Rev. Richard Mangini
A contingent of Roman Catholic priests, parish staff members and parishioners were among the more than 200 people who crowded into a Concord City Council meeting April 5. On the agenda was a vote to choose a developer to turn the former Concord Naval Weapons Station into residential, commercial and office use.
One of the two developers who had made proposals had dropped out, leaving just one.
The Catholic group did not come to support one developer over another, but to ensure that their concerns for low-income housing, just wages and fair employment were heard.
Among the 70 people seeking to speak before the council was Rev. Richard Mangini, Concord native and pastor of St. Bonaventure Parish, designated by the group, which included representatives from the Concord Deanery, as its spokesman.
"This is a legacy project which needs to promote the best effects on the area's quality of life," Father Mangini said.
The council, which was sitting as the Local Reuse Authority, had already peppered the remaining developer, Lennar Concord LLC, with questions Father Mangini was prepared to ask.
"We want to ensure that sound principles of justice, diversity and equality drive the project forward in addition to the best principles of economic development," Father Mangini wrote in the remarks he prepared for the council
A living wage for workers on the proposed project was among the concerns.
"We believe from our Catholic Christian perspective that each person has a right to a living wage. Work and the economy exist for the worker and not vice versa," he wrote in his remarks.
Affordable housing is a critical need in the area. While congratulating the plan creators for agreeing to set aside 25 percent of the development's new housing for affordable housing, Father Mangini had prepared to ask the council to define affordable housing.
From the group's perspective, affordable housing should include "those whose salaries which are as low as the living wage," he wrote.
The Catholic group is asking, too, that project contracts stipulate that the majority of jobs will be available to the residents of Central Contra Costa County.
Father Mangini added a historical note, as "someone who was born here in Concord and who remembers the 1944 explosion that happened at the weapon's station."
"I want to point out the upper handed, first confiscation of the land of many Concord landowners by the federal government, now being returned to be sold and redeveloped for millions and millions of dollars," he said. "I believe that we need to be very careful, thoughtful, responsible and just, aware of social requirement to redress the injustices of the past. This is not just land. It was somebody's land. And their relatives and families still live among us."
Ten years in the planning, the city in 2009 adopted a Clustered Villages alternative, which calls for residential, commercial and office use around the North Concord BART station with greenways and parks separating neighborhood villages.
In 2012, the City Council officially adopted the Concord Reuse Project Area Plan, based on the Clustered Villages alternative
The council adjourned without a vote and is scheduled to take up the matter on April 12.
It's not the last time the Catholic community will be heard from. Catholics for Justice, Equality and the Future, a coalition of priests, parish staff members who work in social justice, and parishioners, is planning to get together regularly to talk about issues that call for their attention. The coalition will speak on behalf of "people who have no voice," said Eileen Limberg, adult faith formation director at St. Bonaventure Parish, to "make sure they get justice."
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