura Hoffmeister navigating thru stormy weather selecting a Master Develooper
Concord’s Mayor Laura Hoffmeister navigating thru stormy weather selecting a Master Develooper

How all of this might affect what transpires with City of Concord partnering up with Lennar is uncertain. Even if the contents of what is listed above are even partially true, why in the world would the  decision makers on the Concord City Council desire to be even remotely involved with Five Point Holdings?

Since Catellus dropped out of consideration for completing to be Master Developer, a great deal of speculation has surfaced for their reasons why. According to my sources which include the top executives of the company, they did not believe the current city manager, staff, or city council members with the exception of Dan Helix were giving them a fair shake.

The Catellus people also said they were weary of being falsely accused of using illegal tactics to obtain the contract. They denied being in some sort on conspiracy with the Albert Seeno Company to take over the project and bribe city staff with free Golden State Warrior tickets as former mayor Tim Grayson alleged last year Even though the late City Attorney Mark Coon, the Jenkins Report, and former head of the Reuse Project Michael Wright refuted these charges, the rumors and innuendos of back door dealings by Catellus persist to this day.

The $350,000 refund Catellus received from the city when they pulled out of the running to become Master Developer was not about the money but rather the loss of confidence they felt in dealing with local government. This fact makes what has transpired since then even more regrettable.

With only one company left in the fray, the city claims it has been able to negotiate with Lennar to gain equal if not better terms than Catellus offered in their term sheet that city staff endorsed. This does not erase the earlier actions of the City Manager Valarie Barone along with the three council members Tim Grayson, Laura Hoffmeister, and Edi Birsan tried to keep the pro Catellus staff recommendation away from voters in what was later acknowledged to be a violation of the Brown Act.

Throughout this whole process the elephant in the room is the ability of Lennar versus Catellus to finance the lofty expectations of the CNWS project. Unfortunately for the city, the company who feels they were kicked to the curb, Catellus, has the ability to pay for building the project without utilizing  risky IPO’s, bundling  together different ventures, or selling EB-5 visa’s with Willie Brown’s Golden Gate Development partners to pay the bills.

Guy Bjerke Director of Community Reuse Planning
Guy Bjerke Director of Community Reuse Planning. is trying to prop up the sagging fortunes of the city council

Given what has ocurrred, it is not surprising that a large number of prominent community leaders from Concord’s past and present have seen the dark side of selection process. Apparently, it makes them shudder to witness what has been going on. Even the stipulation that Concord would be receiving under the Lennar proposal $20,000,000 annually for ten years as a down payment is met with skepticism because the money would be paid back to Lennar at a later date at a 20% compounded interest rate.

A dark cloud seems to be hovering above the entire selection process. With Vice Mayor Ron Leone recusing himself because of his residence’s proximity the Naval Base and Tim Grayson doing the same because of accepting secret campaign contributions for his State Assembly race from Lennar affiliated concerns, a sense of cynicism persists with how city government is conducting themselves.

Making a decision of selecting a Master Developer on a 6 billion dollars project is much more difficult than bestowing certificates of achievement and plaques to worthy citizens or determining where to fix pot holes. This is a six billion dollar project where “chump change” needs to be thrown out the window in order that the long range objectives of the community are to be served.

Unfortunately to this point the citizens of Concord and the entire region are being served a menu of “paper or plastic” by the “transparency for lunch bunch” at city hall. It is there that the real issues are heating up under the surface which threaten to one day explode like a volcano blowing its top.

 

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

Lennar’s history in San Francisco a dire warning for Concord

Broken promises from Lennar projects in San Francisco offer a dire to Concord City Council on brink of recall

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

Attention members of Concord City Council, the article is just a serious warning of what Lennar has to bring to Concord and to low income housing.

You want this project to be a one in a lifetime, well you are going about it in the wrong direction, with so much closed door meetings, money for lobbying, and City council members making statements, can we not talk to these people on our own?

There is a very strong chance that this city council will be recalled. Mr Helix will be leaving and I doubt Birsan will be re-elected. You have been given your last chance to change things at the last Special meeting. And still with all the negative comments and concerns from Concord residents, you do not want to change the avenue you are taking.

You are trying to bluff your way into making people think they are getting a better deal with Lennar, and they and the City Council can be trusted. We need to restart the Master Developer Selection, and take a look at the building plans, as they stand, and I think this should be put up for a vote, by election.

No one’s faith has been restored, and if you really think we believe the charade that has been played out before us, you are wrong.  Do not waste anymore of the citizens valuable time.  Restart the selection, and while your at it, open the records on all research and letters, that Mark Coon was investigating and have an independent investigation on his death.

It does not sit well that the District Attorneys office has not called for an investigation into the going ons of the City Council and the the last several months of events.  The FBI would only look into this if local authorities first investigated.

So we will remember next election, who seems to be honest and working for the citizens.  I should think you would all be ashamed of your behavior.  The City Manger should be fired as well.  This is by far the worst the City Council has been since 1999.

The Corporation that Ate San Francisco, by Carol Harvey

Just last summer, June 4, 2015, in an Al Jazeera article headlined, “SF gentrification pushes lower-income residents into radioactive areas,” journalist, Toshio Meronek wrote: “The Hunters Point Shipyard and its annex at Treasure Island were once used to clean boats returning from nuclear-weapons testing in the Pacific. Now they will soon be the sites of much-needed affordable housing stock in a city where high demand and speculation have produced explosive gentrification and displacement.”

cnws-hikeMeronek points out that San Francisco city government sees both Navy bases as central to its strategy to house lower-income residents. “On Treasure Island, more than a third of the population is formerly homeless,” Meronek writes.

