Help Us Save Lafayette

Lafayette has been adding housing at a break neck pace for the last few years. Condos, townhouses, senior housing, and apartments have been raised faster than any time in decades. The city’s road, school and public transportation capacities are already strained by the building that’s been completed – the additional housing currently under construction will further overwhelm those capacities.

Lafayette’s semi-rural character is suffering from these developments; it’s time to slow it down to allow the traffic patterns, schools, and public transit agencies an opportunity to adapt to these new demands.

Save Lafayette wins Important Court Battle

Judge rules that city acted illegally to block vote

Recently the California State Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Save Lafayette and against the City of Lafayette and reversed a previous ruling from a lower court.  The full text of the decision is attached.  Here are two articles from bay area papers that mention the decision:

In reaction to this loss, the City Council has rushed to put a June vote on the ballot.  We’ll have lots more about that soon.  Meanwhile here is the full text of the ruling for anyone interested.

Save Lafayette v. City of Lafayette, A149342 – Feb 21 2018

Save Lafayette

June and July Updates

BREAKING NEWS: Save Lafayette continues to have a major impact on transparency, accountability and good government in Lafayette.

June 14, 2017: The California Court of Appeal issued a temporary stay of the City’s implementation of the Homes at Deer Hill project and the ordinance that approved the project. Save Lafayette has appealed the City’s refusal to place the certified referendum on a public ballot in violation of the people’s constitutional and statutory referendum power and right to vote. During briefing for the appeal, Save Lafayette learned that the City was continuing to work on the project and petitioned the Court of Appeal to prevent the City from proceeding.

July 25, 2017: After considering further arguments, the Court of Appeal extended the stay for the duration of the appeal. As a result, all work on the Deer Hill project must stop until the appeal is decided. Save Lafayette also has filed its opening brief on the merits of the appeal.

July 31, 2017: Two of the largest projects pending before the City – the 99 unit Woodbury condominium project (one of the largest in Lafayette history) and the proposed rezoning of 5.75 acres for the development of a major cancer counseling office next to the Reservoir – are being represented by the firms of Tom Chastain, an architect who sits on the Lafayette Planning Commission, and Bob Cleaver, an architect who is also chair of the Lafayette Design Review Commission. Save Lafayette has focused on a series of land use projects, where architects appointed by the City Council to the Design Review and Planning Commissions are appearing before their own and other City commissions, contrary to provisions of the California Political Reform Act, Government Code 87100. These facts – the inherent conflicts of interest and the ‘pay-to-play’ aspect to Lafayette’s land use process – have been revealed by Save Lafayette supporters, who will continue to take an active role as this issue is debated before the City Council. One Design Review Commissioner was fined in 2008 and another commissioner is currently under investigation by the California Fair Political Practices Commission that imposed the fine.

We will continue to keep you informed on these and other events in our effort to bring transparency, accountability and good government to Lafayette.

Court temporarily blocks upscale homes in Lafayette

As reported in the East Bay Times:

A San Francisco appeals court judge has temporarily blocked the city of Lafayette from work on the approved Homes at Deer Hill project while it considers an appeal from the group Save Lafayette. A temporary stay has been issued barring Lafayette from implementing an ordinance allowing the Homes at Deer Hill project and any further work on the high-end housing development.

PUBLISHED: June 27, 2017 at 9:52 am | UPDATED: June 27, 2017 at 9:53 am
LAFAYETTE — A state appeals court has blocked the approved Homes at Deer Hill development from moving forward.

First Appellate District court Judge Ignazio J. Ruvolo issued a temporary stay June 14 barring the city from implementing an ordinance allowing the residences and any further work on the high-end housing development.

The city can challenge the order, but it must do so by June 29, according to a court document.

The ruling comes in response to an appeal by the group Save Lafayette of a Contra Costa Superior Court judge’s dismissal of a lawsuit against the city of Lafayette last year. The group is challenging the city council’s rejection of a referendum petition asking that voters be allowed to approve or reject the Deer Hill development.

