LAFAYETTE — The applicants proposing a 5-story, 82-unit housing development near the BART station were looking for a clear "yes" or "no" from city officials.

And on Monday night, they got it, albeit with some changes requested.

City Council members, planning commissioners and design review commissioners were generally pleased with the proposal for Town Center III, despite some reservations.

The joint meeting, while strictly informational, was nonetheless consequential. Lafayette Planning and Building Manager Niroop Srivatsa told council members and commissioners to be frank in their assessment of the proposal, and representatives for the applicants said the response they received would determine whether they decide to move forward.

Nearly everyone agreed that the location, north of Mt. Diablo Boulevard and adjacent to the BART station, is the ideal spot for high-density housing.

"I think the only place in town where we could have a building of this size and height is this location," Councilwoman Carol Federighi said.

And council members, commissioners and staff also were pleased with changes to the proposal — such as the relocation of the lobby to create a pedestrian-friendly intersection at the building's front — since they last saw it in May.

But a major sticking point was a proposed walkway along the building's southern edge, an area staff has asked be turned into a public space.


The applicants said the walkway would be landscaped and could potentially feature art and benches. It would be a draw for patrons of nearby shops and restaurants, or for people walking between downtown and the BART station, they added.

But city officials weren't convinced. Srivatsa said staff did not believe the public-use requirement was met, and council members and commissioners doubted that the walkway — separated from downtown by a parking lot — could effectively serve as a community gathering place.

"I'm not going to have a sandwich there just because it's there," said Councilman Mike Anderson.

While city officials had reservations about the walkway, residents were concerned about another aspect of the project.

"It's too big. It's just too big for Lafayette," said Eliot Hudson. He agreed the area near BART is ideal for high-density, but the building as proposed would be much taller than what has been talked about for downtown.

Existing buildings and trees will reduce the visual impact of the project, said Ray Panek, a senior vice president with KB Homes, South Bay, one of the applicants.

"There's not a whole lot of places where you see this building," he said.

Anderson and others suggested the onus is on the applicants to reassure residents about the building's height, and suggested story poles be put up to show exactly how tall it would be.