By Tim Hunt / Pleasanton Weekly
For 25 years, the city of Dublin has followed a development path that was approved by the City Council and upheld by voters in 1993.
That plan included the East Dublin Specific Plan, which is the guideline the city is still following today. That path has been aggressively called into question by candidates in the Nov. 8 City Council election.
Mayor David Haubert is facing a challenge from second-year Councilman Arun Goel, while Bobby Khullar and Jing Firmeza are running on similar platforms. This election is particularly important because two council seats are open. If voters select Goel as mayor, the council could have the opportunity to appoint his replacement.
It's a watershed election. Joining Khullar and Firmeza in the council race are longtime school volunteer leader Jean Josey, Navy language specialist and consultant Shawn Kumagai along with perennial candidate Shawn Costello. Costello ran against Mayor Pete Snyder during his 12-year tenure on the council from 1982-94.
The newly elected council may face a decision about IKEA's application for a 327,000-square-foot warehouse store plus a lifestyle retail center at the corner of Hacienda Drive and Interstate 580. After a Planning Commission rejected the plan, it is scheduled to go to the council on Oct. 16. As I previously reported, Haubert suggested earlier this year putting the IKEA question on the ballot.
A particular challenge for any member wanting to halt residential development is landowners have entitlements that have been locked in by development agreements that they have paid to extend. Earlier this year, the council rejected a transit-oriented development near the east Dublin-Pleasanton BART station and, after being sued, settled quickly so the project could move forward. Developers had paid more than $1 million to extend the development agreement.
The council eventually will consider the DiManto parcel east of Tassajara Road where Shea Homes has proposed a mixed-use project with experiential retail coupled with housing that is vested. There's also an additional retail center that is proposed east of Fallon Road that is critical to eventually extending Dublin Boulevard to connect with North Canyons Parkway from Livermore to create another east-wide thoroughfare.
The current council has delivered, particularly the mayor as its longest serving member. Two major parks (The Wave water park and second phase of Fallon Sports Park) were opened, as well as Persimmon Place with Whole Foods, plenty of restaurants and a Nordstrom Rack. The city also opened Valor Housing with 60 units for veterans.
The key accomplishment is partnering with the school district to help alleviate school overcrowding, particularly in east Dublin. At Haubert's initiative, the council approved providing two sites to the school district, worth about $70 million. Cottonwood School opened this fall on one of those sites. Those sites allowed the district to maintain the $100 million trustees have allocated toward a second comprehensive high school that is slated for the Promenade site in East Dublin.
When it comes to residential development, Haubert points out he's called for reviews of the East Dublin Specific Plan in 2013, 2015 and again this year. The earlier calls resulted in staff studies that clarified entitlements and which parcels the council would have discretion over when it comes to additional residential.
Goel and Khullar have endorsed each other. Until he announced his candidacy, Khullar was the spokesman for Dubliners United, the political action group that tried unsuccessfully to recall Councilman Abe Gupta and school trustee Dan Cunningham. The volunteers gathered plenty of signatures, but a surprising number were invalid.
Both Khullar and Goel have career experience in both government and private sector project management and would bring these skills to the council.
Goel has laid out a 90-day plan with four advisory committees reporting directly to him. That's an interesting approach, but the mayor does not set policy alone -- it takes three votes to direct the city manager to move forward on an initiative. He's floating this approach after already serving on the council.
Josey brings an impressive resume of volunteer leadership in the school district. She recognizes that there's no silver bullet solution to Dublin's traffic challenges, but there are a variety of steps that can be taken to alleviate congestion around schools and retail centers on weekends. She's realistic about what can be done to slow residential development, and like Haubert and others, wants an update to the specific plan.
Kumagai is making his first run at elected office after being involved in a variety of advocacy efforts. He said he realized the impact that local government can have on its citizens. He favors a hard look at planning with the understanding that nothing can be done about vested rights and has no stomach for wasting taxpayer money by inviting lawsuits that will be successful.
Haubert sums up the race arguing that a major shift in policy would take Dublin from the path to prosperity it has followed for 25 years and make it more vulnerable to economic downturns. Of course, Goel, Firmeza and Khullar see it from the opposite perspective.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Arun Goel was an active member of Dubliners United. We apologize for the error.
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.