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About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

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Frustration grows in Dublin

Uploaded: Jan 2, 2018
Frustration levels are running high for some Dublin residents driven by over-crowded schools that they believe are exacerbated by continuing residential growth.
Dubliners United, a political action committee, initiated recall efforts aimed at City Councilmen Don Biddle and Abe Gupta last month. The group also targeted school trustee Dan Cunningham with a recall because of what they termed inappropriate behavior.
The underlying issue is the failure of the school board during the planning process for East Dublin to insist upon a school site east of Camp Parks. The board, at that time, instead decided to expand and improve Dublin High and have one large high school. Somehow those responsible ignored the sprawling Camp Parks Reserve Forces Training area that divides Dublin and results in only Dublin Boulevard and Interstate 580 being east—west routes. All the Dublin High-bound traffic must take one of those two routes—the majority choosing Dublin Boulevard.
When I asked former Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti about the decision, Tim recalled how frustrated Councilman George Zika was at the time. Tim related that George asked school district officials three times about a high school on the eastside and finally acceded to their plan for one large high school.
That has proven to be a planning disaster of the first degree. Student projections for both East Dublin and the Dougherty Valley in San Ramon have been shown to be way too low. In both districts, I believe those responsible used the best data they had at the time, but the demographics shifted, and many more children are in the new areas. Both districts have added more schools than originally planned in the new areas.
Sadly, for Dublin, there are two challenges—
1. Finding a suitable site that is large enough and at a reasonable price
2. Coming up with the money to build it if a site can be located.
It’s unfortunate that the school board, earlier this year on a 3-2 vote, chose not to pursue a vacant office building that could have been converted into a school. Some parents complained that it was a dangerous site because of its proximity to Santa Rita county jail. Somehow, you do not read any similar concerns from the hundreds of residents living across the street or the nearby elementary school.
The school district now has a task force working to determine alternatives to build a high school in east Dublin.
Meanwhile, Dubliners United has launched signature-gathering campaigns (they need 5,800 valid signatures) to recall Cunningham and the two councilmen. The irony is that both Gupta and Biddle have terms ending in November this year. Biddle is termed out, having served since 2008, although he floated the idea of the council discussing whether to put a measure on the ballot to modify or eliminate term limits. Incidentally, Biddle served 13 years on the school board before taking an 18-year hiatus from public service.
Term limits were approved by voters in 1996. Given the popularity of term limits across the state, it’s doubtful that either a majority of the council or voters will go there.
The council recalls, assuming the signature-gathering is successful, and the election is consolidated with the primary in June, would have an effective time of less than six months. It’s not worth the effort unless the effort is a preamble to build support for a different slate of candidates in November.
That’s not the case with Cunningham who was elected in 2016. Whether his behavior and what recall supporters describe as conflicts with teachers and residents rise to the level of a recall will be determined whether people sign petitions.
Unfortunately, recalling all three would only send a message—it would do nothing to alleviate the overcrowding. That’s up to the school board, working in conjunction with the City Council, to solve.

Comments

 +   8 people like this
Posted by Pleasanton resident, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Jan 2, 2018 at 12:09 pm

Good op ed, Tim, but surely you must agree that the mess in Dublin with school overcrowding, particularly at the high school level, shouldn't have been, nor be a surprise to anyone who has witnessed the sprawling development/building of housing that now (over)populates the hills north and east of Santa Rita Road/Tassajara Road.

What were they (Dublin elected and appointed officials, e.g., planning commissioners) thinking? Frankly, either they weren't, or simply didn't care. To me, this is what happens when you allow huge housing developments to be built without first ensuring elementary, middle, and high schools are built (and, most importantly, built concurrent with the new housing), so there will be enough room for the inevitable influx of new students once/immediately after all those people start moving in.

That didn't happen in Dublin, so they're all (officials and residents, both established and new ones) now reaping what they've sown.

The developers? They couldn't care less--they built and sold all that housing, and are enjoying the profits (and have long since moved on to the next building project). They don't builds schools unless and until they're required to do so, as part of the development agreement.

This wasn't rocket science--anyone with a modicum of intelligence could have seen this scenario coming.

Dublin residents would be better off spending their time and energy finding a way to get new schools built, rather than exerting retribution on those who allowed this mess to happen.


 +   7 people like this
Posted by RV, a resident of Dublin,
on Jan 2, 2018 at 3:04 pm

Tim, you are right in that the main issue for Dublin is the high school.
However, no less is the fact the same unbridled growth has NOT ended now - the same forces that allowed it to happen thus far, are letting more of it to happen.
The catalyst for the recall has been the study that was recently allowed for the 'At Dublin' area bordering Tassajara Road on the east from the freeway to the Gleason Drive.
The developer proposal is to add higher density housing, reduce the retail to 1/3rd of the original plan, with no talk of impact on school situation. And the city leadership whether elected or managers is discussing the number of units and their size, instead of outrightly rejecting it.
So the disaster of the first degree that you mention will only get more exacerbated.
Coming back to the school situation, you are very right that it was 'unfortunate' that the school board had to give up on converting the business park to a new high school. While there could be valid reasons, like Play Ground space, etc., the focus on proximity to the county jail was more emotional. The board members were under tremendous pressure, when speaker after speaker weighed in the location with presumptuous security concerns. And so here we are, just set back by a couple of years (It would be good to know what will be plan for the bridge period - how more students will get added to Dublin High - the overcrowing problem).
Many don't think that the recall initiative is 'unfortunate'. The fact that there is a recall is a good message at the policy level. True some people may be trying to set up a different slate of candidates, but that's fine as long as those candidates adhere to a preamble that recognizes the issues, and are not for just 'the developers enjoying the profits' as mentioned by the 'Pleasanton resident' above.
Again, the problem is not merely over crowding as it's viewed in this blog. There is a need to stop unbridled growth. There is very real need for course correction.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by RV, a resident of Dublin,
on Jan 2, 2018 at 3:09 pm

