- A: A chip seal costs about 75 cents/sq. ft. while a full road reconstruction -- which is what is needed on these roads -- costs about $10/sq. ft. This process is admittedly a “band aid”, however, the goal is to provide a minimal treatment that will that will keep these failed roads in a drivable condition during the next 5-10 years, which is how long it may take get funding for a full reconstruction.
- A: There is currently a backlog of approximately $12 million. The City estimates that it needs to spend an average of $2.6M annually for each of the next 10 years to fix the remaining failed roads in addition to maintaining the roads that have already been repaired. The City currently has $1.7 million annually in secured funding in place for these purposes.
- A: The City contributes $1 million annually from the General Fund. In addition, another $700,000 comes from gas taxes and revenue from the county transportation measure (Measure J). Also, since 1995, the City has made additional contributions totaling $7 million from the General Fund reserve.
Most of Lafayette’s growth occurred in the 1960’s with the population nearly tripling from 7,000 to 20,000 by 1970. So it has been almost 40 years since most of Lafayette’s subdivisions and their roads were created. Roads that are not maintained will last for 12 to 15 years before the road condition declines steeply and many roads will fail at an age of about 40 years. When Lafayette incorporated in 1968, it did so as a “no property” tax city, therefore, the city subsisted primarily on sales taxes. In 1978, with the passage of Prop 13, the City began to collect a share of the 1% tax paid by property owners. The City now receives about 6.2% of the property taxes. That means that for a $1 million home with a property tax of $10,000, Lafayette receives only $600. The rest goes to the State, BART, schools, etc. While this is still relatively low compared to other communities in the county (e.g. Hercules – 33%, Brentwood – 11%, Martinez – 15%), the City has no mechanism by which it can capture a higher percentage.
In 1995 a tax measure raised $13 million and financed 41 specific projects that provided benefit to the most people: arterials and collectors such as Moraga Road, St. Mary’s Road, Mt. Diablo Blvd., Pleasant Hill Road, Acalanes Road and Reliez Station Road. In 2004 the City turned its focus toward finding funding to repair neighborhood roads.
- Measure N was an ad valorem tax that would have taxed property owners based on the current assessed value of their homes. The cost was approximately $19 per $100,000 in property value, so the tax on a home valued at $500,000 would have been $95 per year. That measure failed.
- The City tried again in 2007 with Measure C, this time with a flat parcel tax that would have cost $150 per residential unit. That also failed.
- In 2011, the City tried again with Measure G, another flat tax of $89 per residence. That did not pass either.
- In 2008 the City considered putting a local sales tax measure on the ballot which would have increased the sales tax rate by up to 1%. However, there was significant opposition expressed by the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce and the Lafayette Taxpayers Association and ultimately, the Council decided not to put a measure on the ballot.
- In 2010, a citizen’s Finance Committee recommended that the City increase the property tax transfer rate which would raise the rate of the current tax that is paid only when property is sold. However, in order to raise this rate, the City would have been required to change from a General Law city to a Charter City. There was significant concern expressed by residents about such a change, therefore the City Council chose not to put the charter city initiative on the ballot.
Setbacks are measured from property lines or access easements, whichever is more restrictive. Each zoning district establishes minimum setback requirements for the front setback, side yard, aggregate side yard, and rear yards. Some lots, such as “flag lots” or oddly configured lots, require that planning staff make a determination with respect to where each setback applies. Staff will consider the access to the lot and orientation of the house among other factors when making such a determination.
For properties located adjacent to creeks, click here to determine your creek setback.
- A: The City has an ongoing road reconstruction and pavement maintenance program for selected public streets. An alphabetical list of street repair projects scheduled over the next five years is available in the 5-Year Capital Improvement Program Streets List.
- A: Yes, the fee for the setback determination review is $125, and the fee for processing an exception is $500. Lengthy applications and appeals requiring more than 1 hour of staff time for the initial review and 4 hours for the exception review will be charged an additional $125 per hour. You may mail your submittal or deliver it to the City Offices -- attention of the City Engineer. The Engineering office will usually contact you within one week for the initial review and two weeks for the exception review. Please make checks payable to the City of Lafayette.
If you still have questions, please call the Engineering Technician at (925) 284-1951.
Q:If my proposed work is within the creek setback area, can I apply for an exception to proceed with the work?A: Yes, the requirements for an exception are explained in Section 6-1842 of the ordinance. You will need to supply three items outlined in paragraph (c) of that section. Please note that the certification by the soils engineer must state, “In the professional opinion of the engineer, there is no likelihood of a hazard to persons or property resulting from the proposed construction.”
