Concord Declines to Approve Market-Rate Housing Near BART

The Concord City Council on Tuesday opted not to move forward with a proposal for a mixed-use development on a piece of city-owned land that would have added up to 310 new market-rate housing units within walking distance of BART, citing controversy over affordable housing and who would do the labor.

AvalonBay Communities Inc. sought to acquire the 3-acre parcel at 1765 Galindo St. for $4 million, but local trade unions criticized the proposal in January, saying that the developer would not commit to hiring union workers or paying a prevailing wage.

After a vocal public comment in which representatives from numerous trade unions asked the Council not to move forward without a commitment to organized labor, AvalonBay senior vice president Nathan Hong came back with a modified proposal.

While the developer stopped short of a commitment to pay prevailing wages or hire only union labor, they did draft a plan for increased outreach to local contractors, both union and non-union, so they might at least have an opportunity to bid in a competitive process.

Hong estimated that union labor would represent about 15 percent of the work done to complete the project, and representatives of Carpenters Local 152 urged the City Council to move forward with it.

However, others countered that the non-union laborers on site might come from exploited populations such as immigrants who are likely not being paid enough to live in the area.

Councilmembers took turns voicing concerns about the project over its lack of affordable or low-income units and limited commitment to hire union workers. Vice Mayor Tim McGallian wondered about the potential for poor public perception if the city was unable to get a housing deal done, but hoped they would look further into the issue.

"We need housing, we need it badly," McGallian said. "The question is at what cost."

"I really want a catalytic project on that site," Mayor Carlyn Obringer said.

"But at the same time, the fact that it is owned by the city, it's a very unique opportunity," she added.

In the end, Councilman Edi Birsan made a motion declining to introduce an ordinance that would have allowed AvalonBay to move forward with the project and the Council supported it unanimously.

City officials said they would look into putting out a new request for proposals for projects at that location.

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