The Dublin City Council denied the At Dublin project last week, rejecting the proposed retail and housing development spanning 76.9 acres in eastern Dublin that has been a source of contentious discussion in the community for several years.
The motion to deny the project in a 4-1 vote was made with prejudice, meaning that the existing version of the proposal is essentially dead. If the applicant, Shea Properties of San Diego, wants to continue with developing the property, the company would have to reapply and start over with the process, according to city public information officer Shari Jackman.
"I've given my feedback to the developers over and over again for a long time," Councilwoman Melissa Hernandez said during the council's hearing last Monday. "When I hear consensus, I’m hearing from the residents that they want a project to be proud of, and this is not a project that we’re proud of.”
Councilwoman Jean Josey cast the lone dissent vote at the end of the public hearing that spanned two online council meetings this month.
"This project is not my ideal for this spot. But it is doable, and it’s not high-density housing … There will be a mix of small shops and fine dining and entertainment,” Josey said. “I don’t think the ideal project for this space exists."
The At Dublin proposal called for the development of up to 566 residential units including apartments, detached small-lot single-family homes, and 55 and older age restricted single-family homes; up to 240,000 square feet of retail commercial development; and related infrastructure and landscape improvements, according to a staff report prepared by city principal planner Amy Million.
The report also stated that the development would generate an estimated $2 million in annual tax revenue to the city’s general fund.
The land in question is located in between Tassajara Road and Brannigan Street and bordered by Gleason Drive to the north and Interstate 580 to the south.
The applicant’s request included amendments to the city's General Plan and East Dublin Specific Plan. Those requests were ultimately struck down by the council majority, primarily due to their concerns that the proposed development did not reflect the community’s vision for the land.
Discussion spanned two different board meetings after the regularly scheduled June 16 meeting was adjourned due to technical difficulties after hours of discussion. The item continued for nearly six more hours on the evening of June 22.
The public hearing was accompanied with nearly 1,000 emails sent to the council members, according to Josey. Councilman Shawn Kumagai, too, noted that public comment was overwhelmingly opposed to the At Dublin proposal being approved.
The city’s Planning Commission had also recommended that the council deny the project in a 3-2 vote.
During the council's deliberations, Josey told her colleagues at one point, "I do not love this project. I have real concerns that retail will not materialize in the way we want it to." However, she also expressed concerns about what would happen to the land if the council flatly denied the At Dublin project.
"If we don’t approve this project, I’m worried about what we will get. I’m not susceptible to the threats of RHNA … but I do think those things are real and legitimate and every time we kick the can down the road the retail gets smaller, and I don’t want to see that happen again," Josey said, referring to the upcoming regional housing needs allocation (RHNA) cycle.
Josey did offer some specific conditions she wanted to see, including a guarantee that no more than 15% of the residential units were three or more bedrooms. She also argued the mitigation agreement that the applicant had reached with the Dublin Unified School District was better than past mitigation agreements, and that denying this proposal would set a poor precedent for developers in the future to agree to better mitigation agreements.
Mayor David Haubert, meanwhile, initially advocated that the council deny the At Dublin proposal without prejudice, which would've allowed the applicant to work with city staff and community members in order to revise the existing proposal.
“We could continue the item indefinitely, and if the applicant can get community consensus, they can bring it back. If they decide to give up and not come back, fine,” he said.
Vice Mayor Arun Goel was opposed to Haubert’s proposed course of action. “The biggest issue for me is the EIR,” he said, referring to the flaws he saw in the environmental impact report prepared for the project.
“(If we deny) without prejudice, I don’t know that my concerns will be addressed in the EIR. Specifically, there are issues about the burrowing owl and traffic circulation as a result of the forthcoming school. It is a major corridor that has impacts on the overall throughput at a critical section of Dublin Boulevard."
Earlier in the meeting, Hernandez noted that the land in question was one of the last large undeveloped tracts left in East Dublin.
“This piece of land deserves to have unique elements that we can be proud of,” Hernandez said, adding that in her eyes, the current proposal fell short of the expectations set when it was initiated in 2017.
Kumagai was perhaps the most conflicted of the council members, acknowledging his strong belief in building more affordable and age-restricted housing while also noting the lack of community consensus that he wanted for the project. He expressed that the council did not have enough community input during the initial study sessions. “Somehow we need to go back to the drawing board,” he stated.
“I’m not opposed to dense housing if it’s smart and along the main corridor and incorporates mixed-use and walkable space .. age-qualified was one of my asks and you made it work, and I appreciate that,” he said, referring to the applicant. “But in the end, it’s not a great project, and the people aren’t willing to overlook the negativity they see about the impact on schools and traffic.”