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By Tim Hunt

Dublin sets Doolan Canyon off limits

Uploaded: Jun 10, 2014

While Mayor Tim Sbranti was locked in a challenging Assembly primary election, the Dublin City Council took a significant action last week.
Faced with dueling initiatives, it unanimously enacted the one backed by more than 3,000 citizen signatures and mounted by environmental interests. That initiative, which sets urban limit boundaries on the eastern and western boundaries of Dublin, becomes the law of the city.
The competing initiative, led by former Mayor Janet Lockhart and her colleagues, was placed on the November ballot. This initiative, developed in response to the environmentalist-driven measure, was marketed as given Dublin voters a choice. They will have that choice in the fall—except it will be between existing law and the new measure. The council could have enacted either initiative or placed both on the ballot.
The decision was celebrated by the Greenbelt Alliance in its newsletter last week as "big win." The alliance, typically, has not shared Dublin's expansion plans.
The key issue is Doolan Canyon, the unincorporated area between Livermore and Dublin north of I-580. Developers have eyed the open spaces in that canyon for literally decades to no avail. Livermore has no interest in moving that far west—it made its development compromises with the Shea Properties parcels near Costco and Las Positas College. Costco had to comply with the absurd scenic corridor rules that were readily thrown under the bus to create a second access to the college.
There have been a number of development proposals for Doolan Canyon, none of which have gained traction. The current idea is for an active retirement community (think Del Webb or Rossmoor)—it's a type of development that does not exist in the Tri-Valley. You have the next steps along the aging spectrum with Stoneridge Creek and then numerous levels of hospital care, but that is a gigantic hole in the valley's housing offerings. Ponderosa Homes has its Ironwood active adult community, but that is tiny compared to a Del Webb or similar development.
The Dublin council's decision not to engage with the issue—enacting the boundary makes the hurdle for the proponents of the other initiative much higher in November as well as potentially reflecting the attitudes of east Dublin.
When I was actively engaged in newspapering about 20 years ago, we ran a "Doubling Dublin" headline over the story that reported plans to take the community of 25,000 residents to 50,000. That process in well down the road in east Dublin—there have been tweaks along the way, but the broad thrusts of the plan have held true.
Like the Dougherty Valley in San Ramon, the school district under estimated the number of new students so the developers and the districts have scrambled to provide. Toll Brothers (formerly Shapell Homes) has donated the land in the Dougherty Valley for the San Ramon Valley district to build another elementary school. In Dublin, the district is scrambling to provide another elementary in a time for the development.
Trying to time construction of public facilities is a huge challenge. In east Dublin there was development through 2007 and then things dried up in the housing financing crisis for three-plus years and then it has soared in 2012, 2013 and this year. Neither the district nor the state is equipped or capable of moving that quickly.