Save Lafayette spokesman Michael Griffiths said the group is concerned that the city is issuing permits and making related approvals despite a pending appeal.

“The city’s proceeding with all due haste although they’re potentially in violation of the election code because the lawsuit isn’t resolved,” Griffiths said.

State law requires petitioners seeking to approve or reject an ordinance or other regulation collect signatures from 10 percent of registered voters within 30 days.

Save Lafayette gathered more than 2,300 signatures, 1,809 of which were verified by county elections officials and certified by the city clerk. But city leaders decided in December 2015 that the petition was invalid because it would reverse a zoning change made to the development site, and create a conflict with Lafayette’s amended general plan.

Noting the judge granted the temporary stay without having received opposition from the city, City Attorney Mala Subramnian said Lafayette plans to oppose the group’s appeal.

“Save Lafayette has not adequately demonstrated a threat of irreparable harm sufficient to merit the imposition of a stay nor that the appeal has merit,” she wrote in an email.

Griffiths said the group took issue with the city’s reasoning for the denial, and said it was taking no position on the project itself.

“Our whole basis for this appeal is that the voters have a constitutional right to vote on this. The way the city went about denying the referendum, we feel, is not appropriate.”

The stay comes on the heels of a settlement between the city and the San Francisco Bay Area Renters’ Federation (SFBARF), which had sued Lafayette over the construction of the 44 homes pitched on a hillside above Highway 24.

The O’Brien Land Company had originally proposed 315 moderate-income apartments at the site before striking a deal with the city to build the residences and several public amenities there.

The City of Lafayette proposed sports field at Highway 24, Pleasant Hill Road, and Deer Hill may expose Lafayette children to air pollutants exceeding state standards.

As part of the Homes at Deer Hill project approved by the Lafayette City Council in 2016, the City agreed to spend $2 Million for a public sports field located in the northwest corner of the intersection of the 24 Freeway and Pleasant Hill Road, in an area partly within and partly beyond 500 feet of the freeway. The agreement reportedly was generated in a closed door meeting between the City Manager and the developer. Using $2 Million of public money, the City would put a new sports field including parking in a location surrounded on three sides by heavy rush hour traffic and a major source of toxic air contaminants and particulate matter, with the expectation that a primary use would be for children’s sports teams including afternoon and weekend practices and games. No consideration or study was given to the issue of the air pollution and potential health impacts on the children, pregnant mothers, and other sensitive populations that would use the field on a regular basis.

In doing so, the City Council and staff ignored citizen comments and multiple red flags. As the Acalanes High School and Lafayette School Districts know, since 2003 State law (Senate Bill 352, 2003 Legislative session; Education Code 17213(c)(2)(C)), citing the risks of forty types of air pollutants generated by freeway traffic, has prohibited school districts from placing new schools and facilities within 500 feet of a freeway. Proven known, significant, adverse health impacts include higher rates of asthma, respiratory disorders, heart attacks, strokes, and lung cancer. For the last decade California air quality officials have warned against locating preschools and homes within 500 or 1000 feet of freeways. Multiple adverse respiratory health effects studied by the USC Environmental Health Center were cited by the Los Angeles Times in its article “L.A. Keeps Building Near Freeways, Even Though Living There Makes People Sick” (March 2, 2017). The medical literature on exposure to air pollutants is extensive and uniformly negative, particularly as to effects on children.

Paradoxically, in approving the development, the City accepted a project report requiring MERV air filtration systems in all residential units, and a written disclosure by the developer to residents that they are at risk of exposure to air pollutants if they open their windows. The EIR for the project stated the adverse health impacts of the freeway air pollution on the residents of the Homes would result in an onsite cancer risk at a level of 63, against the allowed state standard of 10; a cancer risk to residents over 6 times greater. So how did the City Council approve a sports field at a cost of $2 Million that would expose children to multiple toxic air contaminants without any safeguards or warnings whatsoever- an act that would violate State law if done by a school district?

