DUBLIN — The city council took another look at the affordable-housing options for residential developer SCS at its Nov. 15 meeting.
After expanding the project’s allowed alternatives, the council unanimously approved a development agreement between the city and SCS, along with zoning changes, planning changes and the environmental impact report related to the project.
Councilmember Sherry Hu recused herself due to the project’s proximity to her home.
The latest proposed plan intends to execute a preferred vision for the property that was approved by the city council in February.
“(The proposed plan) is strikingly similar,” said Kevin Fryer on behalf of SCS Development. “Hopefully, it’s all the same goodies, all the core tenets of the preferred plan, with just a little bit less housing.”
Located north of I-580 between Tassajara Road and Brannigan Street, the SCS project plans to develop the 76 acres with a mix of commercial, retail and residential uses.
The latest iteration called for 493 market-rate housing units, down from 550, and 100 affordable-housing units — well above the 69 affordable housing units required by Dublin’s Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance (IZO). SCS, however, also proposed a development agreement that allowed for several alternatives.
Instead of building the units, the project could, per the agreement, satisfy its affordable housing requirement by either building five moderate-income townhomes, paying $2 million to the city’s first-time homebuyer program, building 100 deed-restricted detached accessory dwelling units (ADUs), completing an affordable housing project, or dedicating the project’s semi-public site to the city.
The council also offered the applicant a new option to consider at the meeting. Instead of satisfying the 69 affordable-housing unit requirement, SCS could build six moderate-income units, contribute $1 million to the first-time homebuyer program and another $1 million to the city’s community benefit program.
Some residents called foul, saying the alternatives sidestepped the spirit of the affordable housing laws and excluded lower-income residents from the city.
“This project doesn’t contribute to the affordable housing challenge we have in Dublin,” resident Shirley Lewandowski stated at the council meeting.
Lewandowski added that the city has the discretion to not offer in-lieu fees and thereby force developers to build affordable housing.
Referring to the ADU option, resident Tom Evans said, “An 800 square-foot rental in someone’s yard is not a substitute for a two bedroom home for sale to a young family.”
Councilmember Michael McCorriston initially echoed similar affordable housing concerns.
“I think what the developer is offering is a bit light in terms of the amount of inclusionary housing,” he said. “I also think we could probably do better on the first-time buyer choice.”
The other councilmembers, however, expressed gratitude for a project that offered community benefits above and beyond state housing law requirements.
“That doesn’t mean that they couldn’t have just said, ‘Okay, we’re going to develop all this medium-density housing; we’re not going to do the rest. We’re entitled to do that under existing law, and we want to achieve value from our property,’” said Councilmember Shawn Kumagai.
Councilmember Jean Josey also cautioned against losing sight of the bigger picture.
“I don’t want us to kill the project by asking for more and more and more to the point where it’s not fiscally feasible to build any of it,” said Josey.
Although McCorriston suggested that staff return on a later date with revised affordable housing numbers, he and the council agreed to include the additional option in the development agreement.
Kumagai said he rejected the notion that following the IZO to the letter is the only path toward achieving the city’s affordable-housing goals.
“We’re trying to achieve our goals through ways that may not have been written by a simple percentage number,” he continued.
Evans also asked that Kumagai recuse himself from the SCS discussion because of Kumagai’s recent campaign activities outside the city council.
SCS Development Company donated $4,500 to Kumagai’s State Assembly campaign this year, according to Transparency USA.
At Kumagai’s questioning, city attorney John Bakker said that although the law did not currently require a recusal, “after Jan. 1, the rules will change and campaign contributions will be attributed to you. And you’ll have to consider those when you’re acting on decisions that may involve somebody that made a campaign contribution to you.”
Kumagai ultimately continued to participate in the SCS decision.