The City Engineer will review the exception application and make a recommendation for approval or denial to the City Council. As part of an approval, the City Engineer may impose certain conditions on your project to perform additional work in the vicinity of the project. The conditions will be based on the site conditions and the reports that you provide. If the City Council approves the exception, you will need to enter into a creek setback agreement with the City. A blank copy can be provided for your reference. After the agreement is executed, the City will issue your building permit. If you choose to appeal the City Engineer’s recommendation, you may do so at the City Council meeting when the City Engineer presents the recommendation with your application.
- A: If you have a creek-side property and you are contemplating work, you will need a creek setback determination.
Article 5 of the Lafayette Municipal Code Ordinance No. 512 prohibits construction of structures within the creek setback area. Following is a brief explanation of what the setback area is, and how to determine the setback line on your property. (There are other related regulations dealing with flood zones that you should also investigate at the same time by contacting the Planning Services Division at (925) 284-1976.)
Section 6-1841 of the ordinance contains the formula used to determine the setback line. Examples of creek setback determinations can be viewed here. We recommend that you obtain the services of a land surveyor to gather topographic information in the relevant area of your property. Based on the creek depth, the steepness of the bank, and the topography of the top on bank, the land surveyor can determine where the setback line is relative to the toe of the creek bank slope. All of the land between the creek and the setback line is defined as the creek setback area, and no structures are allowed within it.
In order to receive a building permit for your project, you need to submit evidence that your proposed work is outside the setback area. For the City’s review, please submit a topographic plan of the project area, including the creek and its features (i.e., top of bank, toe of bank, bank slopes, flow channel, grade breaks, etc.). You should plot on the plan the setback line in accordance to the ordinance. Lastly, provide a cross-sectional view of the creek, creek bank, the setback line, and your proposed structure. The section should reflect a point where your proposed structure is the closest to the setback line.
We strongly recommend that you use a licensed surveyor to perform this work. You may make the determination yourself. If the City disagrees with your measurements, you may have to submit calculations prepared by a licensed surveyor to prove your case.
What are sharrows?
“Sharrows” is short for “shared lane pavement markings” which indicate that motorists and bicyclists are to share the travel lane.
As a bicyclist, what should I do in the presence of sharrows?
We’ve placed the sharrows outside of the parked car’s “door zone.” Bicyclists should ride through the center of the sharrow with parked cars on their right and passing vehicles on their left.
As a motorist, what should I do in the presence of sharrows?
Slow down and drive carefully. Sharrows indicate that you are sharing the road with bicyclists. Because the travel lane is too narrow for safe side-by-side travel by motorists and bicyclists, motorists should slow down and either wait for the bicyclist to turn off the roadway, or wait until you can move safely into an adjacent lane.
Can I still drive in lanes where there are sharrows?
If there is not an accompanying white stripe with the marking then it is not a bicycle lane; it is a sharrow. You may still drive in that travel lane. You may encroach over the sharrow if there are no bicyclists next to you.
Why not just stripe bicycle lanes?
We’re using the sharrows because there isn’t enough room for bicycle lanes. This is because of a combination of a high demand for on-street parking and the inability to either eliminate a travel lane or narrow the existing travel lanes. It is also physically too difficult and prohibitively expensive to widen the roadway.
Why not just use sharrows instead of bicycle lanes?
Bicycle lanes are still the best solution for creating safe conditions for all roadway users on high vehicle volume streets. With bike lanes, motorists are not delayed by the presence of slower-moving bicyclists in front of them and bicyclists don’t feel intimidated by the presence of following motorists who wish to pass them. Sharrows will be added on roads where adding bike lanes is not feasible.
What does Lafayette hope to accomplish with the sharrows?
We want to create safer conditions for all roadway users on busy streets where we should have bicycle lanes but cannot. We hope to do this by moving bicyclists a little further away from parked cars than they would normally ride in the absence of sharrows and creating a little more awareness and separation between passing motorists and bicyclists than would normally exist.
Do sharrows work?
They seem to. A 2003 study in San Francisco showed that in the presence of sharrows, bicyclists moved further away from parked cars and passing motorists moved further away from cyclists than in the absence of sharrows. California has adopted sharrows as a standard roadway treatment, and San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley have already painted hundreds of them on their streets.
FAQ from the Portland sharrows fact sheet, adapted for Lafayette
- A: If you perform any work or store materials and equipment within the City’s right-of-way, you need an Encroachment Permit. Generally, the City’s right-of-way extends about 20-25 feet from the center of the road on most residential streets, and much wider on through-roads.
