Contra Costa Times: Concord awaits Navy's decision on weapons station


CONCORD — The swath of hills and grassland expands in all directions from the ridge where Michael Wright stands.

He raises his arm toward the horizon, pointing out what could be built at the shuttered Concord Naval Weapons Station — townhouses here, a park there, a university campus in that nearly hidden valley.

It's easy to envision while looking at the city's color-coded maps of the plan.

But here, for now, the land has different masters. Squirrels scurry across the sod roofs of hundreds of padlocked munitions bunkers. Birds of prey rest on abandoned power lines. Cattle wander amid the 55 miles of rusting railroad tracks.

The unseen master, though, is the Navy. Nothing new will be built until the Navy sells the land or gives it away — or until the arsenic-laden soil is cleaned, or until the bunkers are razed.

Concord can set the rules for what will eventually be developed. But it cannot control who gets the property, when it is transferred, how much it sells for or who foots the bill for the environmental cleanup.

It's all up for negotiation, and there can be many competing interests at the table — the city, the Navy, private developers, myriad other government agencies and seemingly every politician from Concord's City Council to lawmakers on Capitol Hill.