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Tim Talk: New scrutiny for East Dublin residential proposals

 

When the new Dublin City Council gets down to business this month, you can expect a fresh look at all potential residential projects.

Mayor David Haubert, last June, called for a review of the residential zoning and vested entitlements in the East Dublin Specific Plan that was approved by voters in 1993. The staff report, originally targeted for September, has yet to be delivered. With new council members Jean Josey and Shawn Kumagai now seated on the council, it's likely some pointed questions will be asked of the city staff about when that report will be provided.

In the meantime, developers or homebuilders will be well-advised to take their time. The city learned an expensive lesson last year when the council provoked a lawsuit by refusing to approve an entitled project next to the eastern Dublin-Pleasanton BART station. It was settled quickly in the developer's favor. The council faced a similar decision with the 27-acre IKEA project at Hacienda Drive and Interstate 580.

IKEA officials made it clear to the city that it would proceed with the project approved in 2008 that included a larger store, more surface parking and lacked the walkable lifestyle retail in the current plan. The city's legal team also indicated that it was not in a strong position should the council deny that project.

The approved plan calls for improved traffic signals, but cannot prevent traffic on I-580 getting even worse, particularly on big shopping weekends. Imagine the two interchanges west of the Livermore factory outlets on a December weekend, let alone Black Friday.

The leverage for the developers was nonexistent with the AT Dublin project east of Tassajara Road. It was scheduled to be heard Thanksgiving week, but the developers pulled the item from the agenda.

Mayor Haubert, in an email and phone conversation, explained why he opposed the AT Dublin project and continues to call for a pause to all residential development that the City Council has discretion to decide. He noted that the AT Dublin project is 2-1/2 times bigger (in both acres and value) than the IKEA store and retail complex.

The AT Dublin proponents have underlying zoning for 900,000 square feet of commercial and 261 residential units. The project denied by the Planning Commission and pulled from the council agenda called for a 150-unit hotel, 685 residential units and retail and commercial space that required an amendment to the city's East Dublin Specific Plan.

Unlike with IKEA, the council has discretion with AT Dublin, and Haubert wants to use it. He pointed out that on June 19 he called for a review of the 25-year-old plan for East Dublin. He called for a halt to any discretionary residential approvals until the review is completed.

The specifics of the AT Dublin plan, including adding more than 400 additional units, troubled Haubert -- as did the lack of public input. Although the council approved a study on changing the project more than two years ago, there has not been much public engagement around the plan.

The mayor believes there's an opportunity because of the size of the AT Dublin parcels to configure the project so a Main Street could be added to the city. Because Dublin developed under Alameda County until it incorporated in 1981, the city, like San Ramon, never had a downtown with a "Main Street" as Danville, Livermore and Pleasanton have had since the communities were founded (the railroad helped in Livermore and Pleasanton).

With the big-box retail dominating the original core of Dublin, as well as the freeway shopping centers on the east side, Haubert believes this is the one opportunity to create that shopping/dining experience in the city. And, it is notable that landlords in the older centers have consistently been able to replace retailers when they moved or went out of business.

Last year, the city and the school district took major steps toward alleviating school overcrowding in the coming years. Look for a thorough review of residential projects in 2019.

Editor's note: Journalist Tim Hunt has written columns on the Tri-Valley community for more than 40 years. He grew up in the valley and lives in Pleasanton. His "Tim Talk" blog appears twice a week at PleasantonWeekly.com.

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