LAFAYETTE -- Development and a proposed study aimed at mitigating congested traffic in the downtown core, ongoing concerns over The Terraces project, and guidelines about keeping backyard chickens kept the council busy for five hours Monday night.

After 30 minutes of public comment, mostly focusing on problems near Dolores Drive and Mt. Diablo Boulevard, Mayor Don Tatzin said the proposed traffic study was aimed at addressing those and other concerns.

Transportation Planner Leah Greenblat outlined five items the council had requested be added to the study: options to increase intersection efficiency, including roundabouts; bypass route options to handle traffic from Highway 24; park-and-walk models; parking garage/shuttle options; and the development of other "game-changing" concepts.

Greenblat said the Circulation Commission reviewed the updated proposal, made no changes but asked for clarification about parking garage locations, funding sources, and whether or not eminent domain would be used to implement various aspects of the study proposals.

Tatzin said pedestrian movements and congestion on Mt. Diablo Boulevard generated by drivers seeking relief from Highway 24 backups should be added to the study.

Vice Mayor Brandt Andersson asked if the Dolores Drive/Mt. Diablo Boulevard intersection would also be included, which was confirmed by Greenblat.

Councilwoman Traci Reilly suggested speed reductions might deter drivers from using city streets to bypass freeway congestion, but Greenblat said state laws, not cities, regulate speed limits, although other traffic-calming measures are possible.


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Greenblat said signs on the freeway, telling commuters how long it would take to reach the next exit if they remained on the freeway, versus exiting, were under consideration as part of the study.

The estimated $395,000 cost of the study, with the exception of a required, $45,000 match from either the city or Contra Costa Transportation Authority, would be covered by a Priority Development Area planning grant.

Greenblat said that having flexibility to amend the budget as they develop the grant application, due by July 18, would be helpful, and the council agreed.

In other business, an amendment to the Terraces Project, proposing an alternative location for a dog park, received vigorous public comment, with residents objecting to what they called a "piecemeal" approach by the applicant, as well as additional alterations to parts of the project they discovered only by looking at updated plans on the city's website. Several people perceived the changes as increasing the development's footprint.

David Baker, project manager for developer O'Brien Land Company, explained that addressing project aesthetics caused the homes to be pushed further apart. Converting two-story homes to one-story, to address visibility issues, also made the project appear to have a larger footprint.

Baker said the overall project had not expanded, but larger sports fields and increased tree protection perimeters had shrunk the original dog park site, and the developer sought an alternative. He said he "went to bat with the landowner" to obtain the 2.9 acres where the alternative dog park is proposed. If approved, the land will be "gifted" to the city after the dog park is created.

The council approved the amendment, with Reilly recusing herself, having signed a petition related to the park before running for city office.

Tatzin directed applicant and city attorneys to work on language for the amended process agreement to allow for consideration of one project with two alternative dog park locations.

The council advised that a Planning Commission meeting July 7 will present the environmental report on the Terraces and offer the public the opportunity to hear and comment on the project.

Moving to another item as midnight approached, the council addressed a municipal code amendment to allow for keeping chickens, rabbits and bees in residential, single family-zoned neighborhoods. Proposed changes would not permit commercial sale of chickens or eggs.

Senior Planner Greg Wolff said Craigslist-type sales -- citing examples like when a property owner relocates or the equivalent of a child's lemonade stand -- would be permitted as long as the activities didn't "change the nature of the neighborhood."

Council members suggested lowering the height of structures used to house "small farm animals" from 17 feet to 8-10 feet.

Residents questioned structure setback comparisons, noting that homes in locations like Half Moon Bay and Orinda were substantially different from Lafayette, where homes are closer together. The most common practice is establishing guidelines equaling the primary residence guidelines.

The council, recognizing that a chicken coop 15 feet from a neighbor's window might not be sufficient, recommended further considerations about setbacks, and continued the discussion to the July 14 meeting.

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