The City of Dublin recently took a hard look at its affordable housing and plans to review final recommendations once staff compiles its next report.

The discussion comes on the heels of higher mandates for Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) affordable housing numbers, which are assigned by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG).

It also comes at a time when cities wonder even more than in the past how subsidized housing can be accomplished. This year, with more pressure by state government to provide more affordable housing, ABAG created a 35-member Housing Methodology Committee (HMC), with officials from all nine Bay Area counties.

The Dublin City Council heard its planning staff report on the new goals at the virtual council meeting Oct. 6. No action was taken.

A Dublin staff report indicated that the city has 10 remaining vacant sites on which to build housing, with a remaining residential land capacity that could handle 2,456 units. Within that total number, East Dublin sites could potentially accommodate 965 units, and the downtown would be capable of providing 1,491 units.

Next steps for the Dublin City Council include publishing additional information on the city’s website, evaluating the current housing element and analyzing adequate housing sites this fall and winter. The council expects to review the material in the coming winter or spring.

The city has historically failed to meet the RHNA standards for affordable housing. During the current housing element period from 2015-23, Dublin so far has only achieved 3% of its goal for “extremely/very low income.” The city met 8% of its “low-income” goal and 7% of its “moderate income” target. The one spot where Dublin shone was “above-moderate income” — fair market rate housing — because it attained 551% of that expectation.

In September, the HMC recommendation boosted Dublin’s target for “extremely/very low income” from 796 to 1,090, putting the new goal at 136% of what it had been. All other categories rose, too. The low-income category went from 446 to 610, which is also 136% of the current period’s goal. The moderate category went from 425 to 550, a rise of 129%. The above-moderate category went up from 2,285 to 3,630, a 158% increase, a nod to the need for expanding the region’s need for middle-class housing.

Haubert and the other four mayors in the region — John Marchand of Livermore, Jerry Thorne of Pleasanton, Bill Clarkson of San Ramon and Karen Stepper of Danville — on Sept. 14 sent a list of their objections to the HMC’s method of setting quotas for the Tri-Valley.

The letter states, “That (demand for more housing) encourages more suburban sprawl, which increases traffic, makes commuters’ trips longer, and adds to Green House Gases (GHG).” The letter further claims such planning cuts into the supply of open land that is still used for agriculture.

On Oct. 15, at 4:30 p.m., the executive board of the ABAG Housing Committee will meet virtually with the Metropolitan Transportation Committee’s (MTC) executive committee, whose chair is 1st District Supervisor Scott Haggerty.

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Dublin Considers Creating Health Department

City staff will look into the feasibility of starting its own public health department to bypass orders from the Alameda County Public Health Department (ACPHD) during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two members of the public, restaurant owners Jesus Orozco and Robb D’Amore, presented the idea during a public comment period for non-agenda items at the Dublin City Council’s virtual meeting, Oct. 6.

Alameda County had been cleared by Gov. Gavin Newsom for a higher level of indoor dining activity than previously allowed. However, the clearance was rescinded by county health officials because the county as a whole did not perform up to standards, said Orozco of Casa Orozco, and D’Amore, owner of Coach’s Grille in Dublin.

Orozco was set to open on Oct. 6 by complying with all necessary health mandates, but the ACPHD then decided it wouldn’t allow changes anywhere in the county. According to D’Amore, Dublin’s record on COVID-19 cases outperformed the other areas.

Dublin has 4% of the country’s population, but only 1% of its cases. D’Amore said the county ‘should not make it a one size fits all’ policy. He went on to note that Berkeley’s department is suited to its community, as proclaimed on its website. For example, it pays more attention to raising health level quality for African Americans. Some diseases, such as sickle cell anemia, have hurt African Americans more than other groups, so detection is important, according to the website.

Later in the meeting, three councilmembers agreed to have staff come back at a later time with an informational report. They are not necessarily committed to creating such a department, but they do want to learn the implications of doing so. Mayor David Haubert, Vice Mayor Arun Goel, and Councilmember Melissa Hernandez said they owed it to the city’s merchants to look at whether a city health department would be an avenue to helping them.

The necessary three votes were already counted in Haubert’s poll of the council to authorize a staff report, but Councilmember Jean Josey registered her objections to the call for the report. By her estimation, the staff work will be a waste of time, because the goal is impractical, and the call for a city health department won’t materialize. Josey also pointed out that while Berkeley does have its own public health department, its population is almost double the size of Dublin and its health department has a staff of 53 employees — nearly half of Dublin’s entire city staff, which amounts to 94 full-time positions.

Josey looked up the Berkeley statistics during the council meeting and further said that instead of conducting a feasibility report, staff should use the time to find ways for the county to change its outlook, so Dublin businesses can open.

Josey’s position received support from Councilmember Shawn Kumagai, who sympathized with local merchants about the county pulling back from allowing restaurants to reopen further. He acknowledged the situation to be frustrating.

“Public health officials are not always on our side, and it doesn’t make sense,” he said.

However, he addressed the other side of the issue, saying that the guiding rule for county public health officers is to support the needs of the public’s health.

“This framework is designed to put public health first,“ said Kumagai. The framework was established by the state. It won’t change the way cities and counties underneath the state respond to a public health emergency.

One suggestion during the audience comments involved combining Dublin with Pleasanton and Livermore in a joint powers agreement (JPA) to form a Tri-Valley health department. People in the entire Tri-Valley have experienced lower percentages of COVID-19 cases than other areas. A joint agency might bring staffing costs down.

However, Josey said that would be even worse for Dublin, because the city would have to deal with two bigger cities and would lose the clear purpose that Dublin’s own agency would provide.

Calls to the ACPHD were not returned at press time.