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More Downtown Residential Housing for Lafayette?

The Lafayette Town Center Phase III was discussed and critiqued by the Lafayette planning commission -- and members of the public -- Monday night.

The Lafayette planning commission Monday heard public comment on the  project proposal for the Lafayette Town Center Phase III.

The project is a 74-unit residential building on Dewing Ave., near the Lafayette BART station. Its multi-storied roof line reaches as high as five stories in places, a height which has drawn criticism from the project's detractors.

Town Center would require an amendment to the BART block specific plan, a zoning amendment, and design review approval.

After meeting with the design review commission twice, applicant KB Homes has come back with a revised project that includes a reduced number of units and a smaller footprint, according to Senior Vice President of KB Homes Northern California, Ray Panek.

The public differed on their opinions regarding the project, with some maintaining the project was correct for the space, while others called the building height “offensive” and inappropriate for the location.

Supporters cited sustainability and increased high-density housing as positive aspects of the project.

“I believe strongly… that as a responsible community we need to use our spaces in a more responsible way. This project, in its location, is very appropriate for us moving into the 21st century,” said Lafayette’s Sean Cooley.

On the other side, Matt Heavey of Lafayette called the height of the building “staggering,” and was concerned that the project does not represent the character of Lafayette.  Many said they are worried that the project will block the views of the hillside in Lafayette, and that it will increase traffic congestion in downtown.

While most of the commission supported a residential project on this site, many were disappointed with the design and potential negative impacts of this specific project.

Commissioner Karen Maggio said she didn’t like the “boxy” architecture of the building.

“I don’t want to be too light about this, but it’s like a potato head and you just keep changing the nose and the ears and the different parts, but you’ve got the same, boxy structure,” Maggio said.

The discussion of the project was continued to the Sep. 4 planning commission meeting. After the meeting, the commission will forward a recommendation to the city council.

What do you think about this project? Does Lafayette need more housing downtown? Is it too big? Share your thoughts in the comments below. 