These happy assumptions of the promise of low-cost toxin-free housing for San Francisco’s middle- and low-income and poor, Black and Brown people on Bayview Hunters Point and Treasure Island are called into serious question by the environmental racism and classism that federal, state and city officials, the Navy and the Lennar Corp. leveled at the disadvantaged purported recipients of affordable housing on both former bases long before redevelopment on either base began.

After the recent horrible revelation of lead contamination in Flint, Michigan, water and its irreversibly toxic effects on children, scrutiny is being focused on the longstanding nationwide problem of environmental racism and classism. In 1987, the seminal study, “Toxic Wastes and Race,” written in the wake of the Love Canal disaster, revealed a pattern of “widespread presence of uncontrolled toxic waste sites in racial and ethnic communities throughout the United States.”

Guardian Lennar cover 031407, webIt is no surprise that poor, Black and Brown people live closest to the most heavily polluted urban areas, at the centers of cities clogged with auto exhaust, close to heavy industry and power plants. Unlike people with means, they cannot afford to move out and away to the greener pastures of smaller suburbs and feeder cities.

When I first walked across the small island, a wasteland of low industrial-type buildings, oil drums and a wastewater treatment plant, Treasure Island reminded me of slums in Chicago, Detroit, Boston and Los Angeles. But overarching this desolate landscape was a wide cerulean blue sky, delightful views of Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco and energetic whitecaps lashing the riprap.

In San Francisco, environmental racism took a curiously unique turn. During World War II, Bayview Hunters Point experienced a boom. In the 1940s, Black people moved to San Francisco from the more virulently racist South for jobs at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard.

When a thriving Black Fillmore community, rivaling Market Street as a business center, replete with its own bejeweled Victorian homes and banks, visited by renowned musicians playing equally famous jazz clubs, was ripped away by redevelopment, many Black people fled to Bayview Hunters Point. But during the “war effort,” courtesy of the U.S. Navy and unknown to the community, people building bombs or dumping test animals into landfills were routinely exposed to radiation and chemicals. Already, the sunniest San Francisco neighborhood had been poisoned.

This photo, taken April 10, 2007, shows the close proximity of Hunters Point residents’ homes to Lennar’s massive earthmoving project to remove 35 feet of Hunters Point Hill, kicking up extremely toxic dust for years that was rarely contained or monitored. – Photo: Liz Hafalia, SF ChronicleThis photo, taken April 10, 2007, shows the close proximity of Hunters Point residents’ homes to Lennar’s massive earthmoving project to remove 35 feet of Hunters Point Hill, kicking up extremely toxic dust for years that was rarely contained or monitored. – Photo: Liz Hafalia, SF Chronicle.

Later, in the Bay on Treasure Island Annex, from the 1950s to the ‘70s, Navy instructors were teaching sailors to wash radioactive cesium-137 from the deck of the U.S.S. Pandemonium One, a mockup naval vessel. This fake ship sat on the San Francisco side of the island. It was a landlocked structure built slantwise across Gateview Avenue long before homes for military families were constructed there.

A Navy memo describes 11 pieces of cesium-137 being routinely raised and lowered from lead enclosures inside the Pandemonium. Cesium can result in decreased appetite, nausea, diarrhea, neurological changes, heart problems and cardiac arrhythmias. People I know on Treasure Island exhibit all these symptoms.

It does not seem to concern the Treasure Island Development Authority, the Navy or Lennar that people currently live in the Pandemonium One footprint at 1314 and 1315 Gateview Ave. When I videotaped the street in March 2015, a smiling Asian teen exited one of these addresses and strode toward me across the radioactive front lawn. Her white fuzzy puppy dashed up and bounced playfully around my knees.

Lennar plans to build housing here over radioactive soil that, despite the Navy’s claims to the contrary, can never be removed. Cesium has a half-life of 1,600 years. Radiation is called radiation because it radiates. That’s forever.

The fact that plutonium’s half-life is 24,100 years becomes important when one looks at the opposite Berkeley-Oakland side of the island. The Navy’s one-story RADIAC schools along Avenue M contained what a 1982 base radiation safety memo described as large sources of plutonium, tritium and cesium.

Exposure to powerful plutonium can give you lung, liver and bone cancer. Over-exposure to tritium can increase your cancer risk, cause genetic and reproductive defects and developmental abnormalities.

In 1987, Ronald Reagan demanded, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall.” On Nov. 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. The post-World War II Cold War era was over. Congress began discovering military overspending, and bases nationwide closed.

In 1974, the Navy pulled out of Hunters Point Shipyard. Twenty-three years later, in 1997, it decommissioned Treasure Island.

In 1989, after discovering PCBs, solvents, pesticides, petroleum hydrocarbons and lead on the Naval Shipyard, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency declared it a Superfund site.

For a long time, even before the Navy left but was still functioning at a reduced level, it leased out unused old buildings and warehouses. Many people who worked there over the years died of cancer.

