The New Concord

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I live in Alameda where remnants of the Cold War remain. Here and elsewhere in the Bay Area, decommissioned military bases dot the landscape. A few, like Novato's Hamilton Field, have been reborn with homes and workplaces. Others, including the Alameda Naval Air Station, Oakland's Army Base, and Vallejo's Mare Island shipyards, lie waiting for the future.

Communities struggling with an old military base could learn from Concord. For the last six years, the city has been debating how to use the former Concord Naval Weapons Station, eight square miles at the eastern edge of town.

Earlier this year, the City Council approved a plan that preserves nearly 70 percent of the old base as a regional park -- an area three times the size of Golden Gate Park -- with a restored creek and breathtaking views of Mount Diablo. There also will be a new neighborhood around the North Concord BART station with affordable homes, built by local construction workers.

Even better, Concord has embraced this vision because it's their vision.

It almost didn't happen. The initial plan mapped subdivisions and strip malls over most of the site. The community had little say in the plan and a battle between pro and anti-development forces seemed inevitable.


So residents and organizations, including my own environmental group, united to find common ground. We formed an alliance of housing, labor, faith-based, neighborhood and environmental groups and crafted a vision based on our shared values.

Volunteers talked to hundreds of their fellow residents. People attended countless meetings, walking tours and workshops. City leaders listened to hours of public testimony. Eventually, a detailed plan based on the coalition's vision emerged.

Now, that hard work has paid off. Concord has a great plan to protect open space and create a world-class community. It will take years to make it come to life, but it is a great start. 

Concord's success is an inspiration for everyone who loves the Bay Area and wants to see abandoned bases turned into parks and neighborhoods full of life. It's also a much-needed example of how when people work together everybody wins.

With a Perspective, I'm Jeremy Madsen.

Jeremy Madsen is executive director of a regional land conservation and smart growth non-profit.