LAFAYETTE -- Backlash from residents upset about how their streets were recently repaved has prompted officials here to order a fix and release an additional $20,000 in city funds to make the roads smoother.
In a letter sent to residents this week, Lafayette City Manager Steve Falk recognized that the recent "chip seal" treatment placed on about 20 residential streets in Burton Valley was less than optimal.
The city, he said, was doing what it could with limited funds after residents failed in 2004, 2007 and 2011 to pass bond measures that would have funded road repairs to Lafayette's network of streets.
"I acknowledge and, in fact, agree with your point that the new surface is not ideal, and it is certainly not as nice as a newly-rebuilt asphalt street would be," Falk wrote. "Unfortunately, the city cannot afford to provide a higher level of paving treatment."
Falk's outreach, and the city's offer to apply a "slurry seal" surface treatment that will make the roads smoother -- but not as smooth as a newly repaved asphalt road -- sits well with longtime resident Ted Westphall, whose chip-sealed street is set to receive the new layer Monday.
"I'm very pleased with the city's response," Westphall said as he surveyed the road's gravel-like surface.
The fix is being split between the city, which Falk says has an $18,000 project budget contingency, and residents who chipped in about $200 each to fund the repairs. Falk says the engineering department could also approach the city council about releasing additional matching funds for slurry treatments later this year if more residents are interested in helping fund them.
Other neighbors prefer a different solution. They say they now have the equivalent of country roads that children on scooters, skateboards and bikes, and seniors with walkers are finding difficult to navigate. They claim dogs don't like it, either.
"Ideally, we'd like (the city) to put down asphalt on the streets," said resident Elizabeth McNeil.
According to the city, the decision to go with the mat of rubberized liquid asphalt and rock chips was the result of Lafayette officials choosing to extend the life of existing roads until they can be rebuilt. Staffers estimate the cost to reconstruct the city's 81 streets at $13.5 million.
Last fiscal year, the city council allocated $730,000 toward the surface seal project. In May, they awarded the construction contract to Roseville-based Central Valley Engineering and Asphalt.
This is the first time the city has tackled chip-seal-only projects, said Senior Engineer Matt Luttrop.
The city has received more than 20 complaints about the road treatment, which Luttrop characterized as a "stopgap band-aid."
Luttrop said the city sent a letter to neighbors in January explaining what was going to be done to their streets. "I did not receive a single call from a resident from that letter. The assumption was that everyone understood what they read and was happy with it," he said.
Staffers in neighboring Moraga have set up a public outreach program to educate residents about the rubberized cape seal that will be applied to about 100 street segments -- or half of neighborhood streets -- in the town's 2013 pavement repair project.
Edric Kwan, Moraga's public works director and town engineer, wrote in an e-mail that the outreach will include a test strip demonstration of the seal, made up of liquid asphalt binder blended with recycled tire rubber embedded with rubberized chips. "The finished pavement surface will have the appearance of new asphalt," Kwan said.
Moraga is planning to spend $2.15 million on the repairs. The town has not previously used rubberized chip seals.
Chip seal treatments such as those applied in Lafayette have not been used in neighboring Orinda, said public works director Charles Swanson. The city has not yet begun repairing its infamous residential roads, instead focusing on arterials and collectors.
"Those (residential) streets are the worst streets," Swanson said. "You have to basically reconstruct the streets with asphalt."