Born and Raised August 08, 2012 at 02:03 PM
I agree with Matt Heavey, the height of that "structure" is "staggering". There is not another building in town that is that high so why would Lafayette make consessions for this one? Traffic on Mt. Diablo is heavy enough now on any given time of day. Although I agree that the location is perfect for commuting using BART I really wonder if something like this is "good" for downtown Lafayette. Glad I won't see it from my house.
Sue Haas August 08, 2012 at 02:14 PM
I don't live in Lafayette but I do have friends who do and I will say that I avoid the downtown area like the plague. Tried to have dinner with friends on Mt Diablo just the other night and it was like picnicking next to a dragstrip. Any view of the hills from downtown is quickly disappearing and there are traffic jams downtown. I use the back roads to get there and always breathe a sigh of relief when I'm leaving. It's not the town I used to know and love -- parts of it at least. And progress is starting to suck.
Eliz August 08, 2012 at 02:46 PM
The downtown traffic is terrible there. Adding 74 residential units will make it impossible. Who needs this?
Bill August 08, 2012 at 02:52 PM
There are abag mandates in play on this? Any details?
Sara August 08, 2012 at 02:54 PM
Agree that downtown is 2 fast 2 noisy. I am guessing that one day they will seal it off to make it a pedestrian only "village" supported by the bart station. That will present its own issues but at least it will be quieter than it is now. We do avoid the area except for "off hour" visits.
c5 August 08, 2012 at 03:26 PM
my biggest concern (which for some strange reason does not seem to be our government's concern) is whether these development projects will generate sufficient tax revenues to pay for all the added services that will be thrust upon lafayette...schools, roads, police, fire, etc...
Crowley August 08, 2012 at 03:57 PM
I'm not saying I like this particular structure, but when my kids are grown and gone, I would totally move from my Moraga 2-story home into a condo/townhouse that is walkable to BART and downtown shopping and dining.
Zoe Claire August 08, 2012 at 04:25 PM
Valid point Crowley.
KFrances August 08, 2012 at 05:12 PM
Lafayette should leave ABAG like Corte Madera had the guts to do - We have no money to do any of this right now - regardless of where the money 'supposedly' comes from... Money = Control = over Food - Energy - Cars - and all freedoms. Why are unelected technocrats deciding our future - ? One Bay Area is a lazy plan by outside interests to do stack n pack housing projects.
Born and Raised August 08, 2012 at 05:14 PM
It is a very valid point but the only one that makes sense in this case. Either way the residents would still need cars and that means more traffic whether its a few or many.
Jason Schmidt August 08, 2012 at 05:46 PM
I feel it is really too bad that we don't have any large cities in our area that have high-density housing options with extensive public transportation, and plenty of shopping, dining and cultural options within walking distance. Therefore Lafayette must step up to the plate and become the Manhattan of the Bay Area. Wait, you say we already have San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, and Walnut Creek? That's really not good enough. Social Justice demands that no one live in single-family detached homes with yards, etc -- all residential of the future must be high-density apartments. There can be no other types of communities, sorry, and please don't try and exert any local control as we move towards this utopia.
Michael Taylor August 08, 2012 at 06:01 PM
Here's a two word solution: population control. It won't fly in this "family friendly" environment but instead of trying to house our projected population increases may be we could try to limit it?
Patrice Martens August 08, 2012 at 06:09 PM
How dare you challenge the sanctity of those American values Marriage, Money, and the right to Breed Like Unthinking Rabbits and spread across the land!
Eastofthehills August 08, 2012 at 06:24 PM
1 child policy like China
Jason Schmidt August 08, 2012 at 06:31 PM
Interestingly, ABAG wants all Bay Area cities to build housing for their projected population growth numbers, which are likely very wrong and way over-estimated in many ways. Population has actually been leaving the Bay Area in recent years. Those that do come here may prefer the lure and excitement of the Big Cities to an apartment next to a train station in the remote suburbs. But let's ignore such silly things as market forces, and force communities to build high-density transit housing before there is any evidence of demand! And hey, Michael Taylor, population control would be the wise approach, but then how would we pay for the ponzi schemes of social security and medicare? We need new youth to turn over most of their income to pay for the people already here.
Douglas Home August 09, 2012 at 12:21 AM
What means success to a Conservative? Self reliance, financial independence, a good family and a nice piece of land to nurture and call his/her own. What means success to a Liberal? Living in high density housing in close proximity to public transit. I'm just saying.
Born and Raised August 09, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Partisan politics has nothing to do with this topic Douglas but it's pretty transparent which party you belong to. As an Independent I find it amusing to see individuals who constantly feel a need to put a partisan spin on any subject just to make a jab at the other side. Just for the sake of making themselves feel better about which "side" they're on. I can guarantee you the president of KB homes is not a Liberal.
Crowley August 09, 2012 at 04:39 PM
I guess my point is that I'd be more inclined to leave my car parked and not use it all for local jaunts. I used to live walking distance to Montclair Village in Oakland. We walked to elementary school, preschool, the libarary, groceries, drug store, etc. I went days sometimes w/o using my car. I really miss that. I agree that Lafayette will need to address roads, traffic, and parking as it grows, but if you can put residents near everything they need, they won't use their cars as much.
Switch August 09, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Framing conversation from a conservative/liberal point of view is as comfortable as a down pillow,and as flavorful.
Jason Schmidt August 09, 2012 at 06:28 PM
