Concord Wants New Office Building for B of A Lowered : City Draws the Line Over 16 Inches

Times Staff Writer

The movers have been called. The computers--$5 million worth, by some accounts--have been installed.

But, unless city officials here have a change of heart, Bank of America may be forced to postpone plans to begin moving 1,300 employees from San Francisco to a brand-new 10-story building next month.

It seems that the $27.3-million tower exceeds the 172.75-foot height limitation imposed by the city when it granted a use permit for the structure. Vents and other protrusions exceed the height ceiling by as much as seven feet, but they're not the problem; the building's developer has agreed to remove those outcroppings.

The real issue, says Concord Mayor Steve Weir, is the building's crown. According to engineers' reports, the crown must be lowered by 16 inches in order to bring the structure into compliance.

Bowing to local anti-growth sentiment, Concord's City Council voted unanimously Monday to deny an occupancy certificate unless the building is lowered.

"We're not being bullheaded," the mayor insists. "We're just being firm in our resolve."

But developer A. D. Seeno Construction says shaving 16 inches off the top of the building is neither economically nor physically feasible.

"Those are great big structural steel beams," notes Joseph Judson, senior vice president and general counsel. He adds that city inspectors visited the project site "every single day" and that "nobody ever raised a question" during construction.

Seeno has threatened to sue the city. Legal observers say he would stand a good chance of winning by relying on what's known as "the substantial compliance doctrine."

But city officials seem intent in sticking to their guns. "We don't want to set a precedent by waiving restrictions after the fact," says Diane Longshore, a City Council member and chairman of the city Redevelopment Agency.

She notes that the building sits in the path of a busy runway at Buchanan Airport and might upset plans by PSA to begin direct airline service between this rapidly growing suburb and Los Angeles next year.

Bank of America, which has leased 70% of the building, is trying to duck the controversy. "We're tenants in this building," a spokeswoman said. "We didn't build it, and we don't own it. Seeno is the landlord, and this is his issue."

She says the bank still expects to begin moving in Dec. 6.

The Seeno building is about a mile from a big new Bank of America office complex in Concord that includes four office buildings and a parking garage. The bank began occupying that complex--without incident--this week.

Noted the bank spokeswoman: "We built that one."

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