Ahimsa Sumchai, M.D., expert on the radiological history of the Shipyard and on the effects of toxic exposure, speaks at an Aug. 25, 2007, rally at Muhammad University, a school located next to the Shipyard fence, where students were bombarded with toxic dust for years. Behind the protesters is the moonscape Lennar created as its giant earthmovers removed 35 feet of Hunters Point Hill. – Photo: Chris Brizzard

Ahimsa Sumchai, M.D., expert on the radiological history of the Shipyard and on the effects of toxic exposure, speaks at an Aug. 25, 2007, rally at Muhammad University, a school located next to the Shipyard fence, where students were bombarded with toxic dust for years. Behind the protesters is the moonscape Lennar created as its giant earthmovers removed 35 feet of Hunters Point Hill. – Photo: Chris Brizzard

Initially, in the early ‘90s, the Shipyard was divided into lots that people were encouraged to buy for their home or business, developing the Shipyard the way the rest of San Francisco grew, lot by lot. If you could afford what was projected to be a moderate price, you could go to a little office that former Supervisor Willie Kennedy staffed, view a map and select a piece of property to purchase once the Shipyard was clean.

The Navy began to hold Restoration Advisory Board meetings to update the community on cleanup progress. Through Navy spokespeople and handouts – but more importantly through the dogged and heroic research and reporting in the Bay View by Dr. Ahimsa Sumchai, who headed the RAB’s Radiological Subcommittee – the extreme danger posed by proximity to powerfully poisonous radiation and chemicals dawned slowly upon the Bayview community.

Little had been known about the Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory, the U.S. military’s largest nuclear research facility, once secret, and their experiments that filled an enormous landfill on what’s now known as Parcel E with the radioactive waste, including irradiated large farm animals, and all manner of industrial toxins. The community’s years of demands for its removal have been refused.

The Unholy Quadrinity – UQ4

What I have termed “The Unholy Quadrinity” behind the redevelopment of former naval bases Hunters Point and Treasure Island is a four-in-one entity comprised of:

1) The corporate state – federal government officials Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Navy Secretaries Ray Mabus and Hansford T. Johnson;

2) State and city mover and shaker former Mayor Willie Brown channeled by his later mayoral incarnations, Gavin Newsom and Ed Lee;

In January of 2005, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, beaming with pride, announced the dirty transfer of Parcel A of the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard from the Navy to the City and County of San Francisco. In 2000, San Francisco voted over 86 percent for Proposition P to make thorough cleanup of the Shipyard prior to any development the policy of the city. Behind Pelosi is then Supervisor Sophie Maxwell.

In 2000, San Francisco voted over 86 percent for Proposition P to make it city policy that no development take place at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard until it is thoroughly cleaned. Nevertheless, in January of 2005, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, beaming with pride, announced the dirty transfer of Parcel A of the Shipyard from the Navy to the City and County of San Francisco, anticipating prompt development even though Parcel A was not yet clean. Behind Pelosi is then Supervisor Sophie Maxwell.

3) Corporate mega-developer Lennar, represented by Kofi Bonner of Lennar Urban, bedding down with both; and, on Treasure Island,

4) California’s largest corporate slumlord, John Stewart, an only slightly smaller demon slinking behind the other three, represented on Treasure Island by Property Manager Dan Stone.

Together they comprise a four-headed beast I call the Unholy Quadrinity – UQ4. UQ4 thrives in an incestuous rat’s nest of financial nepotism, kickbacks and palm-greasing.

State and city politician Willie Brown grabs the power

On Oct. 14, 1997, Gov. Pete Wilson signed state Assembly Bill 699 into law, putting authority over the development of Treasure Island into the hands of a “panel” handpicked by colorful longtime state assemblyman and city mayor, Willie Brown.

To ensure he could control what became the Treasure Island Development Authority Board (TIDA), Brown fashioned it to consist solely of mayoral appointees.

Willie had set his sights on Lennar to be the developer, so other competitive bidders somehow vanished.

The federal monster – incest is best

Laurence Pelosi, Nancy Pelosi’s nephew by marriage, is Gavin Newsom’s first cousin and served as treasurer for Newsom’s first mayoral campaign. In March of 2004, simultaneous to the time Mayor Newsom and Speaker Pelosi pushed the Navy to transfer Shipyard Parcel A and Newsom signed the Hunters Point Shipyard Conveyance Agreement, it did not hurt that Laurence Pelosi was head of acquisitions for the Lennar Corp.

Early in her political tenure, Nancy Pelosi envisioned her financial advantage in pushing the city to acquire from the Navy the three newly closed Bay Area bases: The Presidio, Hunters Point and Treasure Island. She worked closely with congressional and naval friends and former Mayor Willie Brown to achieve this goal.

The advocacy group POWER played a major role in educating and organizing the community to stop environmental racism. Here, on July 17, 2007, they took their protest to Lennar’s on-site Shipyard office. On the left is Alicia Garza, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter.

The advocacy group POWER played a major role in educating and organizing the community to stop environmental racism. Here, on July 17, 2007, they took their protest to Lennar’s on-site Shipyard office. On the left is Alicia Garza, now known everywhere as a co-founder of Black Lives Matter.

Massaging her military and naval connections, including former Marine and Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha (now deceased), Navy Assistant Secretary Hansford T. Johnson and Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, Pelosi acquired conveyances. On April 1, 2004, Hunters Point Naval Shipyard Parcel A, still toxic, was officially turned over to the City and County of San Francisco in what all parties knew was a “dirty transfer,” and on Aug. 18, 2010, the Navy returned equally contaminated former Naval Station Treasure Island to the city.

The terms of the Treasure Island conveyance made transparent all parties’ agendas. In addition to the city’s guaranteed payment of $55 million to the Navy, followed by an interim payment of another $50 million, “an additional share of potential further profits” from high-end condos with bay and city views was promised. From the podium at the ceremony on Treasure Island, Pelosi triumphantly thanked them all, but especially Mayor Willie Brown sitting before her and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, for preserving the land – presumably for her.

