Published March 6th, 2019
No imminent plans to build on Lafayette BART-owned land
By Pippa Fisher
The city council contends that it is already doing its part in Lafayette to provide multifamily housing centered near transit, such as this recently completed development - a short walk to BART. Photo Pippa Fisher
The city council kept the possibility of development on BART-owned property firmly on its radar at the Feb. 25 meeting, hearing from BART Transit Oriented Development Manager Abby Thorne-Lyman and BART Department Manager Rodd Lee, who reaffirmed the agency's commitment to work with local officials on rezoning and gave assurances that there are no plans to develop the land currently.

Mayor Cam Burks explained that during his earlier phone conversation with BART General Manager Grace Crunican and Thorne-Lyman he received that same assurance and that he had requested that assurance in writing.

Following the passage of state Assembly Bill 2923, which was signed into law last year and became effective as of Jan. 1, Lee explained BART is now mandated to implement it. The bill is designed with the intent of easing the housing crisis in the Bay Area by development of high-density housing around transit stations. Lafayette lawmakers objected strongly to the idea that local control would be stripped from them. BART itself, Lee reminded the council, took a neutral position on the issue.

Thorne-Lyman explained that BART is now required to set standards for height, floor-to-area ratio and parking for all eligible properties, affecting 26 stations in three counties, by July 1, 2020. She said that the city will have two years to rezone to meet those standards.

Looking at the immediate future Thorne-Lyman explained that BART intends to work with city staff and elected officials over the next couple of months, returning to its own board by late spring to provide a 10-year work plan regarding which stations they anticipate developing by 2029 when the bill sunsets.

Thorne-Lyman said that a statement indicating that they do not intend to build at the Lafayette station, barring some unforeseen circumstance, should come out by late spring. She stressed the difference between zoning the property and developing the property and noted that AB 2923 did not provide a mandate to develop.

In response to a question from Council Member Steven Bliss, Thorne-Lyman said that the bill requires rezoning all BART-owned land even if they have no plans to develop.

Burks considers this very good news for Lafayette, explaining that in his meeting, "I once again reiterated to the BART general manager that Lafayette is not anti-development - that we are for smart, controlled growth in our downtown core area that involves high-density units, including affordable housing, near our public transportation - and that we have a strong, proven track record to show we have been successful in this space. I indicated that we are against Sacramento stripping our local control in the land use and development space - as AB 2923 does - because we do indeed know how to grow in an appropriate way; a way that addresses and does our part vis--vis the Bay Area housing crisis."

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