Dublin is a suburb in the outer East Bay that in the past has not shied away from development, but if a new project proposed by Pleasanton-based developer Charter Properties is built, the town could finally be placed on the map. Sources on this project seem slightly contradictory and could just be reporting two different versions of the plan. An article in the Contra Costa Times described four towers, ranging in height from 16 to 21 stories. On the other hand, a staff report posted on Dublin’s city planning website reports three residential towers and a low- to mid-rise podium of four buildings, once again citing a 21-story maximum height for one tower. In either case, this project — consisting of 675 residential units, 181,000 square feet of office space, and 76,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space — is large, especially given Dublin’s location as an outer ring suburb.
The list of East Bay highrises is currently dominated mostly by Oakland (whose 404-foot Ordway Building remains the tallest occupied building in the Bay Area outside of San Francisco) and to a lesser extent, Emeryville. Walnut Creek — referred to as an “edge city” to acknowledge the denser, quasi-urban development that it has encouraged downtown for the past decade — is probably one of the region’s most successful examples of downtown revitalization, but new construction is capped at 89 feet, or roughly six stories of office — development there is relatively active, but remains low-rise in nature. Other nearby cities have similar height limits in place. For sure, the Dublin towers would definitely stick out conspicuously above the surrounding landscape, but they could also help to define a new neighborhood.
Some areas of the country, like Washington, D.C., have embraced the idea that denser and taller development in suburbs can work. The Bay Area has been slower to catch up in this regard. To be sure, the Dublin proposal has sparked some community opposition — and even if the project is approved, my guess is that tower heights will probably be reduced — but the fact that some are even being open-minded about the project is encouraging, and it marks an interesting paradigm shift for the Bay Area, which admits high-rise developments in urban downtowns, but refuses taller buildings outside of those few concentrated locations. A few taller buildings are located along the Peninsula and in Emeryville, but these sites have excellent freeway access and poor transit access, making them direct counterexamples of smart growth.
The problem with this Dublin proposal is that it, too, is another such counterexample. The proposed site (near the crossing of Tassajara Road and Interstate 580) has easy freeway access, but it cannot be considered truly transit-oriented, as it is not convenient to the BART terminus at Dublin/Pleasanton, nor is it convenient to the infill West Dublin/Pleasanton station which just began construction. Although this was not the case even rather recently, Dublin is now an established suburb, so I would prefer we develop here (only a couple miles from the BART line), rather than in, say, Tracy. While I remain encouraged by the more open-minded vision shown by Dublin planners, this site is bound to create more car traffic and would make more sense within walking distance of a BART station.