Weeks before the Navy relinquished Hunters Point Parcel A, its Radiological Affairs Support Office (RASO) raised doubts about safe residential development there. Investigators had unearthed radiological contamination in hundreds of buildings, the entire storm, drain and sanitary systems, dry docks and the soil.

Despite these cautions, Pelosi pressured John Murtha to push the deal through, “twisting his arm,” she said at the time. He was not at all comfortable with transferring dirty land for people to live on.

Enter Lennar, the ravenous corporation that reneges

In 1954, Lennar began as a small Miami, Florida, home builder and by 2016 it has morphed into a corporation universally described as a mega-developer, one of the country’s largest.

When the military closed vast swathes of land on its bases, Lennar leapt on the opportunity, carving its niche into an unexpectedly lucrative target market. Lennar needed gigantic holdings so they could impress financial entities from whom they could borrow against large tracts of land.

In 1997, Lennar became master developer for Vallejo’s Mare Island Naval Shipyard.

In 1999, Lennar won the Hunters Point bid following an approval process addressing toxic cleanup, impoverished populace displacement worries and transportation needs.

This is one of the many unexploded bombs found buried just beneath the surface in an upscale Lennar subdivision built on a former military firing range in Orange County, Florida. Lennar had not bothered to remove them before developing the land, a pattern of disregard for homebuyers the mega-developer has tried to follow in San Francisco.

This is one of the many unexploded bombs found buried just beneath the surface in an upscale Lennar subdivision built on a former military firing range in Orange County, Florida. Lennar had not bothered to remove them before developing the land, a pattern of disregard for homebuyers the mega-developer has tried to follow in San Francisco.

In 2001, Lennar won the rights to redevelop Treasure Island, even before it broke ground at Hunters Point.

In 2003, the parent company spun off Lennar Urban to focus on military-base reuse.

In July, 2008, CNN and Orlando Sentinel news stories exposed the discovery of a 23-pound fragmentation bomb two feet under the dirt of the upscale Warwick subdivision, complete with elementary school, the kind of community Lennar plans to build in the Hunters Point Shipyard and former Naval Station Treasure Island. Children were evacuated while munitions workers searched frantically for – and found – ordnance used during 1940s military training.

According to the Sentinel, “The ‘frag’ bomb – designed to shatter its metal shell upon detonation – is among a long list of munitions used at the site during training in the 1940s. Other ordnance includes bombs up to 500 pounds, rockets, rifle grenades and incendiary bombs designed to ignite super-hot chemical fires that are difficult to extinguish.”

On the Consumeraffairs.com internet site, a Nov. 4, 2015, statement by Randy of Winter Garden, Florida, was typical of page after page of protracted complaints by people who had bought homes built by Lennar in multiple states. “This company… duped a whole new community with shoddy contractors, poor purchases, a community pool that is falling apart within a year, lies and deceptions in sales practice … (It does) not take responsibility when (the) contractor forgets to ground a home, blowing out most of the electricals.”

After Lennar promised to be responsive to the Bayview Hunters Point community’s needs, it built on the irresponsible lack of concern by Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi at the federal level and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown locally for massive toxins about which the Navy warned. Secondly, Lennar consistently displayed racist and classist behavior in the casually brutal ways it treated the mostly African-American community.

First, during the spring and summer months of 2006, Lennar allowed its contractor, CH2M Hill, to violate conditions in the Bay Area Air Quality District’s Dust Mitigation Plan by using gigantic earthmovers to slice 35 feet from a neighborhood perched at the top of a hill covered with beautiful old trees and attractive, usable Navy homes.

In the process, they released asbestos fibers from the serpentinite bedrock native to Hunters Point. In the process, they exposed children at the Muslim University of Islam just across the fence to toxic dust containing elevated levels of asbestos, particulates, lead, manganese, chromium, nickel and arsenic. Many residents in the densely populated surrounding neighborhood reported nosebleeds, headaches, rashes, asthma, cancer and infant mortality.

Some believe the agenda in chopping down the hill amounted to a racist “apartheid” attempt to create a grade separation between white people in Lennar’s upscale development and the poorer Black community of Hunters Point. Residents view as racist Lennar’s complete disregard for health and safety, especially of the children, in repeatedly violating the few regulations the Air District imposed on it and for years defying air monitoring requirements, despite incessant protests by residents and activists demanding they stop kicking up massive amounts of toxic dust.

In fact, people checking monitors found empty, nonfunctional boxes. One fake monitor had nothing but a rat’s nest inside.

Some believed Lennar intentionally ignored the monitors to avoid work stoppages mandated by high toxicity readings, prioritizing its rush to profit off development over human health of residents and its own workers. Some are convinced that this activity amounted to casual disregard for the health of people that, based on their race, Lennar considered expendable.

A series of retaining walls – apartheid walls – was built by Lennar to hold the hill where they cut it down to 35 feet below the Hunters Point hilltop, densely populated with Black families, apparently to separate and protect the upscale neighborhood they envisioned from Black children who might have the audacity to visit. – Photo: Dr. Willie Ratcliff

A series of retaining walls – apartheid walls – was built by Lennar to hold the hill where they cut it down to 35 feet below the Hunters Point hilltop, densely populated with Black families, apparently to separate and protect the upscale neighborhood they envisioned from Black children who might have the audacity to visit. – Photo: Dr. Willie Ratcliff

One community member insisted, “It was racism that caused Lennar to cut the hill down, and it was racism that caused them not to care that we were poisoned by them doing that.” Lennar claimed to be working in the best interests of the community, but the mega-developer made it obvious that “they really didn’t care at all about the community unless we forced them to.”

