LAFAYETTE -- Nobody has any problems with proposed sidewalk improvements between Oak Hill Road and Dewing Avenue.
West of Dewing, however, is a different story.
The City Council took its first look at the $1.5 million project Monday, and heard from residents and property owners who took issue with some of the changes.
Nearly all the opposition centered on the south side of Mt. Diablo Boulevard between Dewing Avenue and Mountain View Drive.
Several residents decried a proposal to eliminate U-turns at Happy Valley Road for westbound drivers.
And the owners of a nearby shopping center asked the council to reconsider a plan to separate the centers' parking lots from the sidewalk with a landscaped brick wall.
The council ultimately voted to split the process by moving ahead with designs for all parts of the project other than the area near the shopping centers.
For that section, the council will wait until January to gauge the effects of a temporary ban on U-turns at Happy Valley, and to discuss alternatives to the brick wall.
The improvements, which include brick pavement and new streetlights, are aimed at increasing accessibility and safety for pedestrians and bicyclists in the downtown.
In addition to $350,000 from a streetlight replacement reserve fund, Lafayette will use nearly $1.3 million in grant money to fund the project.
But that grant money means timing on the project is critical, said City Engineer Tony Coe. Lafayette must submit final design work by Feb. 1 or risk losing the federal funds.
The proposal includes adding pedestrian "bulb-outs" -- extending part of the sidewalk into parking lanes -- at the Mt. Diablo/Happy Valley Road intersection to increase pedestrian visibility and safety.
But doing so would mean the city would have to ban U-turns at that intersection.
Resident Susan Callister told the council that would make navigating that intersection difficult.
Councilwoman Carol Federighi asked why drivers couldn't simply make their U-turn a block further up, at Mountain View Drive. Callister said drivers sometimes need to make the U-turn to avoid congestion caused by the parking lots.
"Eliminating the U-turn, I think, would be a mistake," Callister said.
The brick wall near the shopping centers, said project architect Sudhish Mohindroo, is designed to give more separation between pedestrians on the sidewalk and cars in the parking lots.
But the centers' property owners and some residents asked the council to consider other options, like an iron fence or a hedge.
Property owners worried a wall could make drivers hesitant to completely pull into parking spaces, for fear of striking the wall, possibly restricting the flow of traffic through their lots.
"I think the solution is to get rid of the block wall entirely and put a hedge in there," said Tom Whitten, owner of the Diablo Foods lot. "A hedge doesn't seem to bother people."
A hedge would take several years to grow, Mohindroo said, and afterward would require the city to spend money maintaining it.