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) has been issuing guidance on these risks for years- it publishes a “Planning Healthy Places: A Guidebook for Addressing Local Sources of Air Pollutants in Community Planning” that was ignored by the City. The BAAQMD Guidebook tells us that “air pollution levels are highest in close proximity to air pollution sources such as freeways, busy roadways …including toxic air contaminants (TAC), fine particulate matter (PM)…Children and infants are among the most susceptible to air pollution due to their developing lungs, higher inhalation rates, narrower airways, and less mature immune systems.” The Guidebook further states: “Other sensitive populations include the elderly, pregnant women, and those with respiratory or cardiovascular illnesses affected by air pollution…we need to be mindful that locating sensitive populations to close proximity to local sources of air pollution (such as freeways) can expose people to harmful air pollution.”

BAAQMD also produces a map, part of which is attached, depicting the field site and parking area within and adjacent to the areas shown in purple on Highway 24 and Pleasant Hill Road. The purple is for areas in which the BAAQMD has found “elevated levels of air pollution” and estimates that state and federal air quality standards can be exceeded, and for which it recommends “Best Practices to Reduce Exposure”. This includes “Health Protective Distances” for which Bay Area cities should “plan sensitive land uses as far from local sources of air pollution as is feasible.”

So what should be done? The City Council was not “mindful” of putting a children field use next to a freeway, did not evaluate the risk, nor did it consider “Health Protective Distances” and planning this sensitive use far away from a major source of toxic air contaminants. It should halt the fields project immediately. Concerned citizens, and especially parents of children that would be at risk, should demand a complete, independent, and professional analysis of the health risks, including appropriate sampling and medical evaluation or, alternatively, that the City reallocate the $2Million to a more suitable location in accordance with the BAAQMD recommendations.

It is UNACCEPTABLE that our City ignored these risks and the recommendations of qualified agencies such as BAAQMD. Our children deserve better!  This project requires further study and public input.

This piece was written by Lafayette citizens Susan Candell, Scott Sommer, and Paul Melmed, with input from members of Save Lafayette.

Air Pollution Map

Our Mission Statement

Our mission is to protect and foster the quality of life in Lafayette, while supporting sensible growth consistent with the 2002 Lafayette General Plan.  In addition to ecologically preserving open space and parks for recreation and public enjoyment and maintaining the distinct nature of our unique neighborhoods, we support the health and safety of all current and future residents and children.  Save Lafayette acts as a watchdog of City activities and serves as a voice for the community.  We monitor development proposals that may further negatively impact city congestion, traffic, parking and school overcrowding.  Our goal is to inform the community in a factual and transparent manner and to encourage the City officials and staff to act accordingly.  In all matters we expect the City to stringently follow the law.  We will also encourage qualified candidates to serve the City.

Don’t Let Big Real Estate and Government Overreach Ruin Your Neighborhood!

State and local governments are moving to suppress and curtail citizen’s rights for local control over their neighborhoods. They are legislating to ignore vital local protections and deny citizens their right to vote. Zoning and environmental codes have been enacted to help manage growth and prevent the ill-effects of unconstrained construction. Don’t let government officials use their misconceived plans to allow big real estate developers to laugh all the way to the bank at the expense of your neighborhood. We can’t just build our way out of the housing crisis, we need sensible plans for balanced growth.

Please join Save Lafayette’s fight protect our neighborhoods from Big Real Estate and overreaching government! Come to the courthouse on Friday June 24, 2016 at 9:00 am to show your support and protect your voting rights and hit the Donate button on the right side to help us pay for this fight!

Superior Court of Contra Costa County
725 Court St.
Room 312, Dept. 34
Martinez, California

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Help Us Preserve Your Right To Vote!

In late 2015, 2300 Lafayette residents – 39% more than required – signed Save Lafayette’s petition in just 24 days to vote on the Homes at Deer Hill development. This was only the second ballot petition in Lafayette’s history.

