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After hours of discussion, and a vote taking place just a few minutes short of 2 a.m. Tuesday, the Lafayette City Council approved a plan to demolish a downtown apartment complex and replace it with larger buildings over neighborhood objections.

Developer Madison Park wants to build a 71-unit, two-building project at 3483 and 3491 Golden Gate Way, across the street from the Lafayette Library. The building’s height would extend to more than 53 feet — thanks to a waiver from the city allowing it to exceed the area’s 35-foot limit — and include an underground parking garage, 65 apartments and six townhomes.

The project will also include at least nine units designated for low- and very low-income residents. It would also require the removal of 48 trees on the site’s 1.47 acres, some of which the developer will mitigate by planting new trees.

The council — minus absent member Cam Burks — went through the plan in detail with city staff and representatives of Madison Park, making sure the objections of residents to the south were mitigated.

After getting a few last-minute concessions, the council voted 4-0 to approve the project, which was in its fifth public meeting before a city commission, the maximum review allowed by state law.

Haggling into the morning

At least a half dozen neighbors spoke against the project, prompting councilmembers to haggle past midnight with Madison Park officials over a planned creekside trail and neighborhood privacy concerns. In the works for at least two years, the plan already saw city-requested revisions, including additional charging stations for electric vehicles, an increase from 50 bicycle parking spaces to 70, and the addition of a solar water-heating element.

Madison Park also agreed to reduce the size of fourth-floor windows, and add exterior shutters and interior shades to windows on the third and fourth floors facing southeast.

“We’ve really done everything that we can, given the constraints that we do have, to try to address the privacy concerns,” said Madison Park’s director of development Claire Han. “Privacy is not the same thing as visibility. Just because you can see a building is not the same thing as not having privacy from that building.”

“You’re coming into a neighborhood and you’re completely changing the neighborhood. I think you’ve got to understand how the neighbors feel about this. This is a huge impact on the neighbors.”

Councilman Carl Anduri

Councilmembers pointed out that the neighbors south of Golden Gate Way moved to the area not expecting such a large complex behind their yards. The current two-story building — Golden Gate Plaza — was built in 1962. Residents said their yards and bedrooms will be visible from the complex’s upper balconies.

“You’re coming into a neighborhood and you’re completely changing the neighborhood,” said Councilmember Carl Anduri. “I think you’ve got to understand how the neighbors feel about this. This is a huge impact on the neighbors.”

The sides eventually settled on the developer setting aside a $7,500 tree fund, available to a select group of impacted neighbors to use to plant new trees on their side of the creek. Additional trees can’t be planted on the north side of the creek for lack of space for emergency vehicles.

Madison Park also agreed to pay up to $100,000 needed for the trail, The city will reimburse the developer for any costs beyond that.