When three African American Lennar executives approached Lennar about dust regulation violations that were poisoning the workers they supervised and residents of one of the last remaining African American communities in San Francisco with levels of asbestos so high they mandated 15 work stoppages in the summer of 2006, they were racially harassed, demoted and fired. When Angela Alioto’s law firm took their case under FEHA, the Fair Employment and Housing Act, Lennar quickly settled. Said one community member, “Even their own inside executives knew they were covering people unmonitored with dust, and they still kept doing it.”

Lennar’s construction of condos on Parcel A had finally begun in June 2014, nearly 25 years after the Navy began Shipyard cleanup.

Lennar’s construction of condos on Parcel A had finally begun in June 2014, nearly 25 years after the Navy began Shipyard cleanup.

Finally, Lennar went back on its promises for low-cost rental housing, reneging on its affordable housing agreements. On April 17, 2007, Beyondchron.org, editor Paul Hogarth wrote, “Lennar … has a bad track record of broken promises when it comes to affordable housing.”

He pointed to Orange County, where Lennar forced low-income families who won an affordable housing lottery to make a down payment of nearly 50 percent of the purchase price, rendering them unable to afford the below-market-rate properties.

In Oakland,” wrote Hogarth, “Lennar dropped plans to build 850 units of housing downtown because the city might require some of them to be affordable.” And in Hunters Point, Lennar broke its promise to build 400 units of rental housing – because the rental market was not “profitable.”

In November 2006, claiming weakened financials and rising construction costs when the corporation lost its financial footing after the banks failed, Lennar reneged on its agreement with the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency that it would include 700 rental units on the 500-acre site, saying rentals were now a losing investment. Its reduced commitment, which includes constructing 1,600 condos and townhouses, remains in effect today.

On Lennar’s sales website for condos at The Shipyard – Lennar dropped the term Hunters Point, which in San Francisco signifies Black – is this photo of the Speakeasy Bar, a hangout in the new neighborhood, which is apparently drawing mostly white homebuyers, as Lennar intended.

On Lennar’s sales website for condos at The Shipyard – Lennar dropped the term Hunters Point, which in San Francisco signifies Black – is this whitewashed photo of the Speakeasy Bar, a hangout in the new neighborhood, which is apparently drawing mostly white homebuyers, as Lennar intended.

Lennar’s track record in Bayview Hunters Point clearly demonstrates a pattern of offering assurances they will provide poor, Black and Brown people affordable housing and rentals, then finding ways to renege on their promises and kicking them out. This has already been done to the fairly well-off and middle-income Yerba Buena Island residents.

The Treasure Island Homeless Development Initiative (TIDHI) guarantees affordable housing for subsidized tenants as part of island redevelopment, and District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim recently made a bid to up Treasure Island affordable homes to 40 percent of the planned new construction. Lennar’s Kofi Bonner rejected it.

Despite this, there are no guarantees. Lennar’s track record at Hunters Point clearly shows that such moves come to nothing. In San Francisco, people of moderate means, the poor and the homeless – who, during the Superbowl, will be housed in a big metal barn – are clearly in the way and expendable.

If Lennar will commit these environmental injustices against Hunter Point’s low-income, poor and people of color, they certainly won’t hesitate to perpetrate them upon the people of Treasure Island without blinking or rolling over in their sleep.

(To be continued in Part Two)

Carol Harvey is a San Francisco political journalist specializing in human rights and civil rights. She can be reached at carolharveysf@yahoo.comShe composed the headline of this story with a nod to journalist Sarah Phelan, who wrote the San Francisco Guardian’s March 14, 2007, cover story, the seminal study on Lennar, “The corporation that ate San Francisco.”

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

Investigation of Concord Reuse Project allegations finds fault with Lennar, City Manager, Council

Lennar’s orchestration of campaign contributions to Mayor Tim Grayson’s Assembly campaign constituted a form of lobbying prohibited by the Agreement to Negotiate, and the removal of the recommendation of Catellus from the final staff report resulted from an illegal serial meeting.

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

On September 24, 2015, Catellus Development, through its attorney Hansen Bridgett, wrote the City of Concord alleging improprieties by Lennar Concord, LLC, in connection with the Master Developer selection process for the Concord Naval Weapons Station Reuse Project. Catellus, a finalist in the section along with Lennar alleged that Lennar violated the terms of the Agreement to Negotiate with the City of Concord by lobbying City Council.

A Special Investigation was authorized and completed by Michael Jenkins of the law firm Jenkins & Hogin, LLP, of San Francisco. The report details the applicable law and analysis of the relevant issues and found that,

Lennar’s orchestration of campaign contributions to Mayor Tim Grayson’s Assembly campaign constituted a form of lobbying prohibited by the Agreement to Negotiate, and the removal of the recommendation [of Catellus Development for Master Developer] from the the final staff report resulted from an illegal serial meeting.

Kofi Bonner
Kofi Bonner is regional Vice President of Lennar Urban, a finalist for Master Developer for the Concord Naval Weapons Station project
Furthermore, the report states that records show that the contributions from Lennar associates to the Assembly campaign of Mayor Grayson were in fact solicited by Kofi Bonner of Lennar.

