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Published March 23rd, 2016
Lennar Project Still Faces Hurdles
The Lennar Homes project will replace Celia's Restaurant. Photo C. Tyson

The large three-story mixed use project Lennar Homes has proposed at the corner of Mt. Diablo Boulevard and Dolores Drive finally was approved by the Lafayette Planning Commission. The 66-unit housing development will feature a restaurant on the corner, and flexible commercial spaces will continue to be evaluated by the city's Design Review Commission.
It's taken quite a while to get to this point. Before even submitting a formal application, the developer presented its preliminary plans to the City in 2013, not once but twice in order to get a feel for what could be approved. An official application was considered by the Design Review Commission and the Circulation Commission in 2014, and both provided feedback. The CC suggested a significantly revised layout that eliminated the Dolores Drive access point, so a second version with a mid-block entrance was considered. Finally a shared entrance with a traffic signal at the west end was embraced after the developer worked with the adjacent property owners. The DRC held four meetings, and after more tweaking of the design plans, they recommended approval of the project to the Planning Commission.
However, back at the March 7 Planning Commission meeting there was more constructive criticism. Noting that the final building will, in his opinion, define the west end of town, commissioner Tom Chastain reiterated that the structures will be "extremely scrutinized." He called the current drawings "insular" and asked the applicant to "understand where it works and where it doesn't" and to "provide articulation and interest."
Planning and Building Director Niroop Srivatsa cautioned Chastain that, "You are speaking as a design professional and sometimes it's difficult to translate that."
Looking for consistency, the award-winning architect on the project, Chek Tang, founding principal at Studio T-Square, said, it would be "helpful" to have a consistent representative to address these architectural issues.
The applicant has worked with across-the-street neighbor Diamond K Supply to figure out a mutually beneficial solution. Other neighbors from the Dolores Drive area came to complain about the project. Planning Commissioner Will Lovitt said he was "baffled" about traffic study results and expressed concern about vehicular service levels on Mt. Diablo Boulevard.
After a two hour public hearing, the matter was unanimously approved and will now go to the DRC with stronger conditions of approval.


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