Ten years ago I served on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Military Base Retention Council. Our goal was to write a report that would persuade the latest iteration of the Base Realignment Advisory Committee (BRAC) not to close any military bases in California.
Since the U.S. Navy had already declared the Concord Weapons Station excess to their needs, our council took notice of this decision, and it was no surprise when the committee recommended the Concord site be closed.
In Concord, we created a broad-based citizen's committee to develop recommendations for the ultimate use of the more than 5,000-acre site. This was followed by two years of intense citizen input which culminated in a use plan adopted by the City Council.
What we have learned is that the transfer process is far more complex than we expected. The good news is that although the progress seems to be advancing glacially, there are positive signs that we will begin acquiring portions of the site in 2015, and there is light at the end of the tunnel.
We are still involved in complicated negotiations with the U.S. Navy. Michael Wright, our project director, has a full plate of issues that require resolution.
Basically, it appears that the land will come to the city via an Economic Development Conveyance. This is a mechanism for determining value. We all appreciate the complexities inherent in this process.
Your City Council is dually constituted as the Land Reuse Authority (LRA) in this process. In this respect it functions somewhat as the former Redevelopment Agency, and the city takes appropriate actions on the recommended decisions in its capacity as the LRA.
We are still working on the completion of the Environmental Impact Statement which is required pursuant to the National Environmental Protection Act.
This document includes consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Recognized Native American Tribes and the state Historic Preservation Officer. We are hopeful that our multivolume EIR, already approved, can be utilized to facilitate this process.
A major focus of our efforts is concentrated on the issue of the Public Benefit Conveyances. These are the parcels the city has recommended within the site whose use or purpose is determined to have a public benefit by a designated public agency and therefore are conveyed at no cost.
Currently, the U.S. Navy and the city have agreed on PBCs to the East Bay Regional Park District for park and open space purposes, and the Contra Costa Sheriff and Fire districts for training purposes.
A concomitant issue being resolved is the matter of site cleanup. We are working with the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) on site cleanup matters, and it is our understanding that the U.S. Navy, not the LRA, will be retaining liability for the site cleanup.
As with other issues being discussed in this brief report, the complexities are significant and we are pleased to note that the U.S. Navy has been working cooperatively and amicably with our project director and his team.
We feel this is a tremendous opportunity for our city and eagerly await the next chapter.
Helix is the mayor of Concord. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.