DUBLIN -- The Planning Commission voted 2-1 on Tuesday to deny developer James Tong's proposal to build 115 residential units, a four-story hotel and a large amount of retail space. The Grafton Plaza project, which would be on a 12-acre parcel at the southeast corner of Dublin Boulevard and Grafton Street, has long been a point of contention for residents. The City Council last fall rejected a proposal to build 235 residential units and 36,000 square-feet of commercial space at the location, expressing concerns that the development would exacerbate the city's issues with traffic and overcrowded schools.
Lori Taylor, a city spokeswoman, said that at Tuesday's meeting, six residents spoke, echoing similar concerns about parking and traffic. They also objected to the project's density and the lack of children's play areas. The residential units would have been housed in a three-story townhouse community of about 6.55 acres, while the hotel would have had 127 rooms. The proposed retail space would have encompassed 34,000 to 55,000 square feet, according to the city's report.
Taylor said the commissioners gave a cool reception to the residential part of the project, though they appeared to like the hotel element. Commissioners Scott Mittan and Arun Goel both voted against the project, while Anna Do voted against rejecting the plan. Commissioners Tara Bhuthimethee and Rammet Kholi were absent.
Do explained that she only voted against the motion to reject the project because it would also involve denying the hotel, which she favored. The hearing was the first time that a project by Tong had been considered for approval since he pleaded guilty in December to charges that he committed fraud by forging a mitigation receipt he submitted to the city. Taylor said Tong's criminal charges were not mentioned during the hearing. It's not clear what will happen with the project now, though it will likely face strident opposition if it ever makes it to the City Council.
Vice Mayor Abe Gupta wrote an open letter on Monday voicing his objection to the project and what he described as a "multistory, San Francisco style hotel." Gupta also expressed concern about the work of planning consultant Mike Porto, who was the principal planner on the project. Porto's irregular billing practices, brought to the city's attention by this newspaper, have caused the city to audit the way it does business with independent consultants.
Porto's company has made close to $4.5 million from its work with Dublin over the last decade, and in one instance Porto was found to have billed the city for working a 26.5-hour day.