By the Board of Inclusive Lafayette
// The Board of Inclusive Lafayette asked Blueprint to publicize their viewpoints on housing in Lafayette. There will be a City Council meeting on April 26 at 5:45 p.m. for readers who are interested in attending and learning more.
Dear Acalanes Community and Lafayette Residents,
Our city’s motto reads “Green Hills, Great Schools.”
Inclusive Lafayette wants to preserve these great qualities while also embracing growth. We believe housing development will offer many benefits to our city. It could increase the racial and socioeconomic diversity in our town, aid in mitigating California’s housing crisis, and improve the environmental sustainability of our planet.
Historic practices of housing discrimination have made Lafayette one of the most segregated communities in the Bay Area. We have among the highest rates of single-family zoning. Research establishes a strong relationship between exclusionary zoning policies, high housing costs, and segregation. Current Lafayette residents did not cause these issues, but we can rectify previous wrongs in our General Plan.
The history of segregation extends to the unequal educational opportunities enjoyed by students in the Bay Area. Schools in wealthier communities, maintained by restrictive single-family zoning codes, enjoy more resources and greater student outcomes. Increasing the socioeconomic diversity of Lafayette’s schools through affordable housing development will allow more Bay Area students to enjoy the excellent opportunities at Acalanes and Lafayette School District campuses. Furthemore, increased economic and racial diversity will facilitate a safer and more rewarding educational experience for existing students. Classroom discussions will become richer and students will be exposed to a wider range of perspectives.
We recognize that Lafayette residents maintain legitimate concerns about more multi-family housing. However, the Regional Housing Needs Allocation, a state law, requires Lafayette to plan for housing at different income levels. Cities that fail to plan for housing growth face steep consequences, including fines and the loss of discretionary authority.
Given that we must prepare for housing, Inclusive Lafayette has specific ideas for smoothly transitioning to increased development:
- First, the City should include language in the General Plan that celebrates the benefits of growth and multi-family housing. The current General Plan focuses primarily on preservation; we want the city to preserve the qualities we love and also grow sustainably, by allowing more housing.
- In that spirit, we suggest the city consider dispersing multi-family housing throughout the city, upzoning sections in certain neighborhoods for low-density, multi-family housing, and encouraging the construction of accessory dwelling units (ADUs). We specifically recommend the City study the impacts of upzoning, to ensure it has no negative impacts on public health and safety.
- Finally, we propose that the City embrace transit-oriented development on the BART parking lot. Despite fears of parking shortages, BART has a financial incentive to maintain existing parking spots for Lafayette residents. Other suburban stations, like Dublin/Pleasanton, show that BART can maintain parking capacity with new development. Construction of high-density housing near the highway, downtown, and public transportation, will minimize traffic impact on Lafayette’s roads. Importantly, state law AB 2923 requires BART-owned land near stations to be rezoned.
We love Lafayette and want what is best for our community. We recognize others have a different idea of what is best, so we support compromise. Nevertheless, state law requires us to allow more development, so we’ve written a letter to the city exploring the ideas we’ve outlined above. You can read that letter here.
It will be better for everyone if, rather than opposing development wholesale, we come together as a community to try to imagine a future Lafayette that all of us will still love. Well-planned growth will allow our city to more comfortably and sustainably accommodate the development that must occur. In twenty years, when it’s time to write a new General Plan, we suspect that new developments will be an essential pillar of our community.
The Board of Inclusive Lafayette