Importantly, the report concludes that the Agreement leaves the consequences, if any, of such lobbying, within the Council’s discretion.

The investigation found no merit “with any other of Catellus’s other allegations. Despite promises of cooperation Lennar declined to be interviewed and elected to to limit Lennar’s participation, as did former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, who consulted with Concord Mayor Tim Grayson, even though Brown is a known close associate of Kofi Bonner of Lennar Urban in San Francisco,

See the 43 [page report below. Readers can download the report from this site or from the City of Concord Reuse Project Page

Concord CNWS Jenkins Report

The report reveals that City staff including then City Attorney Mark Coon, then Director of the Reuse Project Negotiation Team Michael Wright, and others expressed dismay to Catellus in hopes that it would note send a letter stating its allegations as it may delay the selection process.

The report also discusses the meaning of the term “lobbying” both in its common everyday meaning as well as its technical legal parameters. The report describes the language of the lobbying prohibition was intended to be used in its commonly understood meaning, not its technical legal meaning. The prohibition of lobbying was inserted as a codicil/side agreement to preclude “an end-run by either finalist directly or indirectly to the decision-makers. According to the report, “This interpretation was understood to be accepted by staff and both developers.”

The word “lobbying” in Section 11 is listed with “discussions” and “negotiations,” two other verbs suggesting that the finalists are to avoid any activity that might be perceived as attempting to influence decision-makers. The exclusion of campaign contributions in the Political Reform Act has no bearing on Section 11; if the donation of campaign contributions was meant to influence Mayor Gray, then the contributions violated the lobbying prohibition.

Concord Mayor Tim Grayson-state-of-cityJenkins states, “I reject the argument that the lobbying prohibition in Section 11 excludes campaign contributions. It is fair to conclude that the agreement bound both Catellus and Lennar to refrain from engaging in any discussions, negotiations or any other actions intended to influence any City Council or Planning Commission members, or other City employees or officials.”

“The first amendment claims are a red herring. The issue here is whether Lennar acted contrary to the Agreement.”

In regards to the contributions, the report describes two possible conclusions; that Lennar’s solicitation of these campaign contributions from its associates to to Mayor Grayson’s campaign were “anonymous — magnanimously— without expectation of receiving anything in return.”

This would be consistent with Mayor Grayson’s insistence that he was unaware of the relationship between the the contributors and Lennar until the issue was brought to light by this news site, the Contra Costa Times, and others. Grayson reiterated this line again on February 11 in a Council meeting, with an impassioned, “I am not a crook” speech proclaiming that his vote is not for sale.

tim grayson dances with the devilYet his campaign consultant Mary Jo Rossi, a former associate of Willie Brown, was quite aware of the associations of the donors and made efforts to get the donations made before a campaign contribution reporting deadline to show Grayson had a purportedly insurmountable lead in campaign donations.

According to Jenkins,

The contributions materially assisted Mayor Grayson to demonstrating his fundraising prowess early in the campaign, possibly giving hime and advantage over hs competition.There is no evidence that Lennar and Mayor Grayson collaborated in this endeavor [editor note: not withstanding Mary Jo Rossi as possible go-between] or that Mayor Grayson was even aware of it at the time. Nevertheless, the fact that Lennar concealed its involvement by using at least one proxy to donate at least one contribution to Mayor Grayson’s campaign suggests a clandestine effort to advance its interests in the selection process, whether or not it actually did so. Regard in that way, the contributions would constitute lobbying within the meaning of Section 11 [of the non-lobbying agreement both Master Developer finalists signed.]

As for the removal of the staff recommendation of Catellus as Master Developer from the final staff report to Council, the record shows that the original agreement did call for a recommendation from staff; that Council rememorialized this decision shown in the minutes of a closed session of September 15, 2015.

After the deadline for final term sheets from each finalist, a flurry of rumors were ginned up (some anonymously) against Catellus: favoritism by one of Michael Wright’s team, Catellus could be acquired, pressure put on staff to accept an amended term sheet by Lennar after the deadline, Catellus secretly negotiating with Seeno, Catellus gifting Warriors tickets to some city staff, etc. Jenkins states that, “each of these allegations was investigated by Mr Wright, Mr Ramiza, and/or the City attorney and determined to have no merit.”

All of these late allegations “came at the 11th hour as it became more and more obvious to the Council that the Negotiation Team preferred and would be recommending the Catellus term sheet.” This culminated in three Councilmembers communicating to City Manager Valerie Barone their desire, in violation of the legal agreement and its September 15 decision noted above, to remove the staff recommendation favoring Catellus from the final staff report. “Ms Barone discussed the recommendation issue over an intense two-day period with Mr Wright and Mr Coon and ultimately directed Mr Wright to remove the [Catellus] recommendation from the report.”

This action, was the final straw for Catellus which prompted the letter to the City from Hansen Bridgett.

Valerie Barone, City Manager Concord CaliforniaEven so, Ms Barone has publicly stated the removal of the recommendation was her decision. Yet, according to Jenkins, Ms. Barone had no authority unilaterally to countermand a Council decision made in the original agreement and then again on September 15.

Ms Barone’s explanation is belied by the email trail. The communications between Ms Barone and Mr Wright show clearly that Ms Barone had heard from threeCouncilmembers (Grayson, Hoffmeister, and Birsan) who wanted to exercise the recommendation from the report. These communications suggest that Ms Barone was under considerable pressure to do so.

