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Concord Residents Are Being Choked to Death

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Oh, Concord.

It feels like decades have passed since Conde Naste named the “big little city” one of the 10 best places in the world to retire. But it wasn’t decades ago – it’s been just over three years since that grandiose claim was made. There was a time when Concord was considered a good place for the poor to achieve some upward mobility. This is not that time.

In an article published Tuesday, all dreams for Concord as a beacon of financial security and land of opportunity were smashed. The suburban town just about 30 miles east of San Francisco has officially fallen prey to the same pay inequity and housing crisis woes that have smothered its more urban neighbors on the other side of the Caldecott Tunnel.

City of Concord sign. Photo by Nik Wojcik

With expansive land ready to be developed and easy BART access to urban work centers, the city was once hailed as a slice of hope in the struggling Bay Area. Development proposals buzzed around as the Concord Naval Weapons Station transferred approximately 5,600 acres to city control, greatly expanding the usable property within the city’s 30 square miles. There was an opportunity at one point to do this right, to develop responsibly and protect long-time residents and although former Mayor Edi Birsan made some respectable attempts to do so, the city as a whole missed the mark.

Pulling data from the Bay Area Equity Atlas, Tuesday’s reporting paints a stark picture of Concord today as a personification of the Bay Area housing crisis and its residents as “particularly vulnerable.” In a population of over 130,000, nearly 40 percent are renters and more than half of those people are spending at least 30 percent of their dwindling incomes just to keep roofs over their heads.

The number of Concord residents stretching income to that extent on rent alone is outpacing the average for the entire nine-county greater Bay Area and is about 13 percent higher than in San Francisco. The median rent in Concord jumped by nearly 50 percent between 2011 and 2017 as within that time, families lost substantial median household income.

In simple terms, Concord residents are being choked out.

Kiley Russel writes:

“The median income in the city dropped by more than $1,300 from 2010 to 2015 and the majority of renters in Concord have household incomes of less than $50,000, but no neighborhood in the city is affordable to people at this income level…”

In the article, current Mayor Carlyn Obringer, said the city is “trying to find a fair and balanced solution” and listed off a few measures taken to ensure affordable housing options. But in an area so quickly deteriorating in terms of upward mobility, the steps being taken are too little and too late to make any substantial dent.

As Russel pointed out, as recently as June 19, the City Council opted against pursuing a just cause eviction option and rent control measures. Those options could serve as a lifeline for residents barely surviving today.

Concord is hardly the only place suffering in the Bay Area, but it is a place where still opportunity still exists to try and get it right as the next phase of massive development rolls out, but doing so would require prioritizing people over profit.

We’ll soon see if Concord really is “where families come first” or if those families will be forced to pack up and leave.



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Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Journalist, editor, student, single mom to a pack of wolves, foodie, music lover, resident smart ass, and champion of vulgarity and human kindness.