LAFAYETTE -- A housing development suggested for a corner of Lafayette's main artery is already making waves, even though the developer has not yet formally submitted the project to the city.

At a Dec. 19 study session requested by developer Lennar Homes, Moraga resident and empty-nester Emily Blanck told planning and design commissioners she'd like to move back to Lafayette and live near BART, grocery stores and cafes in a condominium such as those Lennar is envisioning at the corner of Mt. Diablo Boulevard and Dolores Drive.

"I want to encourage you to please consider this or some other similar condo facility in downtown," Blanck said, "because I think it's very much needed."

Not so, countered other residents already raising red flags about the idea to build 70 units on the 2.2-acre site where Celia's Mexican Restaurant is currently located. One said the city already has a number of approved housing units downtown; another railed against potential traffic impacts and argued Lafayette can't "handle" the project.

Their views accompanied feedback by members of the city's design review and planning commissioners on plans that replace a 47-unit townhome project the developers pitched to the city at a September study session.

At that meeting, the city council and planning and design review commissioners voiced concerns about the townhome project's look, feel and suitability for that site.

Residents and nearby business owners also expressed concerns about the location, potential loss of commercial space and building heights. The developer had suggested heights of up to 45 feet, which would have required a special permit due to Lafayette's 35-foot building height limit.

Lennar Homes representative Chad Kiltz said that after receiving feedback that the initial vision was not what the city wanted, Lennar created a project that placed parking in a subterranean garage. The resulting higher construction expenses means creating a higher-density project to recoup the costs, Kiltz explained.

The one-, two- and three-bedroom flats would be contained in three three-story buildings and will be sold, Kiltz said. The proposal also calls for two plazas leading to an existing EBMUD aqueduct, a restaurant "anchoring" the corner of Mt. Diablo and Dolores, and some on-site affordable housing.

Commissioners responded positively to the new plan and provided more input, including suggestions to vary building heights.

Later, Kiltz said the developer is unsure if it will request another study session to get feedback before the project is formally submitted.

If approved, the project would be Lennar's first in Lamorinda.

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