CONCORD -- The Concord City Council has unanimously approved a Complete Streets Plan Amendment in order to qualify for federal and state funds administered by One Bay Area.

The amendment and approval of the accompanying environmental negative declaration changes transportation and traffic circulation elements of the city's general plan to prioritize public transit, pedestrian and bicycling in urban street and transportation planning.

Staff planners explained that the California State Complete Streets Act of 2008 lists how local government must conform to policies on transportation, greenhouse gas reduction, housing and land use.

No one on the council opposed the detailed plan's intent to encourage local government to update existing streets to facilitate alternative transportation choices, but there was some concern about how it would impact established traffic flow.

Councilwoman Laura Hoffmeister asked to be reminded, "Why are we doing it?"

Planning Manager Carole Johnson responded, "To be eligible for grants in 2015. It is like the housing element."

In the Complete Streets Plan, various areas of the city are defined as residential, downtown, neighborhood and community. Within those areas, streets are classified as off-street connection (multiuse trail); regional (major arterial); and service (industrial collector).

Because the plan calls for making decisions based on the type of street and the defined area that it is in, there could be instances when a prioritizing parking over traffic flow would be impractical.

Hoffmeister rhetorically asked if it would make sense to eliminate a lane of traffic on Willow Pass Road and replace it with parking, since part of it is in the downtown pedestrian area.

Johnson said the City Council always has the final approval, and that the written Complete Streets policies are more like guidelines.

Willow Pass is a special case.

"We are dealing with retrofitting streets," Johnson said later. "Over time we're trying to see how we can balance the needs of multiple users. We will have to make decisions on a case-by-case basis."

Hoffmeister questioned the use of nomenclature that is inconsistent with Concord's existing general plan documents, and Johnson assured her that planners would include a chart to show what new terms are equivalent to existing terms and definitions.

Plans for Cowell Road and Denkinger were discussed.

Councilman Dan Helix said, "Cowell Road cannot be upgraded from two to four lanes. ... It would be a great place for bike lanes and sidewalks."

Councilman Edi Birsan agreed, and proposed that Meadow Lane and possibly Bailey Road should be in the same category.

Contact Dana Guzzetti at dguzzetti10@gmail.com or call 925-202-9292.