LAFAYETTE -- The third phase of a project that could place a condominium complex near BART in what developers are describing as an "emerging transit village" is being met with both praise and resistance.
"If that were built now, I'd be ready to move in tomorrow," one resident told planning commissioners Monday about the 74 dwellings that would complete the Town Center project which has been in the works since 1997.
Originally planned as an office building, the condos would join an existing retail complex on Mt. Diablo Boulevard and an apartment building behind it.
But others were less enthusiastic, taking issue with the complex's size. "I find it truly offensive," said a resident who called the building's five-story height "staggering."
Although officials say they support additional housing downtown near mass transit, they expressed concerns about the project's location, aesthetics and mass, which one commissioner characterized as "too much building on this site." They took no action on requests for an amendment to the city's BART Block Specific Plan, which sets building heights at three stories and 35 feet in an area bounded by Mt. Diablo Boulevard, Happy Valley Road, Highway 24 and Oak Hill Road, but which leaves room for exceptions.
Commissioners also didn't make any decisions on a zoning amendment that would change the land use at the site from office to residential, or about design review and subdivision requests.
A representative from KB Home, the project's developer, gave a brief outline of the condo building's specifications, which have changed slightly from plans presented to the city in April. The total area has been reduced, as have the number of units. Architect Jeffrey Heller pointed out that it wouldn't be as tall as the neighboring residential complex.
That wasn't enough to convince commissioner Mark Mitchell that the project is ready to move forward. He worried about effects on traffic circulation and parking, and said he preferred residential developments whose impacts are minimal, such as the townhomes planned at the site of the former Hungry Hunter restaurant on the southwest corner of Mt. Diablo Boulevard and Pleasant Hill Road.
Commissioner Karen Maggio also expressed reservations, saying that though she supports development near mass transit, she was disappointed in design plans that made the building look boxy, "like a Costco."
Project supporters were plentiful, however, and included those who feel such housing is ideal for aging residents who will be downsizing but prefer to stay in Lafayette. Plans call for one-, two- and three-bedroom dwellings as well as eight affordable to moderate-income units.
Planning commissioners will meet again Sept. 4 to review the project before forwarding their recommendations to the City Council.