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Steve Weir's Retirement: Politics In Concord

The Contra Costa County clerk remembers his years dealing with the Concord Pavilion, the Bank of America offices and other issues.

Steve Weir has worked in politics on everything from elections to water issues to transporation projects.

His political successes stretch from Martinez to Antioch to Pleasanton.

However, the core of Weir's political life has centered around Concord.

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Share your thoughts and recollections about Steve Weir's career.

Patch's stories about Weir:
Career and Retirement
Growing up in Pleasant Hill
Politics in Concord
Friday: Life as a Gay Politician
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He has lived in the city for almost 40 years and was a major player on the Concord City Council from 1980 to 1989. His contributions can be seen in downtown buildings, on the musical stage and along the BART rails.

It's also the place Weir plans to live after he retires as Contra Costa county clerk on March 29.

Weir's life in Concord began after he graduated from UC Berkeley and was looking for a place to live that he could afford. The rents in his hometown of Pleasant Hill were too high, so he moved just across the border to Concord.

"Concord had affordable housing and I've always liked that about the town," he said.

As he waited for his political career to take off, Weir did construction-related jobs such as painting houses.

Sunne Wright McPeak, who was a Contra Costa County supervisor from 1979 to 1994, met Weir in the early 1970s through the Pleasant Hill Democratic Club.

She remembers he was painting her home in 1974 when she was the mother of a young child. She said she was talking to Weir about the color of the house, but he was talking politics, in particular the ongoing development of the Blackhawk area of Danville.

"He was very enthusiastic about politics," she said.

In 1973, Weir's political life began to take shape. He was appointed to the Concord-based Contra Costa Water District board of directors. He stayed on that board until 1980.

In 1975, Concord assemblyman Dan Boatwright hired him to be a field representative. He held that job until 1985.

In 1980, Weir decided to take a step up in electoral politics. He ran for a seat on the Concord City Council. To the surprise of many observers, the 31-year-old Weir won.

He had used the lessons learned at Boatwright's side, blanketing the community with signs and walking every neighborhood in town.

"I learned at the feet at the master," he said.

Weir stayed on the council until 1989, serving as mayor in 1984-85. He said he is proud of the processes he used to increase community discussions while he sat in the mayor's chair.

The 1980s was a decade when Concord was growing and also facing fiscal challenges.

McPeak said it was an important time for Concord. Proposition 13 had passed in 1978 and the city needed to think differently about revenues, balancing its budget and revitaliziing the downtown area.

A new generation took over. In this era, Weir, Diane Longshore and Colleen Coll, among others, were elected to the council.

"That was a group of pretty amazing folks," McPeak said. "Steve was a driving force on the council."

In 1985, Bank of America chose Concord as the location for its new 1 million-square-foot technology center, a controversial plan that tore apart some political alliances.

Weir said the council at the time was trying to consolidate single blocks for larger tenants to help rejuvanate the downtown area. However, BofA wanted multiple blocks.

That required Concord to condemn some properties through the redevelopment process in order to get the bank the land it needed for its four-building campus.

Weir said he and Coll tried to help displaced businesses get fair deals and find new locations, but they weren't always successful.

Weir said a land rush occurred in downtown Concord after the Bank of America agreement. Some developers did well. Others didn't. Some larger out-of-town developers, Weir said, were able to secure political support for their projects.

"In my opinion, the all-mighty buck quickly broke apart old political relationships and friendships," he said. "That was the most disappointing time for me."

At one point, 3,700 people worked at the BofA center, providing downtown merchants with a stream of customers. That number has dwindled to closer to 2,000 now. In 2011, BofA sold the center to Swift Realty, although the bank does lease back two of the buildings.

Weir and others also changed the way the Concord Pavilion operated. In the early 1980s, the facility housed mostly jazz concerts and local symphonies. It did not draw large crowds, and the city had to subsidize it.

At the time, promoter Bill Graham was prohibiting his high-profile acts from performing in Concord because he didn't have a deal with the city.

Weir and others brokered a contract with Graham to bring mainstream rock 'n' roll to the outdoor arena

The move didn't sit well with some traditionalists who weren't thrilled with what they saw as the classy Pavilion being soiled by these loud, drug-snorting musical groups.

However, the Pavilion quickly turned a profit and helped the city's finances. And the Pavilion has never looked back.

"That was a pivotal change for the city," said McPeak, who is now president of non-profit organization California Forward. "The Pavilion became a symbol for Concord."

In 1989, Weir left the council to become Contra Costa County clerk, but he continued to live in Concord.

Weir has lived in three different neighborhoods in the town, finding them all pleasant places to live.

He still admires the city for providing affordable housing for low-income people and young families.

He thinks the Sleep Train Pavilion, as it's now called, is an asset to the community.

He is a fan of the Contra Costa Canal Trail and loves all the places nearby he can ride his bicycle.

He has a number of favorite restaurants, among them Luna Restaurante on Willow Pass Road.

Concord residents can expect to see a lot of Weir around town after he retires. He'll most likely be on his bike or working on one of his vintage automobiles.

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