Light landscaping (ground cover, low shrubs) without irrigation may be installed in the right-of-way without a permit. However, you do so at your own risk, and anything planted within the City’s right-of-way may be removed if it conflicts with future City road or drainage construction activities.
Permanent structures such as a wall, fence, decorative mail box, or building are not allowed within the City’s right-of-way. Under special circumstances and as a last resort, you may apply for an Encroachment Agreement for these structures, which will be considered by the City Council, in addition to an Encroachment Permit.
After the work covered by your Encroachmernt Permit is complete (including theremoval of utility and construction identification markings), you must contact Lafayette City Offices, Engineering Department Encroachment Permit Hot Line (925) 299-3277 to request a final inspection.
Once your project has been inspected by the engineering staff and all conditions of the permit have been met, the deposit will be refunded in the same manner in which it was made. For check refunds the process may take 2-4 weeks for you to receive your refund; for credit card refunds, the process may take 1-5 days for you to receive your refund.
To obtain an Encroachment Permit, submit an Encroachment Permit application form, providing the address and detailed description of the project, to the Engineering Department. You may also need to provide plans, drawings, or sketches of the project.
When the permit application is received, a staff person will visit the job site to determine conditions the City may place on the project. Some construction details and typical conditions are provided for reference on the back of the Encroachment Permit form. If more information is needed about your project, the staff will call you with questions.
The staff will then determine the amount of the refundable deposit ($500 minimum, $2500 typical) as well as the permit fee to cover the initial staff time ($187.50 minimum). If applicable, additional inspection fees will be deducted from the security deposit when the project is complete.
Someone from the City offices will then contact you (typically within 1-2 days) and let you know that your Encroachment Permit has been processed. You can then submit your payment for the fees and deposit, and pick up your permit.
You are also required to contact the City’s offices at (925) 299-3277 (Encroachment Inspection Hotline) at least 24 hours prior to starting the work covered by your permit (see permit for details).
Moraga residents, as well as those in neighboring cities, use our streets, but there is no practical way for the City to charge them their “fair share” of road repair. Not maintaining a busy thoroughfare like Moraga Road would also adversely impact Lafayette residents. However, Moraga and other neighboring residents do shop and eat in Lafayette, and their contributions to our sales tax revenue helps fund a portion of the $1 million the City contributes to the road repair budget each year. In addition, when the new homes are built in Palos Colorados (Moraga) Lafayette will receive a monetary settlement of $2.5 million as mitigation for the increased traffic the development will generate. It expected that most, if not all, of this money will be put towards local road repair.
Q:Why don’t EMBUD, PG&E, Comcast and CentralSan pay for the damage they do to the streets? Why doesn’t the City coordinate their street repairs with these agencies?A:
EBMUD, PG&E, Comcast and the Central Sanitary District are all responsible for repairing the damage they do to our streets and we hold them to the highest standards allowed by law. In the case of planned maintenance, we do try to coordinate street repair with other agencies and businesses, however, it is not always feasible, particularly in emergency cases.
- A: When properly constructed and maintained, a road can last for up to 40 years. However, without proper maintenance, the condition of a road deteriorates precipitously after about 10 years and the cost to rehabilitate those streets may be 5 to 10 times what it would have cost to just maintain the good pavement. If the City were to neglect this necessary maintenance on “good roads” in favor of streets that are already costly to repair, the newly improved streets would fall back into the more expensive reconstruction category and actually end up increasing the funding gap we already face.
Q:How do I report a problem with street cleaning, clogged culverts, a fallen sign, branches that need trimming, graffiti, and other maintenance problems?A: Call the Public Works Department at (925) 934-3908 and be prepared to leave a detailed message and contact information. If you prefer, you can fill out an on-line Public Works Service Request.
Call Central Contra Costa Sanitary District at (925) 228-9500.
For emergencies call (925) 933-0990 or (925) 933-0955 (24 hours, 7 days a week).
For toxics, call (925) 689-3890.
- A: No, private streets are maintained by the property owners on that street. List of public and private roads.
Parking permits are available at the city offices through the accounting department. Make sure that your street has a Residential Parking Permit Program. Please be prepared to show proof of residency by showing two of any of the following:
- Recent phone, PG&E, water or other utility bill
- Recent receipt of rent payment
- A: Homeowners are responsible for maintaining sidewalks that are adjacent to their homes.
- A: Monday through Friday between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm call the Public Works Department at (925) 934-3908. On weekends and after hours, call the police department dispatch at (925) 284-5010.