By Tim Hunt
Finishing strong in DublinUploaded: Dec 31, 2019
If you stopped by the city manager’s office at Dublin City Hall Monday you would have found Chris Foss at his desk on his final day in that chair.
Instead of taking accrued vacation time during the holidays, he planned to be there to “finish strong.” It reflects the passion that has driven his career in public service, the last 20 years of which have been spent in Dublin.
Thinking about his tenure, he sums one part quickly, “I bleed green and always will.”
He will be succeeded on Jan. 2 by Linda Smith, his right-hand person as the assistant city manager during his tenure. She will be only the fourth city manager in the city’s history. Rich Ambrose served for 26 years and laid the foundation. He was followed by Joni Patillo, his assistant and Foss, also from the assistant’s role. The city will celebrate its 40th birthday in July 2021.
Considering his tenure, he cited six balanced budgets in a row and a forecast that has the city fully funded for the next 10 years—that wasn’t the case earlier in his tenure. He pointed out that the city traditionally has placed a high value on fiscal restraint and living within its means. He also cited the strong economy and the new businesses that have called Dublin home.
He also made it clear how pleased he was that the City Council had selected Linda to follow him. They’ve known each other nearly 20 years and worked closely together in her stints as economic development director and assistant city manager.
“She’s been the best work partner I’ve ever had and we’ve been a team,” he said.
On their watch, the major new Kaiser facility was built, the Zeiss Innovation Center approved and the new public safety complex is being built and will open next year. The services provided by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department and fire department have been so well received that the sheriff has a 10-year contract while the fire department’s runs for 20 years.
Foss expects the next five to 10 years to be marked by the same robust growth, particularly downtown where the council has approved a bold plan to reshape the big box centers and put in new streets with normal-sized blocks. The plan calls for up to 2,500 units in buildings as tall as six stories. They said the tallest building allowed anywhere would be eight stories.
Smith, having worked the plan since it was adopted in 2011, is perfectly positioned to help the landowners and the city implement that vision. The initial focus will be extending Golden Gate Avenue on the Hobby Lobby/Target parcel that has two owners. One has been at the table throughout the process.
It will be one of two major items on her plate.
The other will be the extension of Dublin Boulevard to connect with North Canyons Parkway in Livermore, giving valley residents another alternative to Interstate 580. It’s an expensive and important project with an estimated price tag at more than $150 million. The council now has set a definite route so the environmental work can be conducted and funding lined up. Smith said they will do federal environmental review and hope to land some federal funding.
One major challenge will come when the state issues the new regional housing numbers that Smith expects to increase significantly as legislators struggle to push local agencies to meet the housing crisis.
When asked what he was must proud about, Foss cited the team of people he works with and how carefully they select team members.
Smith jumped in and pointed out three innovative project that Foss drove to make a difference. She citied Valor Crossing, a 66-unit affordable apartment development by Eden Housing, that gives preference to veterans. It grew out of a discussion they had after watching a 60 Minutes piece about homeless veterans and asking what they could do.
The second project was the all abilities playground built on the Dublin Sports Grounds to accommodate children regardless of disabilities. It’s the only one in the Tri-Valley.
The third one solved a huge problem for the school district. The city worked out an agreement so the district could build a new school on land planned for a park. Cottonwood Creek School is there today. The city also has approved a second park site for school district use—moves that saved the district and ultimately the citizens millions of dollars.
What’s ahead for Chris—he’s not sure, but he knows one thing: after 33 years of spending Tuesday nights at council meetings he can find something else to do on Tuesday evenings.