The Dublin City Council looked at some architectural changes and reductions in numbers of bedrooms for a proposed 220-unit apartment complex at the Ashton Station development near the Dublin/Pleasanton BART station.

The council conducted the review at a study session Feb. 6. They won’t be voting on the issue until their Feb 20 meeting.

It is a sensitive issue, with housing advocates from a nonprofit and the developer at an earlier meeting pointing out that the city could be sued. That could happen, if the council rejects the plan on the basis that the reasons don’t meet the legal requirements of the Housing Accountability Act.

If there were a suit, and the court favors the developer, the city must approve the development. If the city does not, then the housing advocates and/or the developer can sue the city for failing to follow the court’s order.

The fine would be $10,000 per unit, which amounts to $2.2 million for the 220 units. That would be a big drain on the city’s budget, councilmembers acknowledged. Abe Gupta said such a judgement would probably result in city layoffs, and maybe even closure of the library.

The council did take a stand against the development at its Dec. 5 meeting on a 4-1 vote. Vice-mayor Don Biddle cast the vote against the motion to deny the project. Biddle said that an approval for an earlier stage of the zoning in 2002 should stand, and the city should live up to that commitment.

Others on the council thought the building design was too massive and tall. There were problems with the colors they said. There was also concern about impact on future school population.

The developer returned Feb. 6 with new architectural renderings. It included the news that 15 of the 19 3-bedroom units had been downsized in an effort to cut the child-bearing demographics of the development. More than half of the complex would have one bedroom, which was also the case previously.

Councilmembers said that reworking the colors helped the appearance, though it would be important to see color samples on buildings before they are totally painted, to give an idea of how sun and shadow will change the colors.

If 220 units were approved, it would bring the total on the property to 1451, below the original approval for 1500 units on the whole site.

The developer will return Feb. 20 to answer more council questions. The staff will offer the council the alternatives of either approving or denying the application. On Dec. 5, when the council voted against it, there was no recommendation to deny, so the 4-1 vote could not be sent along in the city process.

In an interview later, Mayor David Haubert said, “According to our attorney, there is little we can do to stop the project. We are left between a rock and a hard place. We are likely to face a lawsuit from housing advocates, as well as the applicant. I don’t think anyone would be wise to spend city money on lawsuits.”