LAFAYETTE -- Despite an outcry from residents who say a proposed 55-foot condominium complex is too tall and densely packed for their city, officials are moving ahead, letting developers build 72 dwellings downtown near the BART station.

At a meeting this week, Councilman Carl Anduri, Vice-Mayor Mike Anderson and Mayor Carol Federighi approved ordinance changes allowing developer KB Home to build residences instead of offices near Dewing Avenue and Mt. Diablo Boulevard. They revised ordinance is set for adoption Dec. 4.

The council also approved general plan changes to allow for a building more than three stories and over 35 feet high downtown near the BART station. The condo project calls for four stories atop an aboveground parking garage.

The decisions came after more than three hours of at-times testy debate. Included were new conditions officials say will give them more oversight of the project.

Councilman Don Tatzin opposed the plan, and Brandt Andersson has recused himself from voting on the project, citing a possible conflict of interest.

Officials and residents have chastised the developer for changing the design just two weeks before a legal deadline for the project's approval. Plans presented Nov. 20 showed a lower height and some, but not all, of the revisions made to the Town Center phase III complex. At least one council member asked for further review.


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On Monday, attorney Margo Bradish told city leaders the developer had complied with all of its agreements -- which she said did not include the council making additional requests.

Anduri fired back at the suggestion the city was asking for last-minute changes. "Your description of the process and putting it back on the council at the last minute strikes me as not the reality that happened," he said.

According to the guidelines, the city will now vet the new plans before a building permit is issued. Square footage could be reduced in the process, but developers would lose no more than three units.

"This provides the review that you have sought and many others have sought so the council is still involved in the process," Federighi told the smattering of residents who had waited for city leaders to emerge from a hastily-called closed session discussion of possible legal action over the project after it appeared they might deadlock on a decision Monday night.

Earlier, opponents had railed against the project, which they argued would really be five stories tall (counting the parking garage) and would obstruct certain views of the city's ridgelines. Some also talked about the influx of future students on crowded schools and how that might affect the quality of education.

Others worried about traffic congestion and overdevelopment of a city they consider semirural. "We love our downtown," resident Elliot Hudson told the council. "We love it small."

Federighi acknowledged those worries, saying although she knows people are concerned about the project's height, the location is the best for high-density housing.

"I know that some of you still feel that this is too high, too massive," she said. "This is the one area that can take it."