DUBLIN -- The East Bay's fastest growing city has created an urban limit line along the eastern side of town to slow down development in the Doolan and Collier Canyon areas between Dublin and Livermore.

Dublin is also actively opposing a measure that would reserve 40 percent of the Doolan Canyon area for development in the future, which has been scheduled for the Nov. 4 ballot.

Faced with two conflicting citizens' initiatives on Doolan Canyon's future, the council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the Dublin Open Space initiative and to send the opposing Let Dublin Decide initiative to the ballot.

The council also voiced opposition to the Let Dublin Decide initiative and formed a two-member committee with Mayor Tim Sbranti and Councilman Abe Gupta to draft a ballot argument for the November election to oppose the measure.

"I believe development has to be balanced, and as mentioned by the residents, it has to be based on smart growth," Gupta said.

The Dublin Open Space initiative establishes an urban limit border along the eastern city limits, maintaining the Doolan-Collier Canyon area as agriculturally zoned open space without the potential for large development. Should any development proposals for the area come the city's way, they would require voter approval.


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The Let Dublin Decide initiative would have designated some of the land for development and required development proposals go through the area's various planning commissions and the City Council, as is standard.

The council had explored the possibility of building almost 2,000 homes on 1,450 acres in the Doolan Canyon area as recently as 2010, and local environmental groups began collecting signatures for the Dublin Open Space initiative to curb the possibility of development in that area. They say it's important for open space to provide a natural buffer between cities in the Bay Area to avoid urban sprawl.

Meanwhile, a rival group led by former Dublin Mayor Janet Lockhart began collecting signatures to put the Let Dublin Decide initiative on the ballot. They said their initiative was necessary to prevent Livermore from gaining control of the land, since Livermore recently applied to the Alameda County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) for control of the land.

"Look, somebody at some point is going to propose something on Doolan Canyon land. We've known that, and we've known it for the last 40 years," Lockhart said. "When that happens, why not let Dublin residents have a voice in what goes there?"

Before the vote, Sbranti read aloud a letter from Livermore Mayor John Marchand that said Livermore isn't planning to develop the space in question and even quoted from the city's LAFCO application, where they mention their desire to preserve the area as "open space."

"It is Livermore's intent, with Dublin's cooperation to secure the area as a permanent greenbelt buffer between the cities so everyone can have equal access to the land. Those are the facts," Marchand wrote.

Because the two initiatives were in competition, the council could have decided against annexing the land or establishing a limit line by voting down both measures. They could have voted to send both to the November ballot, in which case the one with the most votes would have won. Or they could have created likely legal gridlock by enacting both measures.

City Planning Manager Jeff Baker said he's unsure what will happen if the Let Dublin Decide initiative is approved in November. He told the council to assume the measure that the voters approved would take precedent but added that ultimately "it would be for the courts and the city to decide."

The Let Dublin Decide initiative had four vocal supporters at the meeting. About 30 people showed up in support of the Dublin Open Space initiative, including Dublin residents and members of local environmental groups. About half commented.

"We're ecstatic, obviously," said Seth Adams of Save Mt. Diablo after the council's vote. "This is one of the biggest environmental victories in the Bay Area right now."