There have been many questions raised regarding the housing bills passed in 2017 and 2018. Here then is an attempt to answer those questions.
SB 35 provides for various housing reports, and expedited approval of multifamily projects if a locality that does not meet assigned housing goals fails to submit “an annual housing element report …for at least two consecutive years”. However, even that only applies to projects for which “at least 75 percent of the perimeter of the site adjoins parcels that are developed with urban uses”. Deer Hill meets 0 percent of this requirement. Deer Hill is not part of Lafayette’s multifamily housing element map. Also per city website, “Lafayette’s Housing Element was certified by the State of California on March 26, 2015” for 2014-2022. In other words, Lafayette is in compliance and Deer Hill wouldn’t fall within SB 35 even if the city wasn’t.
The other new laws cited mainly fall within the 2018 version of the Housing Accountability Act, Government Code 65589.5, addressed below.
The Deer Hill 44 Homes project has the Level of Service F traffic impacts, road closure, and steep roundabout that has been mentioned, no way to sugarcoat that. As for the air quality issue for the children’s play area 160 feet from PHR (36,000 cars/day), and sports field 200 feet from PHR and 50 feet from Deer Hill Road (12,200 cars/day), the air quality risk to children is undeniable. The developer’s consultant has put out a report disregarding and failing to report on fine to ultrafine Particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns, the type that penetrates into lung tissue, the bloodstream, and the body’s cells and blood/brain barrier according to James Leach, recipient of Lafayette’s Award of Environmental Excellence, and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s 2016 “Planning Healthy Places” [very small particulate matter “less than 2.5 microns…can travel deep into the lungs and and enter the bloodstream”; “children and infants are among the most susceptible…”; recommends “restricting sensitive land uses near heavily trafficked freeways/roadways”]. The Legislature restricts (Ed.Code 17213) public school district from placing new schoolsites within 500 feet of busy traffic corridors; the Ed. Code definition of schoolsite includes “playgrounds, athletic fields”.
For any reader trying to make sense of the developer’s claims on purported air safety- the key is to look for reference to particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns, the point below which the PM enters the bloodstream, cells, and brain per Mr. Leach, the BAAQMD, etc. You won’t find it disclosed in the developer’s report, who completely disregards this health risk. That’s how they try to claim the air is safe for active children playing near tens of thousands of cars. Similar near roadway sites monitored by BAAQMD for PM 2.5 test into the “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” monthly category, and they aren’t monitoring yet for below PM 2.5 which may be worse.
So what chance of 315 apartments coming back? The developer “suspended” that application on 1/13/14 in the face of major opposition and the City Council’s certification of the Apts EIR with 13 significant unavoidable environmental impacts. Included were 2 unavoidable air quality impacts and 3 unavoidable traffic impacts, literally “jammed conditions” with “unacceptable” delays to emergency responders. Even with the 2017 amendments, the Housing Accountability Act, Govt. Code 65589.5(d)(2), authorizes denial of multifamily for significant unavoidable (SU) public health and safety impacts. These SU impacts were certified by the City. Other claims by the developer and city attorney (who recommended breaching the city’s mandatory duty to voters in 2015, per the Court of Appeal) are also incorrect. The apts application lapsed in 2014 under controlling state law, and if “resubmitted” is subject to all new city ordinances and the Low Density Single Family Residential general plan designation adopted in 2015, under Govt. Code 65950(a)(1), 65957, 65943. Apartments would require a general plan amendment and be subject to another referendum (65301.5).
If you don’t like the 1224 vehicles/day and spending $3M of city money for a children’s play area and sports field by a busy traffic corridor, you should feel free to vote the way you want. There are better field locations and after June 5 the city could approve a more common sense project with less traffic impact to gridlocked PHR.