I guess I'm confused, Crowley. Did Montclair Village ban you from ever living there again? You say Montclair Village had everything in walking distance so you didn't need a car that often. If you wish to live that way, in the East Bay alone you could do exactly that and live quite well not just in Montclair but also Rockridge, the Solano Ave area in Berkeley, downtown Walnut Creek, and several other spots -- not to mention many other such places in the larger Bay Area. How many locations in the East Bay are like Lafayette? Far, far fewer than places like Montclair Village. So my confusion is, with all these other options, if you want that type of lifestyle why not choose one of those sites? Instead, must a relatively unique place like Lafayette conform to your desires and become yet another high-density neighborhood?
Crowley August 09, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Wow, okay Jason, I don't feel the need to justify my family's personal and financial decisions to a total strangers. There were many factors involved. We moved to a home where the kids could walk to school through 8th grade and take the bus to Campo. Not always using the car is important to us. And it is a big factor in our post-kid life.
J.D. O'Connor (Editor) August 09, 2012 at 07:32 PM
Crowley -- thanks for expressing your personal preference here. While it may not meld with the arguments of others your opinion is no less valid or welcome. Thanks for stating your position and best wishes for those "empty nest" years!
Chris Nicholson August 09, 2012 at 07:57 PM
I think people's attitudes on this topic comes down to exclusionary elitism versus egalitarian guilt. There is a stereotypical demographic of people who would choose to live in high density housing near/on mass transit. If we strip away the PC filter, a shift in this direction would very likely dilute the average household income, academic performance of our schools, etc. Although I am generally in favor of the right to develop one's land in order to maximize its value, I also think it is OK for local communities to agree to some level of reciprocal restrictions on land use intended to preserve favorable status quo attributes. In other words, I think elitism and an exclusionary attitude are legitimate. There should be no shame in advocating for them. Finally, I'm not sure what the term "sustainability" means these days, but, as used by groups claiming to be in favor of it, it seems to be an antonym of "freedom."
Douglas Home August 10, 2012 at 12:12 AM
I was referring more to the bureaucrats who mandate this type of socialistic urban planning - not the people who choose to live that way, which is perfectly fine if that is what one chooses to do. I'm not sure of the political alignment of the KB executives (although you might be surprised). I am, however, absolutely sure of this: They are a helluva lot more knowledgeable about how to design/build a community that people will want to buy and live in than anybody in the Lafayette Planning Dept. will ever be. In short, if we want our Cities to survive, we better get government out of the way and start building something pronto. Development fees are a massive revenue source. If we spend anymore time quibbling about roof lines and color schemes - KB will be scratching their checks to another municipality in very short order.
Douglas Home August 10, 2012 at 12:32 AM
I think it's clear - "sustainability" means government mandated restrictions on free market consumption. Government will never save the Blue Fin tuna. Paying $100K for one, however, absolutely will.
Richard Ford August 10, 2012 at 05:55 AM
If you want to see what free market consumption gets you, look no further than the inland empire just east of LA. Yuck. No thanks. Contrast that with the community of say, Petaluma, which encourages centralized growth and limits building outside of downtown. Not hard to pick the better scenario.
Scott Bowhay August 10, 2012 at 06:19 AM
Richard...regarding Petaluma, you have your facts all wrong. Just this last weekend I was appalled to see the McMansions going up on the scarred hill next to the freeway, from the bridge crossing the river...this is not "Central Petaluma",..nor are the serial developments east of the freeway. "Old Petaluma" has its charm, I agree (our family still ventures out to Little Hills Christmas Tree Farm every year), but every year the new developments come closer and closer...
Born and Raised August 10, 2012 at 01:20 PM
Douglas, I don't know if you live in Lafayette but our city's budget (general fund) is in the black. There is no need for further funds from development fees and in fact this last year there was an increase of $300,000 in planning fees. Anyone can design townhomes to attract people to live here and in fact that's what KB has done. That however isn't even the point. Potential buyers may want to live there but the structure itself does not reflect the surrounding area and in fact has a lot of asthetic negative impact. If you look around, the city's done just fine without KB's input for decades and although I don't like some of the changes in town, most do. To say our planning department knows less about how to design/build the community than KB does is apples and oranges. One cares about the populace while the other cares about profit. Our city will survive just fine without it or the money it could generate for the city, thank you very much.
Richard Ford August 10, 2012 at 01:24 PM
I know which ones you're talking about, and I'm equally appalled. These developments started before the mandate, however, and I'm wondering if this was a "deal with the devil" scenario when they were drawing development lines. Since it is so close to the freeway, I think this qualifies as centralized development, as does the waterfront that lies between those homes and the rest of downtown. But then drive in any direction -- especially south west, west, and northwest of downtown and you'll see no huge developments, and then contrast that with the inland empire where large fields of vineyards have been stripped away to make room for minimalls, apartments, and new freeways.
Joan Collis March 19, 2013 at 08:30 AM
I haven't seen S. Thompson, but I believe KB Home will not implement a project that can affect many people of anything they are doing their best to give the dream home of the customers and yet they are not sacrificing the nature and people just for their business. See more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KB_Home

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