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In Dublin, Building for Growth Means More Than New Houses

The East Bay suburb grapples with how—and where—to build.

Dublin BART

Dublin BART 


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As one of the state’s fastest-growing cities, topping 53,000 residents in 2014, Dublin knows that it has to build. The question is, what to build—and where. In the last election, the Alameda County suburb turned down a measure that would have permitted the development of 1,650 acres of open space between it and Livermore. While similar moves in the past allowed Dublin to grow eastward onto former county-controlled land, the city’s enthusiasm for the suburban sprawl that has engulfed so much of the East Bay has apparently waned.

Instead, Dublin has turned inward, prioritizing construction near its two BART stations and the 580-680 interchange. According to a recent city report, 8,787 units of housing, including multistory townhouses and single-family residences, are currently planned, most of it near mass transit—in areas close to BART, density will reach 30 to 80 units per acre. Farther away, it drops as low as six. “Elected leaders made a conscious decision,” says assistant city manager Linda Smith, “to bring these types of housing to what was a traditional suburban model.”

Like San Francisco, Dublin requires a portion of new units to be set aside for low-income residents. In the last decade, that has amounted to 1,200 units subsidized at below-market rates. The challenge for Dublin now is to plan for all the changes that come with an influx of residents. A new school, Amador Elementary, is scheduled to open this fall with capacity for 950 students. Two more are close behind in the next five years. The city is working to attract local employers, like Ross’ new corporate headquarters, that don’t require the punishing commute to San Jose or San Francisco. It has adopted a stimulus package to induce new restaurants to open. There’s even a new Whole Foods.

Dublin’s goal is to build housing, sure, but also to foster street-level vibrancy—to transform a bedroom community into a self-sustaining whole that’s environmentally appropriate and promotes quality of life. Dublin city councilmember and vice mayor Abe Gupta summarizes his city’s philosophy in gustatory terms: “For a long time, the push was just to build, build, build housing. But it’s got to be balanced. You can’t just eat steak, steak, steak. We need our commercial and retail land uses to catch up.”


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