Dublin has grown over the past two decades, consistently ranking at the top of California’s fastest growing cities list. Thousands of suburban homes have grown on once fertile farmland.
The population of the East Bay dormitory community has grown by almost 50% over the past decade, and city leaders have approved nearly twice as many homes and apartments as the state suggested.
But in May, regional planners released a new set of targets and tasked Dublin with building 3,700 more homes over the next decade.
“Where to put 3,700 other homes? That’s the puzzle, ”said Linda Smith, Director of the City of Dublin. As other cities in the Bay Area struggled with growth, she said, Dublin has been a poster child for development. “We did all the right things,” she said, but “we are penalized. “
More than a quarter of Bay Area municipalities are increasing in a crescendo of complaints against proposed state guidelines for housing development that could reshape downtowns and neighborhoods in the region. Cities can lose some local control over development if they fail to meet new housing targets as part of the regional housing needs allocation process.
The appeals are a measure of the willingness of Bay Area communities to adopt or reject residential projects in the face of housing shortages across the state and region. The answers could also be a glimpse of cities planning new dense neighborhoods and high-rise apartment buildings, and those that will engage in long and costly legal battles to protect the status quo.
The Bay Area’s largest cities – San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland – have embraced their lofty housing goals while grappling with a growing homeless population and tent and camping settlements- coaches along the road.
“There is an understanding in big cities that growth is necessary and growth is necessary,” said Matt Regan, vice president of public policy at the Bay Area Council. “They watch our failures every day.”
Across the region, 27 cities and counties filed formal appeals with the Association of Bay Area Governments last month, seeking to lower the new housing targets. Among those seeking the biggest discounts are Saratoga, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills, Palo Alto, the towns of Alameda, Lafayette, Pleasant Hill and most of Marin County.
“The calls are very heavily concentrated in the wealthier communities,” said Aaron Eckhouse of the California housing group YIMBY. The group found that 11 of the 18 cities with the region’s highest median household incomes were protesting against their housing allocation. “Not a huge surprise.”
Political appeals, disputes, fights and skirmishes could play a big part in how and where cities in the Bay Area develop new homes and apartments over the next decade. Amid record-breaking house prices and rents, economists and planners are calling for more development or the region risks stifling its innovative and booming economy.
The allocation project is a step in the RHNA process that has been going on for several years to determine how much and what type of residential growth a community should allow. Bay Area planners have delved into the finest details and released an initial housing needs assessment for each county and city. Planners have sought to bring more development around the poles of transport and employment.
The region’s overall target has more than doubled to reach 441,000 new homes and apartments for the next 8-year cycle starting in 2023. Many cities in the Bay Area have failed to meet their targets in previous cycles. But now state lawmakers have passed tougher penalties for cities that miss their targets. State planners estimate that California lacks millions of housing units to serve its people.
The effort of individual communities to reduce housing commitments is a zero-sum game – the overall goal of the Bay Area remains the same. If one locality is successful in attracting attention, another city, town, or county scores that much higher.
Slow growing communities have enlisted their planners, politicians and local supporters in the battle. Their complaints largely argue that higher development goals are unrealistic and based on flawed assumptions, methods and data.
Monte Sereno, for example, wants to halve its target of building 193 new houses and apartments by 2031. That’s three times its previous target. Officials in the small community, where the median house value is $ 3.7 million, say the goal “exceeds the capacity of the municipal government of Monte Sereno to adapt.”
Monte Sereno planners note that the city has very few employers, already has far more housing than jobs, and has little access to buses and trains to transport workers to employment centers.
Mill Valley is seeking to cut its housing allocation by a third, arguing that new developments would present an increased risk of wildfires and flooding. Mayor John McCauley said the staff have put extraordinary work into planning for future growth. “It’s disheartening to receive such inaccessible numbers,” he said.
A few counties have appealed, including Santa Clara and Contra Costa, expressing concern about the lack of roads, water and sewers. Santa Clara County planners say the analysis ignored county agreements to work with cities on acquiring land for future development.
No city in San Mateo County contested the attributions. San José has reached the target of 35,000 new homes, almost double its last target.
“We were actually expecting much higher numbers,” Deputy Planning Director Michael Brilliot said. The city expects the completion of several large towers and apartment complexes in the city center and around Diridon station in the coming years. “We’ve been planning a lot of housing for a long, long time. “
Planners and elected leaders do not expect a wave of successful challenges.
In Dublin, city leaders want to register their objection. “We really think we should get some credit,” Smith said. At the end of the day, she added, “We’re going to do what we need to do.”