Proponents of AT Dublin, the mixed-use lifestyle retail center on Tassajara Road, took a big step toward quelling potential opposition by cutting a key deal with the Dublin Unified School District.
It did not make a difference to the Dublin Planning Commission, which voted 4-0 this week to recommend the project be denied by the City Council.
The 76-acre parcel runs from Interstate 580 to Gleason Drive, bounded by Tassajara Road and Brannigan Drive. SCS Development has proposed amendments to the East Dublin Specific Plan and the city's General Plan to increase residential development to up to 680 units (apartments, townhomes and single-family homes) and cut commercial uses to 454,000 square feet.
The plans also include a 150-room hotel -- a facility that is sorely needed in the Livermore Valley where most hotels are full Monday to Thursday evenings. The existing plan calls for 261 dwelling units and 902,500 square feet of commercial.
The site is near where the school district plans to build its second comprehensive high school (and third overall) to initially house 1,000 students. The long-term plan is for a 2,500-student school. The district is negotiating to buy the Promenade parcel from developer Jim Tong.
The AT Dublin developers have agreed to pay $28.1 million upfront in school mitigation fees, about twice the amount required by the current $11 per square foot of residential fee. In addition, the agreement calls for expediting the payments -- one after receiving approval from the city and the other $14 million within 12 months. Typically, school impact fees are paid when individual building permits are pulled.
School trustees approved the agreement Oct. 23 without taking a position for or against the planned project. Should the City Council approve the proposal, then key funding for the high school is in place. The $28.1 million is in addition to the $100 million trustees have set aside from the bond issue voters passed in 2016.
Another linchpin is the land for a K-8 school that the city earmarked for the district at no cost in the Dublin Crossing project off Dublin Boulevard. One element of that project is a dual-use gymnasium that SCS has agreed to encourage the city to allocate $5 million of its public benefit payment. That city/school district agreement preserved the full $100 million potentially for the high school.
The district is facing student overcrowding at Dublin High, which currently has more than 3,000 students with another 1,300 estimated to attend over the next five years. The AT Dublin project, if approved as currently proposed, would generate about 5% of the high school students. The accelerated $28.1 million payment covers about 30% of the district's estimated construction costs.
This parcel had sat vacant for more than two decades as the former owner John Di Manto, CEO of San Jose Construction Co, waited for a developer to meet his price. He passed away two years ago, prompting his heirs to put the parcel on the market. The current proposal moved forward when the City Council a year ago approved studying changes to the city's plans.
During those years, the demand for traditional retail space has dropped significantly with most shopping center operators now focusing on the "lifestyle retail experience." That's the type of center that IKEA has proposed next to its store at Hacienda Drive and I-580 and is what SCS wants to build on AT Dublin. The key difference is 2-1/2 times more residential, where the demand is almost insatiable. City Center in San Ramon, which is scheduled to open Nov. 8, will be the first lifestyle center in the valley.
Tong's parcel, now designated for a high school, was supposed to be a downtown center surrounded by high-density residential. That concept did not fly in the marketplace, so he tried to increase residential zoning and was denied by the City Council. That denial preserved the parcel for the high school site, although it was not identified as such at the time.
After the Planning Commission's denial Tuesday, the plan will move on to the City Council for a final decision. There's likely to be public pressure against the residential elements based on the school overcrowding, but the SCS agreement with the district offers a direct mitigation to those complaints.
It's an expensive move by SCS, but it may be the linchpin that allows the project to win council approval. It's tentatively scheduled for Nov. 20. The council meetings after the Nov. 6 election will be critical ones with IKEA scheduled for Nov. 8 and now AT Dublin a couple of weeks later.