CONCORD – In a split vote, city council on Saturday gave a group of developers, including the controversial Seeno Companies, an exclusive chance to possibly oversee one of the most ambitious real estate developments in East history Bay.
The board voted 3-2 to enter into an exclusive trading deal with Seeno Companies, Discovery Builders, Inc., Lewis Group of Companies and California Capital Investment Group, which could see the team become the lead developer of Concord Naval Weapons Station.
The board chose the Discovery / Seeno group over two other development teams after the three made their case and dozens of residents and advocates gave their thoughts on competing development teams.
If it and the city agree to the terms of the specific project plan, the Discovery / Seeno team could be tasked with building 13,000 homes and millions of square feet of office and retail space on 2,300 acres of the old site. weapons. The Navy still has to remove toxic chemicals before transferring the land to the city.
The family-owned Seeno Companies dates back several generations to Concord and is currently run by Albert Seeno III, who on Saturday pledged his local ties to the community would bring much-needed continuity to a project that has seen starts and stops over the course of of the years. The last master developer left last year after a row with city officials over refusing to hire only union workers.
“Our team is here, our family is here, I was born and raised here, some of the first subdivisions I ever built are decades ago,” Seeno told the board. “It’s something I know we can pull together.”
The Seeno Companies’ long history of real estate development in the East Bay has been turbulent and polarizing, however, marked by the filing of lawsuits against cities, local environmental groups and agencies and internal scandals that have previously occurred. leads to a federal mortgage fraud investigation. .
And in 2018, Seeno filed a lawsuit to prevent the development of the naval weapons station by a company that beat her and other groups to become the main developer of the project.
Last year, Seeno also sued prevent the Navy from transferring part of its land to the East Bay Regional Park District.
Mayor Tim McGallian, Deputy Mayor Dominic Aliano and City Councilor Edi Birsan voted for the Discovery / Seeno team, citing their good union relations, local roots and relatively small size. The second-largest company was multinational real estate giant Brookfield Properties.
Board members Carlyn Obringer and Laura Hoffmeister disagreed, saying they preferred Brookfield because of the breadth of her vision and experience. The third applicant was City Ventures.
McGallian praised Discovery / Seeno for being “really local” and for committing to housing US veterans in the project.
“It comes out of their wallet when all is said and done,” McGallian said. “They build in the good times, they build in the bad times.”
By renewing the search for a master developer, the council also focused on who could sign a project work agreement with the Contra Costa Trade and Labor Council that ensures that only local unionized workers would be hired for them. construction work.
Negotiations between the labor council and the city’s former owner, Lennar Corp., collapsed after the two sides failed to agree on workers’ wages. Annoyed that the council insisted on getting a working agreement on the project, Lennar withdrew from the project last year.
The three development teams competing for exclusive bargaining rights had signed such agreements, but the unions clearly supported the Discovery / Seeno team, which has worked closely with the local workforce for decades.
“The Discovery team got involved by reaching out early and committing to unions first,” said Kyle Swarens of Carpenters Local 152.
Local environmentalists have opposed the team, citing its contentious past and constant run-ins with environmental groups, including Save Mount Diablo.
“They’ve only ever built a sprawling. non-climate friendly companies, ”said Zoe Siegel of the Greenbelt Alliance. “Their record and lackluster presentation today made it clear that they would not be creating climate-smart and transit-friendly development. “
In response to questions from City Councilor Birsan, who said he supported Discovery / Seeno instead of another “Wall Street company” like Lennar, Seeno said he was not personally involved in past scandals. of his business, some of which involved members of his direct family.
Birsan sharply criticized Save Mount Diablo for its model written commentary – sent to the city by hundreds of members of the organization ahead of Saturday’s meeting – which referred to Discovery / Seeno as “the famous East Bay Seeno family”.
“I found it exceedingly offensive and particularly disappointing from leaders who would put these words in an email… this is America, we are not suing families,” Birsan said.
Vice Mayor Aliano also gladly gave his vote to Discovery / Seeno, saying the Seeno company is an accessible, private-owned business. And he thanked Seeno for seeking a working agreement on the project first.
But City Councilor Hoffmeister said whoever made a labor deal first is irrelevant. She put Brookfield a “cut above” Discovery / Seeno, citing the company’s success with the Bishop Ranch 4,500 unit development in San Ramon.
City Councilor Obringer also praised Brookfield for its diverse experience with large-scale projects.
“A lot of Concordians work at Bishop Ranch,” Obringer said. “It’s an incredible opportunity to have a team to make this world-class vision a reality. “
Seeno has not publicly acknowledged the detractors of the team. In a speech to the council, he promised to operate on three values: “truth, honesty and commitment”.
“We’re going to be and stay a part of the community,” Seeno said. “I will commit to getting involved every step of the way.