WALNUT CREEK -- For the first time, people could soon be living in the central area of downtown.

The Walnut Creek City Council is set to decide Tuesday on the fate of 1500 California, a project that calls for 141 apartments and nearly 18,000 square feet of retail/restaurant space in two six-story buildings. The 1.23-acre site next to the north Locust Street parking garage would replace a parking lot, a Scott Valley Bank branch and a vacant former restaurant.

The two buildings, architecturally designed to look like several structures, would sprawl from California Boulevard around the corner onto Bonanza Street and onto Locust in an "L" shape.

The plan first must win approval of the City Council, which meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday at 1666 N. Main St. Some residents are not enamored with the idea of taller and larger buildings on a relatively flat site.

Renderings of the building show two contemporary glass towers fronting California, with the buildings transitioning to shorter heights rounding the corners of Bonanza and Locust.

Once built, the project would help the area north of Mt. Diablo Boulevard, said Paul Menzies, CEO of Laconia Development, the developers behind 1500 California.

"A lot of attention has not been paid to the part of the city, and our project can act like a catalyst for positive change," he said.

Council members will decide whether the public benefits, such as an 1,800-square-foot pocket park, are enough to compensate for general plan amendments allowing smaller setbacks and a 70-foot height on the taller California Boulevard buildings. That would be within the Measure A-prescribed height limit of 89 feet for that site.

Throughout the city's planning process for 1500 California, residents have raised concerns that such a tall structure will dwarf the nearby one- and two-story buildings.

Tom O'Brien, an Almond-Shuey resident and vocal opponent of the project, said that under the city's General Plan, residential uses are not supposed to be allowed on Locust Street. But he thinks the deal was basically done when the council allowed the project to go through the planning process, even though it did not fit in the city's General Plan.

"I guess I see Locust as a retail area, not really residential," he said.

Opponents also have voiced concerns about traffic. The project's environmental impact report, which the council must certify for approval of the project, says it would create significant unavoidable impact to traffic on westbound Highway 24.

If approved, the apartments would range from studios to two-bedroom units, with an on-site gym, two rooftop terraces and a multipurpose room for activities such as yoga classes.

Contact Elisabeth Nardi at 925-952-2617. Follow her at Twitter.com/enardi10.