MARTINEZ — The Contra Costa Board of Supervisors is poised Tuesday to take the first step of exploring a controversial venture by calling for developers to submit plans to redevelop Buchanan Field in Concord. Sunday, May 23, 2004
Supervisors to tackle dilemma of new airport
Buchanan Field Redevelopment Project Evokes Powerful Feelings
By Tamara Grippi
The Oakland (CA) Tribune
MARTINEZ — The Contra Costa Board of Supervisors is poised Tuesday to take the first step of exploring a controversial venture by calling for developers to submit plans to redevelop Buchanan Field in Concord.
The board has unanimously agreed that the redevelopment idea is worth exploring, and is set to issue a request-for-proposals, which must include plans for a replacement airport in addition to plans for a new mixed-use community on Buchanan’s 500-acre site.
Supervisor Mark DeSaulnier of Concord has promoted the idea of redeveloping the airport, and said he has heard from as many as five developers interested in the unique proposal.
“I fully expect multiple responses,” he said.
Meanwhile, a prominent Congressman has joined the voices of opposition to the plan, urging the Federal Aviation Administration to “be as clear as possible that it will not sanction the closure of CCR (Buchanan).”
Alaska Rep. Don Young, a Republican who is the chairman of the House’s Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, expressed his views to FAA Administrator Marion Blakey in a May 11 letter.
“In the event that the county continues to take action that is not in the best interest of the airport or our national aviation system, the FAA must consider transferring the sponsorship and control of CCR (Buchanan) to another local agency that would be more willing and able to meet its obligations to the federal government,” Young’s letter stated.
Several members of the Board of Supervisors have made it clear that the county is not obligated to accept any proposals from developers. The request-for-proposals reiterates that position while setting up a tall order for any company willing to take on the challenge.
In addition to finding an alternative site to develop a replacement airport, the developer would be responsible for cleanup at the airport site, including removing underground fuel tanks.
The new urban village would be required to provide affordable housing equal to or better than the program established in Dougherty Valley. At least 25 percent of the units would be affordable, meeting the needs of very low, low and moderate income levels.
The potential value of 495 developable acres in Concord could make it well worth it to a developer to pursue such a Herculean project
DeSaulnier points to the windfall the county would receive, as well. “The county could receive hundreds of millions in property taxes,” he said, noting that if the county chose to retain some of the property, it could collect the rent from retail or other leased property.
However, nothing can go forward without the consent of the FAA, which conveyed the 500 acres to the county after World War II, on condition that the land remains an airport.
The Concord airport could only be closed if a replacement airport considered equal to or better than Buchanan is built.
In addition to Young, several prominent leaders have opposed the closure of Buchanan, including Reps. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, and George Miller, D-Martinez, who wrote a letter earlier this year opposing the closure of Buchanan.
Others opponents include the Concord City Council and the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce and many local pilots.
However, DeSaulnier also has gained his share of allies, including labor groups, the Home Builders Association and environmentalists, who point to the benefits of redeveloping Buchanan Field.