Ivor Samson

Question 1: Because Lafayette is a desirable place to live we are subject to continuing pressure to grow. What is your vision for growth in Lafayette?

There has been considerable growth in Lafayette over the last decade, both residential and commercial.  Many residents are frustrated and angry at the perceived effects of such development, especially as it relates to traffic congestion and parking.  However, one must recognize that all the development that has occurred has been consistent with the General Plan and applicable Specific Plans , all of which were subject to numerous public hearings before being adopted.   That said, many people feel that Lafayette is "choking" to the point that it is no longer the semi-rural community to which they moved and cherished.   Some growth is inevitable, especially in the face of state regulation which has substantially usurped local land use control.  The 2017 Housing Accountability Act and the recent passage of AB 2923 (BART development) will drastically change Lafayette's ability to control its own land use destiny. This is a major issue.

 

Going forward, the challenge will be to try and manage growth and development in the face of these constraints.  I cannot comment on any proposal presently pending before the City Council (e.g. The Terraces) because that would require recusal from any consideration of the matter.  However, there some specific issues that I think need to be addressed:

  • We should consider re-visiting the Downtown Specific Plan ("DSP").  It is now quite dated and needs to be reviewed in light of the cumulative growth that has occurred since its approval.  Is the present DSP still viable?  Does it need to be changed to reflect state mandated changes to development standards?

 

These are legitimate matters of community concern which need to be addressed.

 

  • I believe that building inclusive, affordable housing is a moral imperative BUT with local preferences to the extent that the law will allow.  We have a responsibility to LOCAL public employees, elderly and disabled to enable them to be a complete part of the community.  However, we have to recognize that this can only be accomplished: 1) in a way that is financially feasible for a developer to consider and,  2) is of a scope, scale and design that will be acceptable to the neighborhood in which such a development is proposed. Trying to reconcile these two seemingly inconsistent objectives will be a major challenge.

  • Future development proposals need to be carefully scrutinized for all potential  impacts  (traffic, parking, schools, etc.)  - especially cumulative impacts with the existing environment.  As I write this, the City is in active negotiations for the acquisition of a major piece of open space land – a significant priority for Lafayette residents. To the greatest extent possible, any future development projects should maximize dedication of open space and be in full compliance with ridgeline protection requirements.

  • We need to be proactive and collaboratively identify innovative ways to protect what we love about Lafayette.

Question 2: Because Lafayette is a transportation access point for surrounding communities, traffic congestion is worsening as these communities grow. How do you propose we address this burden?

Traffic is a conundrum.  On the one hand, some congestion is the mark of a vibrant community; on the other, congestion has become both a major inconvenience and a potential public safety concern.

 

Our road infrastructure is limited by geography and Lafayette is a "pass through" for commuters from Pleasant Hill, Martinez and Moraga.  These are facts of life which must be accepted in order to realize what is doable:

  • Last Fall, I was instrumental in working with concerned neighbors to try and cut through the City bureaucracy to try and alleviate some of the traffic problems on Reliez Valley Road.  We were able to make some improvements within the City limits (no-turn signs, increased police enforcement) which has helped on an interim basis.  However, the major problem is pass through commute traffic from neighboring cities which can only be mitigated through cooperation with these cities and the County.  Some initial steps have been taken in this regard, but much more needs to be done.  Collaboration with companies offering navigation software is yet another aspect of these traffic issues.

  • To the greatest extent allowed by law - and recognizing that recent state legislation is stealing away local land use control - new development applications must be carefully scrutinized for their ability to be compatible with the existing (or reasonably expandable) infrastructure and local community.

A pedestrian friendly downtown is, of course, desirable.  But this does tie in to reasonable parking availability.  The City should explore the viability of providing a “trolley” along the length of Mt. Diablo Blvd.

While bicycle lanes may be highly desirable, I believe that the safety of both motorists and bicyclists should be the primary consideration when attempting to implement a workable, safe solution.  Mt. Diablo Blvd. has vehicle parking on almost the entire length of the street. In many areas there is simply not enough road width to accommodate moving vehicles, cyclists and parked vehicles. Possible solutions could include diverting bicycle traffic to side street residential areas or providing physical barriers between vehicles and cyclists where that is feasible.

Question 3: The natural gas pipelines that run through Lafayette to supply our city are old, have no provisions for automated inspection, and have no automated shut-off valves. How would you propose these hazards be addressed?

As an attorney who represents clients in litigation against PG&E and as one who receives a pension from PG&E as a former employee, I am not allowed to participate in any discussions of this matter and, therefore, cannot comment.  All parties to any proceeding before the City are entitled to a fair and unbiased hearing in front of decision makers who have made no pre-determination and have no conflict of interest.

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