Driving east on Highway 4 toward Pittsburg, I notice the man-made dirt bunkers on the right that look like giant ground squirrel burrows. The bunkers and surrounding grasslands are part of the 5,100-acre upland portion of the Concord Naval Weapons Station that will soon be converted for public use. The navy is keeping the 7,630 acres that stretch down to Suisun Bay, on the other side of Highway 4. The property, which includes much of the watershed of Mount Diablo Creek, has been protected from development for decades by its status as a navy base.
It’s hard to imagine what these green hills will look like when they are developed, but developed they will be. The question is how? And how much? That is what the City of Concord, the land’s local reuse authority, is grappling with. And it is not alone. From the start, this has been a community-wide conversation. The Community Coalition for a Sustainable Concord, a collection of labor, interfaith, conservation, transportation, and affordable housing organizations, has a vision that combines open space with walkable neighborhoods, affordable homes, and quality local jobs.
A general plan for the reuse of the Concord Naval Weapons Station could be finalized as early as June 2008, says Michael Wright, director of the process. After several years of planning and spirited community meetings, the City of Concord sent seven conceptual alternatives to the federal Environmental Protection Agency for review last October. Once the draft Environmental Impact Report on all seven is released in April 2008, there will be a 45-day comment period. During that time, the city will host a series of public meetings “to help the community advisory committee recommend one of the alternatives, or a hybrid of several, to the city council,” says Wright.
All seven alternatives include some level of development, but differ in the amount of land left for open space and recreational uses. The East Bay Regional Park District is working closely with the city, the federal government, and the community in advocating for a large urban park, says Brian Holt, senior planner for the district.
Once the city council votes on a reuse plan, the plan will undergo further reviews before the Department of Defense sells the land. A change in ownership isn’t likely to occur until around 2010. Until then, the bunkers, the green hills, and the wildlife corridor remain intact. To learn more or to participate in the public comment period, go to Concord Community Reuse Project.