Tim, you are right in that the main issue for Dublin is the high school.
However, no less is the fact the same unbridled growth has NOT ended now - the same forces that allowed it to happen thus far, are letting more of it to happen.
The catalyst for the recall has been the study that was recently allowed for the 'At Dublin' area bordering Tassajara Road on the east from the freeway to the Gleason Drive.
The developer proposal is to add higher density housing, reduce the retail to 1/3rd of the original plan, with no talk of impact on school situation. And the city leadership whether elected or managers is discussing the number of units and their size, instead of outrightly rejecting it. Web Link
So the disaster of the first degree that you mention will only get more exacerbated.
Coming back to the school situation, you are very right that it was 'unfortunate' that the school board had to give up on converting the business park to a new high school. While there could be valid reasons, like Play Ground space, etc., the focus on proximity to the county jail was more emotional. The board members were under tremendous pressure, when speaker after speaker weighed in the location with presumptuous security concerns. And so here we are, just set back by a couple of years (It would be good to know what will be plan for the bridge period - how more students will get added to Dublin High - the overcrowing problem).
Many don't think that the recall initiative is 'unfortunate'. The fact that there is a recall is a good message at the policy level. True some people may be trying to set up a different slate of candidates, but that's fine as long as those candidates adhere to a preamble that recognizes the issues, and are not for just 'the developers enjoying the profits' as mentioned by the 'Pleasanton resident' above.
Again, the problem is not merely over crowding as it's viewed in this blog. There is a need to stop unbridled growth. There is very real need for course correction.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by DKHSK, a resident of Bridle Creek,
on Jan 3, 2018 at 8:02 am

DKHSK is a registered user.

So you're telling us that local government can't execute for the betterment of the community and instead, let developers and contractors run rough shod and build willy nilly with no thought to the future?

Why is this not surprising?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by SHale99, a resident of San Ramon,
on Jan 3, 2018 at 9:25 am

SHale99 is a registered user.

When we moved from San Mateo county to East Bay we quickly dropped both Dublin and Pleasanton as choices due to their schools. While PUSD is nicely rated, their schools overcrowded and old. Dublin, well much the same with lower ratings.

Too bad neither Dublin or Pleasanton have heard the term 'master planned'. In Dougherty Valley the 2 developers (now one) built and mostly paid for all the new schools.

Also needs to be stated that the city and county have no say over what the school district does (or doesn't) do. They should coordinate, tho or look up 'master planned'.

And to build new schools means new bonds or taxes and then the howling will begin. Can't have it both ways, aye?


 +   2 people like this
Posted by js, a resident of Amador Estates,
on Jan 3, 2018 at 10:54 am

SHale99, having grown up in San mateo and attended their public schools, its funny to hear that Pleasanton schools are old. I rememeber playing basketball and travelling to the other schools gyms to play, Most of their Gyms were converted cafeterias/multipurpose rooms. the building were mostly built in the 50/60's or earlier in some cases. On hot days, we had no AC, the heaters rarely worked. the insulation was asbestos, i remember school being closed for a week because asbestos abatement.

I have a family member that now teaches middle school in San mateo. she almost had a heart attack when shew saw the harvest park computer lab with all the nice equipment. the public schools in P-town have their issues but I'd put us up against san mateo any day.


 +   12 people like this
Posted by Slum schools, a resident of another community,
on Jan 3, 2018 at 3:10 pm

SHale, in order to get all those of great facilities in the Dougherty Valley, there had to be a lawsuit in order for the developers to provide all those of those schools. There is a settlement agreement for the Dougherty Valley where after the lawsuit, the developer agreed to build the schools. Dougherty Valley also has a second pool and a performing arts center that attracts national acts.

With Pleasanton/Dublin, they seem to never file lawsuits against developers to build the schools. Also Pleasanton/Dublin seems to have sold ALL of the land they ever had to developers. Even when they have the blank land, they don't actually build the schools that are needed. The land sits vacant.

I'll take the great San Mateo schools anyday over the slum Pleasanton schools. I agree the Pleasanton schools are ramshackle, not just the trailers/portables at Harvest Park and other schools. The computer networks are something out of the 1980s, the bathrooms are absolutely filthy, the ceilings sometimes leak, and the leaves are never picked up.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Silas, a resident of Jensen Tract,
on Jan 4, 2018 at 8:34 pm

Who were the demographers for Dublin? Is Pleaanton Unified using the same company? I hope not because the projections we're getting also indicate a decrease in student enrollment and yet the number of students at the two comprehensive high schools is going up.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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