To some, Lafayette's future downtown is a pedestrian and bicycle friendly place where people can live and shop.
To others, it's a congested eyesore where tall buildings block views of the city's prized ridgelines and housing creates traffic and pollution nightmares.
Those opposing views were aired this week when members of the City Council and residents gathered for the first time to discuss the Downtown Specific Plan, which builds on Lafayette's general plan and outlines development in the heart of the city's commercial and cultural corridor.
In the works since 2006, the plan will guide officials in creating a sustainable downtown with a distinctive, small-town character; strengthen its position as the city's civic, economic and cultural core, and encourage more business.
Officials did not vote to approve or deny the plan; that is scheduled for September after more public hearings, including a special meeting July 30 on the plan's environmental impact report.
Instead, they heard from residents and planning commissioners, including some who have reservations about proposed building heights, traffic impacts and the area covered by the plan.
Commissioner Will Lovitt said he would like to see more data supporting 45-foot tall buildings and explained that his issues boil down to height over an expanded area.
According to the specific plan, developers would be allowed to construct 45-foot tall, three-story buildings
The Downtown Specific Plan would be allowed from Risa Road to Pleasant Hill Road.
Officials stressed that building heights of up to 45 feet are exceptions from the norm granted after intense review and City Council approval; the maximum height limit in both plans is 35 feet and three stories.
Still some residents decried the possibility of taller buildings they say will only spur developers to go higher.
Guy Atwood recommended the council put up 45-foot poles in specific downtown locations and get input on their impact. And Marie Blits, president of the Lafayette Homeowners Council, gave the council packets outlining 10 areas of the plan some residents would like to see changed, including elimination of the increased building heights.
Supporter Allison Hill feels strongly that the plan is needed and recalled coming to Lafayette in 1969, when the city looked like a strip mall next to a freeway. She said she wouldn't like to see it go back to that. Another resident said she supported adopting the plan, saying it gives the city and its leaders -- not developers -- more control.
Another public hearing is scheduled for July 23.