Termed out, Dublin mayor Janet Lockhart reflects on city, Tri-Valley accomplishments
Once an undistinguished step-sister to the fast growing neighboring cities of Pleasanton and Livermore in the last half of the 20th century, Dublin today is a retail, entertainment and smart housing that is being recognized nationally for municipal leadership in the 21st century.
Much of the credit goes to Mayor Janet Lockhart who leaves office Dec. 2 and to her predecessor, former Mayor and State Assemblyman Guy Houston (R-15th), who helped steer Dublin toward the growth and economic success it's seeing today.
In fact it was Houston who persuaded Lockhart to run for a City Council seat in 1996. She had worked hard as a community volunteer to back Measure B, which won voter approval for annexing an unincorporated tract of land called East Dublin. The area, where much of the city's recent growth has occurred, includes land from Dougherty Road east to Doolan Canyon, from I-580 to the Contra Costa County line.
"I thought that land would be important to the future of Dublin and worked hard to assemble a citizens' campaign to support the council's effort to annex it," Lockhart recalled. "That got me thinking politically and looking at other ways to support my community. The council was the next step."
Politics and ballot-box campaigns were from the thinking of Lockhart when she and her husband Steve moved to Dublin in 1972 to raise their four children, Wendy, Brian, Karen and Jennifer. There were pitfalls ahead. Jennifer, "who would be 36 now," Lockhart said, was diagnosed with a brain tumor when she was 12 years old and was just starting at Wells Middle School. Doctors at UC San Francisco Medical Center gave her only a short time to live, but the Lockharts prevailed, vowing not to let her die in a hospital room. They brought her home and with round-the-clock and specialized care, Jennifer came out of her coma and lived for another 1-1/2 years, "laughing and sharing time with her friends and giving us another year and a half to be with her before she passed away."
Wendy, the oldest, who had health problems, died in January 2007 at the age of 43.
The other two are married. Brian married Cindy Brinkman, his high school sweetheart from Dublin and the two now live in Colorado and have two children. Karen, now Karen Stirling, lives with her husband Bruce, both of them employed by the sheriff's department, and has three children.
It was the children that first introduced Janet Lockhart to civic and community affairs, taking a job as a volunteer coordinator for an elementary school, earning $100 a month. Later she joined the Dublin Chamber of Commerce and was elected to its board of directors. One of her assignments was to serve as liaison to the City Council, which meant she attended every meeting for about four years. By the time she was elected to the council in 1996, she had a good understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing the now-growing city.
"I think Dublin is a very exciting place to live and work these days," Lockhart said. "It's a wonderful feeling. The community feeling has never changed. We've been a small town forever and I don't care how big our population gets, we'll always be the smallest city in the valley."
Sandwiched between already-fixed boundaries, she expects the residential building boom to continue for a while, but then level off, leaving Dublin with a population of about 60,000, probably 20,000 less than Pleasanton at buildout and as much as 40,000 under Livermore's.
Among her accomplishments are Hacienda Crossings, a vibrant retail center at Hacienda Drive and the freeway, and hundreds of apartments and condos within walking distance of the Dublin-Pleasanton BART station, which she calls smart growth.
She has also championed the funding and development of the new West Dublin-Pleasanton BART station now under construction over the 580 freeway, near the Foothill Road-San Ramon Boulevard overpass. Along with the station, Lockhart and the council have approved a major office and retail center that will include a hotel and apartments, probably in a 10-story building near the station, with a new downtown planned from the station north to the area where the Target store is located, with new businesses and offices in between.
She calls it a super-block, that will actually stretch for several blocks, bordered by San Ramon Valley, Amador Valley and Dublin boulevards and Village Parkway.
Two years ago, Lockhart opposed a plan for an auto service center nearby, arguing that Dublin's days of hosting those kinds of businesses in the downtown center were over. Today, a new building with offices on top and retail on the ground floor occupy that site with Starbucks anchoring another new retail center across the street.
Apartments and condos over retail store have become familiar land use plans under Lockhart's leadership, with those kinds of structures near a new Safeway store at Tassajara and Dublin Boulevard, and under construction at the site of the former Pac 'N Save grocery to the west. Phase Three of the Emerald Glen park area will include two swimming pools in a new aquatic center and a community center, with another tall office and residential building planned over one of the pools to provide an indoor-outdoor recreational area that can be used year around.
Another commercial and retail development has been approved across from Hacienda Crossings, which Lockhart said will be the new jewel of the city's smart planning, with a major hotel, office buildings, restaurants and an open air shopping center. Whole Foods and eventually a new Kaiser Permanente Medical Center are planned nearby.
Perhaps Lockhart's greatest influence on Dublin and the Tri-Valley is her cooperative work with neighboring cities. Once involved in onerous lawsuits over land use, traffic and development, Lockhart met with Mayors Tom Pico of Pleasanton and Marshall Kamena of Livermore to form a three-city compact.
"The three of us came on board about the same time," she said. "We met and agreed the legal battles had to stop. We built a friendship that continues today with (Pleasanton Mayor) Jennifer Hosterman that has enabled our cities to work together to solve problems. I hope it continues after I leave and when their terms of office are also up."
Through Lockhart's efforts, the mayors of San Ramon and Danville, although their cities are in Contra Costa County, also participate in joint meetings. The five mayors also join together for occasional trips to Washington to discuss Tri-Valley needs with federal legislators.
Lockhart also believes that the expanding retail centers of the Tri-Valley are needed to serve an ever-growing number of commuters who pass through this area on their way to work and back again to their homes.
"If you look at Dublin, Pleasanton and Livermore, none of us really look alike," she said. "Pleasanton has its historic downtown and Stoneridge Mall; Livermore has a new downtown and soon a major outlet center off the freeway; Dublin has a major movie theater and outdoor shopping centers which are quite different from what you find in the other two cities.
"I think there's something for everybody here where we all live."