Petition signers wanted a chance to vote on whether the development’s purported benefits outweighed the significant impacts of traffic congestion, air quality and violation of the City’s Hillside and Open Space ordinances. The County Registrar and City Clerk both verified there was an adequate number of Lafayette voter signatures to qualify for a ballot.

Despite all of the above, at a City Council meeting just before the holidays in mid December, the City Attorney recommended that the Council reject the Save Lafayette petition “because it would create an inconsistency between the newly amended General Plan and the previous zoning”. Remarkably, the attorney memo did not actually explain what the purported conflict specifically was. Without any input from Save Lafayette, the City Council immediately accepted the recommendation and refused to put the project on a ballot, thereby denying the rights of Lafayette voters.

Save Lafayette’s attorneys and land use advisors do not believe there is a conflict and that the voters’ constitutional rights should be respected, even if it is inconvenient for the deal struck between the City and the Developer. It is our position that the General Plan map residential zoning is consistent with the APO zoning under Ordinance 6-1004 (g and h) that would result if the voter referendum passes. A detailed explanation and copy of the petition will be posted on our website for all to read.

The City Attorney has not responded to Save Lafayette’s request for clarification on this matter, leading us to conclude that the City is trying to run the clock out on the time allowed to file a lawsuit, which would force the City to respect voters’ rights.

Therefore to preserve our constitutional right to vote on this matter, Save Lafayette will bring suit against the City, challenging its ruling on the petition. We have some of the best legal minds and land use experts on board and 100% of the funds collected go towards this effort. We need your support to see this suit through to defend the democratic process!


Please click on the “Donate” button on the right side of this page or send a check to

Save Lafayette
3527 Mount Diablo Boulevard, #177
Lafayette CA 94549



The Deer Hill Challenge Continues, The CEQA Battle Doesn’t

Save Lafayette has decided to withdraw its CEQA lawsuit challenging the Final Environmental Impact Report for The Homes at Deer Hill.  On December 14, 2015, after receiving certification from the County and the Lafayette City Clerk that 1809 Lafayette voter signatures were valid and that the referendum qualified for the ballot, the City Council nevertheless declined – on the advice of city attorney Mala Subramanian – to place the measure on the ballot and schedule the election.

Save Lafayette vigorously disputes the council’s disregard of the voters’ will and is considering a further legal proceeding, as the CEQA issue is now secondary to whether the city will allow the Save Lafayette measure to be voted on by the electorate. We are not giving up or going away. Our full commitment to maximizing open space and minimizing traffic in regard to this project continues unabated – we simply want to pursue the most promising avenues. Stay tuned for further updates on our activities as we continue our efforts to achieve these goals and to ensure that the community has a strong, representative voice in the decision process and the ultimate outcome of The Homes at Deer Hill project.

Your Signature Counted!

Over 10% of Lafayette’s voter signed our petition within the 30 day period required by law to challenge a legislative action. This is a major achievement that sends a loud message to the City that the citizens would want to hit the “pause” button on rapid growth. While this milestone is significant, there are many hurdles to overcome.

The City will now need to either reverse its approval of “The Homes at Deer Hill” project, or put the project to a simple “yes or no” referendum decision of Lafayette voters, most likely in March 2016.

While Save Lafayette is moving forward on the voter ballot, we will continue to negotiate with the representatives of the developer and the property owner in an effort to to protect all interests and to see how we can retain maximum open space with minimum traffic impacts. These efforts take time and money, more so now as we are entering a much more detailed phase than that of the petition.

As a non-profit organization of volunteer Lafayette residents with significant legal and operating expenses, Save Lafayette is asking for your financial support to sustain this campaign on your behalf. Please click on the “Donate” button on the right side of this page. If you would like to consider a major donation to truly preserve open space, please contact Mike Griffiths – your pledge could be the one that makes that difference!

There are lot of development projects already in progress in Lafayette. We want to get a less impactful outcome at the Deer Hill Road site and work with the city to assure that going forward, development will be in balance with the City’s infrastructure capacity.