NEXT STEPS

Section 11 provides that the City Council may, in its discretion, disqualify a developer that engages in lobbying in violation of its provisions; specifically Section 11…In my opinion, Lennar engaged in lobbying activities that are prohibited by Section 11. It is up to the Council to determine whether it agrees with this conclusion.

Jenkins notes several options including, disqualification of Lennar, continuing the selection process with two bids, or terminate its agreement and its negotiations with Lennar. In any event, Jenkins states that both Lennar and Catellus be informed that the City intends to apply the ordinary meaning of the word “lobbying” and that campaign contributions fall within that definition.

However, at the Special Session of City Council February 11, Mayor Hoffmeister mentioned the need to discuss the definition of lobbying, as if this was still an open question.

Concord City Council will meet February 23rd to publicly discuss the Jenkins report and its findings. But if past history is any indication, having rejected the recommendation of staff, its quite possible that Council might also reject the findings of the report it paid for.

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

Apple driverless cars may be tested at Concord Naval Station

Apple driverless cars may soon be tested at the GoMentum Station research and testing facility located at the former Naval Weapons Station located in Concord, California

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

A report from the U.K.’s Guardian claims that Apple driverless cars may soon be tested at the GoMentum Station research and testing facility located at the former Concord Naval Weapons Station (CNWS).

apple driverless carFollowing big hints from Apple executives in February, the Financial Times and other tech media have reported that Apple has been recruiting experts in automotive technology.

Dozens of Apple employees, led by experienced managers from its iPhone unit, are researching automotive products, including driverless cars at a Silicon Valley location away from the company’s Cupertino campus, the people said.

Apple Driverless car technology

It is not known how far the car project has progressed. Experiments may need to be conducted in a large space with open roads very early on in the development of the vehicle. It is also not clear if Apple is working on a self-driving car, like those being developed by Google and Uber, or a technology-filled, potentially electric car, like Tesla.

The Contra Costa Bee has reported previously that Mercedes Benz also plans to test driverless car technology at the GoMentum facility operated by the Contra Costa County Transportation Authority in cooperation with the City of Concord.

The 5,000 acre,  paved, city-like roadway grids at CNWS is an ideal site for testing self-driving vehicles and related applications in an urban-like environment. Testing will include transportation technology including traffic signals that ‘communicate’ with cars, and connected and self driving vehicles.

self-driving-vehiclesLocal leaders are optimistic about the research taking place at the CNWS.

“The City of Concord is hopeful that use of the Concord Naval Weapons Station as a test bed hub in the region will attract hi-tech jobs to our community and allow new technologies to be tested and researched,” stated Tim Grayson, Mayor of the City of Concord. CNWS was officially closed in 2007 and is currently in the process of being transferred to the City of Concord.

“This partnership is indication that we’re moving forward in the 21st Century economy,” said Assemblywoman Susan A. Bonilla (D-Concord). “I’m confident that this is the first of many partnerships that will spark transportation innovation and smart growth in Contra Costa and hopeful that the City of Concord can one day be viewed as a transportation technology hub where hi-tech jobs for residents are plentiful.” The use of the site as a test bed for innovative transportation technology will not impact the transfer, or the community’s long range plans for reuse of the base.

Print Friendly
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

Concord nears selection of master developer for Concord Naval Weapons Station

Concord City Council nears the selection of either Lennar Urban or Catellus Development for Master Developer of the Concord Naval Weapons Station site

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

When one first meets Steve Buster, he seems to be the friend you never had but always wanted. Smart, articulate, engaging, and sincere, the Vice-President of Catellus is in charge of his company winning the Master Developer contract on the Concord Naval Weapons Project.

Steve Buster
Steve Buster is Vice-President of Catellus Development, one of the finalists for Master Developer of the Concord Naval Weapons Project.
Steve Buster is Vice-President of Catellus Development, one of the finalists for Master Developer of the Concord Naval Weapons Project.[/caption]Well versed on Catellus’s Bay Area work from Fremont to Alameda, Buster’s enthusiasm is infectious.

Prior to hosting The Concord City Council at their large Mueller Development in Austin Texas, Buster and his colleague Sean Whiskeman escorted me around their new construction site on the old Alameda Naval Air Base. From the public area which included a statue of local Baseball Hall of Famer Willie Stargell to their single family residences (where vehicles are parked in the back), the project seems to be progressing very well. As evidence of this, home prices are considerably higher in the current Phase II offerings at Alameda Landing.

While this project is impressive, it is dwarfed by what will be built on the Concord Naval Weapons site where some 28,000 people are supposed to reside in the near future. Catellus is one of two finalists, including Lennar-Urban, competing for the coveted Master Developer slot that is expected to be voted on by the Concord City Council later on this summer.

In describing his company Buster expounds about Catullus’s philosophy “The structure is a true public/private partnership that aligns the interests of Catellus, the City and the community”. He goes on to say, “This unique deal structure is the reason why Catellus projects continue to progress while other development projects remain idle. Decisions are made in collaboration with the City and community. Together, the parties decide on the project’s priorities and how to make the project balance financially.”

Catullus Development was the Master Developer for Alameda Landing
Catullus Development was selected as the Master Developer for Alameda Landing. CLICK TO SEE listing of other Catellus Development projects.
At first glance, Buster’s presentation is pleasing to the ear but this must be taken in context with the work to be done in the next 30 years at the former Weapons Depot. This is a major undertaking well beyond anything Buster’s firm has done in the past. In choosing between Catellus and Lennar, Concord’s City Council faces the difficult task of trying to see which company will do the best job over the long haul.

