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The Concord City Council on Tuesday rebooted the process of finding a master developer for the former Concord Naval Weapons Station, agreeing on contents of a request for qualifications to send to potential partners.

The fate of 5,046 acres on the city’s northeast side has been one of Concord’s biggest issues since the U.S. Navy abandoned the area in 1999. The Navy officially designated it as surplus and made Concord the local reuse authority for the site, of which 2,300 acres are targeted for 13,000 units of housing and millions of square feet of commercial space.

The site will also be home to a 2,540-acre East Bay Regional Park, tentatively known as Concord Hills Regional Park.

A large portion of Tuesday’s meeting was devoted to making sure there’s language in the request making clear to developers that campaign donations to local elected officials are a non-starter. Former Mayor Tim Grayson recused himself from voting on a master developer in 2016, after a developer candidate accused another of improper lobbying.

An independent investigation confirmed Grayson’s state assembly campaign took money from Lennar Five Point, the company eventually named master developer before it pulled out in 2020. It also concluded the donation went through a proxy and Grayson was likely unaware of the connection.

It was also suggested Grayson discussed the selection process with former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown — a registered lobbyist connected with a firm that did business with Lennar — but the investigator determined it was plausible Grayson only conferred with Brown for his political expertise during his assembly run.

Vice Mayor Domenic Aliano said:

“I have a lot of confidence in our colleagues, that everything would be above board going through this process. … At that time, it was a different council, when we went through the past selection process, and we have new individuals on the city council today.”

Council member Carlyn Obringer said she wanted to emphasize the project isn’t just about housing, it’s also about creating local jobs:

“It’s really important; I think the purpose of the RFQ is for this document to make crystal clear what the council expectations are, so that everybody knows, whenever they apply, what we’re looking for,” Obringer said. “We don’t want to have confusion and delays later.”

The council also added language to the document affirming applicants will have experience with emerging technologies and sustainability, acknowledging the time necessary for such a massive project.

Concord selected Lennar Five Point as master developer in 2016. The company pulled out of the project in March 2020 when its initial exclusive negotiating agreement expired and its negotiations with local labor unions failed.

This time, the city has designed an expedited process to allow for the selection of a new master developer by August.

A report for Tuesday’s meeting said:

“The quicker process should allow the LRA and chosen master developer to restart the specific plan and environmental impact report in early 2022, leading to land use entitlements, a disposition and development agreement, and an economic development agreement with the U.S. Navy in 2023.”

The report also outlined a new project timeline, aiming to have the request for proposals out by April 16. The city’s deadline for answers in writing would be May 14. The council would select developers to interview by Aug. 3, with the interviews taking place by Aug. 24 (which may include actual selection of a master developer). The city would like to have initial negotiations done by Aug. 31 and have an agreement with its choice by Sept. 23.

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