California’s Buchanan Field saved from developers

Plans to demolish Buchanan Field Airport (CCR) in the San Francisco Bay area and replace it with an urban village have been withdrawn because developers were not able to find suitable land for a replacement airport.

Redeveloping the property, which included creating a community with 6,000 new homes, was first suggested by Shapell Industries in 2003. Supporters argued that because of population growth, the airport had become a hazard.

The 600-acre airport is located in Concord, which is east of San Francisco. Built during World War II as a military field, it was deeded to the city after the war with the understanding that it would remain an airport in perpetuity. When it was built, the airport was far away from population centers. Today homes, businesses and freeways hem it in.

Opponents of the plan, which included the FAA, stressed that the airport is necessary as a reliever to San Francisco area airports. The FAA informed the developer that the only way the airport could be closed and the land redeveloped was if a replacement airport was built and put into operation before the Buchanan property was touched.

Shapell Industries looked at several possible locations for a replacement airport, but the targeted properties were either not for sale or deemed unsuitable by pilots, state leaders and aviation officials. There were also rumblings of discontent from citizens and elected officials in Contra Costa County who did not want taxpayers to foot the bill for construction of a new facility.

The announcement that developers had withdrawn the proposal came as a great relief to the 350 members of the Friends of Concord Airport Association.

“We cheered when the developers released the press release with the information,” says Diane Cole, executive director. “However, it will not become truly final until Sept. 20 when they announce it at the County Board of Supervisors meeting. It is on the agenda and that is when we will drive a stake through its heart.”

Cole also is a member of a committee that is developing the airport’s 20-year master plan. The issue of closure made it difficult to plan for the future, she noted.

“The meetings would tend to deteriorate into what’s wrong with closing the airport,” she recalled. “The possible closure really slowed down development at the airport. Some of the tenants were reluctant to expand their businesses and some aircraft owners moved their airplanes to other airports.”

Threats to airports come with the territory noted Keith Freitas, director of airports for Contra Costa County. “I’ve never been at an airport that was not faced with the possibility of closure or relocating,” he said. “It’s nice to know that this is over now.”

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