Catellus was started in 1980 to manage the real estate holdings held by the Union Pacific Railroad after their merger/takeover of the Southern Pacific. This privately held company was sold to ProLogis in 2005 for 5.3 billion. Prior to the sale Catellus sold their heralded Mission Bay Project near AT&T Park in San Francisco to Farallon Properties well before its completion in order to use this capital in other ventures.

After ProLogis purchased Catellus, they continued this trend selling off parts of their assets they previously developed. In 2010 they sold off part of what remained of Catellus plus their name to TPG Capital for a little over half a billion. This was their third change of ownership in 10 years.

Since then Catellus has operated as a solely owned subsidiary of TPG which is known for taking the chain PetSmart public and help providing capital for its expansion. TPG specializes in coming to the rescue of depressed corporations and turning them around. Once they have established their ventures in the black side of the Ledger, TPG often spins them off, going public or private as the case might be.

Taking the history of the final two bidders into account, the Concord City Council has to ask which developer will be the best for the job especially considering that those who they presently deal with are unlikely to be around when the development is constructed and completed.

See the City of Concord staff recommendation to City Council of Catellus and Lennar as finalists for Master Developer. Note the questions and color-coded responses from the respective competing developers.

City of Concord Recommends Catellus Development and Lennar Urban as Finalists for CNWS by Bill Gram-Reefer

There are so many factors to consider. Catellus, as it is constituted today is a developer whose prime interest is to get the project going and breaking ground ASAP. In effect they play the role of General Contractor using vendors to do most of the work involved with this process.

Kofi Bonner
Kofi Bonner is regional Vice President of Lennar Urban, a finalist for Master Developer for the Concord Naval Weapons Station project
In contrast Lennar is a more vertically structured company. Outside of being a developer, they also have holdings of being a major home builder, Mortgage Company, a title insurance concern, solar energy, and other interests related to the construction of their properties. What the Concord City Council must determine is whether they are more comfortable with the Lennar business model or Catellus’s more narrowly focused approach

In trying to convince the Concord’s City Council to hire them, Catellus proudly expounds that they are not a home builder thus can show more versatility in choosing vendors. Lennar counters this notion showing how they have effectively used other builders along with their own people in current and past projects.

Another point of contention between the two competing developers is their ability to deal with the military. Catellus touts their experience in Alameda and with the Mueller Project in Austin being indicative of what they can do. In reality this body of work has been dwarfed by Lennar who has done projects throughout the Country and locally with the Navy’s Treasure Island properties and Hunter’s Point in San Francisco.

Which of these companies can best deal with Uncle Sam is open to conjecture though it is likely they can both handle this aspect of the job.

A major difference in dealing with the final stages of competing for the Concord Naval Weapons Station contract is the approach of the two firms. Steve Buster of Catellus as a younger person talks with the catch phrases of consultants who work for ABAG or the MTC. The words “Walkable, Sustainable, Eco-friendly and Green” frequently come up in his presentations to potential clients.

In contrast to Buster there is the more experienced Regional VP Kofi Bonner of Lennar’s San Francisco Office. Bonner, who has held a wide range of executive positions including City Manager of Oakland and Vice President of the Cleveland Browns (when his friend Carman Policy was running the club) acts like he has been there before because he has.

Bonner, whose confidence can sometimes be confused as arrogance, appears like he is sitting on a full house in a poker game while his foes are still trying to pair up their cards. Kofi, who has been with Lennar for eight years, is well connected politically as indicated by his long time friendship with ex San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.

Lennar is currently working on local projects like The San Francisco Shipyards, Treasure island, and the former El Toro military base in Southern California and a large development in Las Vegas to name a few. They have been in business for over 60 years and are listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Lenore Urban is lead developer of the San Francisco Shipyard development project.
Lennar Urban is lead developer of the San Francisco Shipyard development project. CLICK ON IMAGE to view interact time website.

Bonner hopes to gain the Concord Naval Weapons contract soon because his firm would be negotiating with the same Navy group that they have dealt with successfully on other recent projects in San Francisco. There is concern on his part that with a new American President being elected in 2016, a new set of appointees will be put in place to oversee the project. Bonner thinks this transfer of power will delay gaining approvals no matter who wins the master developer contract.

All of the differences between Lennar and Catellus (including the size of the companies), along with their competing visions of how the Naval Weapons Station development ought to be developed, continues to occupy the minds of the Concord City Council members. Councilman Ron Leone, is ineligible to participate in this decision making process because he lives within 500 feet of the base.

Concord City Council must determine:

  • “What if” should the economy go sour? If so, who would best keep the project afloat in hard times?
  • Which company is likely to be stable for next 25 years?
  • What business model will best deal with City staff and local contractors?
  • Who can cut the best deal with the Navy?
  • Which company will build the highest quality product that will not end up some day as Section 8 Housing?

The biggest elephant in the room is whether Lennar or Catellus will offer the best monetary compensation to the City? No matter which vendor they select, Concord will likely receive what amounts to a signing bonus from the winning bidder.

Different promises have been made. Depending on how successful the project is will determine the city’s final take. Also to be considered is the City Council’s desire to subsidize their annual budget woes while at the same time building a quality product future generations can be proud of.

All of these factors come into play as the City Council is wooed by Steve Buster and Kofi Bonner. Both organizations are putting on a full court press with their final sales pitches as decision time is near. At stake is up to 3 billion dollars of work and the future of a City that prides itself “where families come first.”

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •