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Doolan Residents Caught in Livermore-Dublin Tussle

Two cities with two different views on development battle over buffer area.

Driving westbound on I-580 you don’t need to see the sign declaring “Dublin Next 5 Exits” because the entire view from the freeway switches gears.

For many who love the sight of open spaces filled with cattle, horses and even some vineyards, seeing the new Target store off Fallon in Dublin is kind of like discovering your teenage daughter wearing a French Maid costume for Halloween. 

Who likes to see a pristine loved one all tarted up?

Which brings us to the decision by the City of Livermore to ask the Local Agency Formation Commission, best known as LAFCO, to bring the 1,450 acres between Livermore and Dublin known as Doolan Canyon into Livermore’s official

The reason seems to be that Livermore’s trying to save the area from being developed by Dublin, which has plans to green light senior community with about 2,000 homes. But while that seems like a worthy use of the land, there are fears that it’s just the first step in turning the area into the same kind of sprawling development in the Dublin zone.

There’s still hope that the two cities can work together to pound out a plan that satisfies both government entities.

For the more than two decades I’ve lived in Livermore, there’s been bad blood between Dublin and Livermore because of a fundamental belief in how development should take place.

Dublin, which has a limited historic downtown with the old Green Store and St. Raymond’s church, has been in the minds of many the definition of LA-type sprawl. There’s a different mindset there, it would appear, and it depends on which side of the fence you live on as to whether you think it’s a good thing or not.

Dublin has been a thriving community, building up a lot of retail and commercial property. People spend time and money at the Hacienda movie and retail center.

Yet I look at the graceful movie theater in downtown Livermore and think, that’s the way to do it. The theater blends into the area without detracting from the natural rhythm of the community.

Just one person’s opinion, of course.

There are plenty of folks who see the undeveloped areas as nothing but weeds and livestock. I have a friend who lives in Castro Valley who went back to see the fall foliage in New England one year.

Her response to the burst of vivid nature? “I liked it the first day or so, but after that it’s kind of like, you’ve seen one leaf, you’ve seen them all. I was in shopping withdrawal.”

Different folks, different strokes.

You can still see the hills if your eyes can get past the major red blare of color on the new Dublin Target store that continues with the architectural theme that has the buildings taking the spotlight rather than the rolling hills.

Flip over to Livermore’s freeway adjacent Target and you can only see a low roofline – and that’s not even on the side of the road with the view of the hills.

We take our hills quite seriously in Livermore.

While I’m sure Livermore would love to take advantage of some very discerning development in Doolan Canyon – I’m thinking upscale homes surrounded by vineyards, and maybe even a few rustic ranches filled with bucolic pastures – it certainly would not take on the LA flash of Dublin.

Again, as plenty of people will note, there’s nothing wrong with a few neon signs and art deco buildings. I’m sure some people think the chrome zone is just dandy – but the prevalent mindset in Livermore has always been a mix of growth in harmony with the natural beauty of area.

So for now, the issue will be taken to LAFCO. Since 1972, LAFCOs across the state were given the power to determine the sphere of influence for all local government agencies. In short, the commission decides which government agencies (police, fire, etc.) should be responsible to provide services to the areas and to protect agricultural and open space lands.

According to the LAFCO website, preserving agricultural land resources is a main objective, which is why the City of Livermore may be going into this study with high expectations of success.

Dublin officials believe the area has always been more historically linked to Dublin than to Livermore. And they think this is just one step before Livermore attempts an annexation.

And stuck between the two cities are the unincorporated area residents caught in the buffer zone. According to published news reports, the majority wants to decide their own fate – selling to developers or preserving the land as agriculture-based. 

It’s not in the nature of most people to be told by any government agency what they can and cannot do with property they own. Even the spokesperson for Pacific Union, the Dublin developer for the senior community planned for Doolan Canyon, says the company is not interested in starting a war and wants Livermore and Dublin to work together on a plan that benefits everyone.

Let’s hope that plan weighs heavily in the favor of those who already make Doolan Canyon their home.

Bob Canning October 03, 2011 at 05:44 PM
One of the big issues I see is over property rights. The non-occupants of Doolan Canyon wish to exert their poorly formulated visual right to see the hills, vs. somebody elses visual right to see buildings and neon lights. Both are claiming that this right somehow trumps the basic property rights of the owners. I suggest that those who wish to keep the hills as open space buy the land and then they can have their dream. I live in Livermore, but nowhere near the canyon.
Christine Doczy October 03, 2011 at 08:34 PM
No one has the right to tell these property owners a thing. Livermore is always so righteous about what the "right" thing is to do and this sphere of influence is just another example of what a bunch of high minded, politically correct, short sighted people( who have no right to determine anything with this area0 want for their own viewing pleasure. Livermore has repeatedly bent over backwards to satisfy a small, vocal group of people who want things there way and will go to any means to get their way (ie: the regional theater, BART to downtown, etc). The rest of us don't matter and further, they have the will of our City Council in their pocket in all these issues. I hope that the tone and direction of our City changes with this upcoming election and we get these oh so righteous people out in November. They do not represent us, only themselves and their high brow supporters.
Jaime Roberto October 03, 2011 at 08:51 PM
You mean people should put their money where their mouth is? What a radical idea.
Rich Buckley October 04, 2011 at 11:43 AM
I'm probably mistaken but to my knowledge this is the very first time the City of Livermore has ever had the real threat of either reaching a compromise or the land owners will go elsewhere (Dublin). In the old days Livermore just slapped Open Space zoning on everything in safe smugness of righteous enlightenment. I think it all comes down to being just that simple, compromise or lose to Dublin. I like the picture you paint of the Grandma Moses painting for the area. There may be land planning designs that enable drivers on the freeway to capture your image. With 540,000 sq.ft. of Outlet Center (equivalent to two new downtown Livermore's under roof) we can still pull off "the sense of the bucolic" through land planning, but the engine for success is most likely either going to be hidden housing not visible from the freeway in the form of a pre-annexation agreement publicaly acknowledged, or city money to buy open space. The formula seems to require the creative talents of those who can both compromise and satisfy visual "sense of" open space as seen from the freeway. I think it's achievable but it calls for more than just water service to the little valley.... wait, wasn't Ruby Hills sort of like that too. I vaguely recall something like we got to handle all the sewerage but they didn't want our name? ....O-o-oh the humility of compromise.

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