Author: Save Lafayette

Stop the Terraces!  Here are the FACTS.

If you live in or near Lafayette, the massive 315-unit apartment project at the corner of Pleasant Hill Road and Deer Hill Road affects you. It would worsen traffic, air quality, and school class size; cause months-long noise, impede emergency evacuation and first responder access, and include cancer-causing formaldehyde building materials. Yet on August 24, 2020, the City Council approved it, despite many serious errors and omissions in the original Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and subsequent filings. This approval came after years of controversy and citizen objections to the project in many letters and public meetings.  Unable to convince the City of the proven inaccuracies and omissions in the EIR and due to apparent staff mismanagement of the environmental review process, Save Lafayette was forced to take legal action, and on September 23, 2020, filed litigation against the City of Lafayette, the property owner, and the developer.

Save Lafayette’s Legal Challenge

This legal challenge is based on the inadequacy of the EIR and the resubmitted project’s inconsistency with the General Plan and zoning laws. The 2013 EIR identified thirteen unavoidable adverse environmental impacts that could not be mitigated.  The resubmitted project fails to adequately address these and others that could be expected.

Save Lafayette and other concerned citizens argued that a Subsequent or Supplemental EIR – requiring extensive public agency review and circulation — should be submitted by the developer, as required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). But the City accepted a mere Addendum (a less complete addition) to the 2013 EIR, in clear violation of CEQA.  Save Lafayette’s goal is to require the City to prepare, circulate, and consider a legally adequate CEQA document, not approving the project until and unless the requirements of CEQA and consistency with the General Plan have been met.  This is the law. Citizens of Lafayette and surrounding areas deserve nothing less.

The Resubmitted Terraces Project

The resubmitted Terraces project has significant changes from the original 2011 proposal, including a new southbound lane added on already crowded Pleasant Hill Road and an extension of the northbound turn lane at the intersection of Pleasant Hill Road and Deer Hill, changes that would only encourage more traffic. The plan calls for the removal of many more trees – including protected “Heritage” trees – than originally proposed and two acres of native blue wild rye, threatening habitats of legally protected birds and mammals utilizing the site.

Experts hired by Save Lafayette confirm that these changes would create significant negative environmental impacts. Yet the City unlawfully ignored these expert findings and flagrantly defied Lafayette’s own General Plan (which designates the project site as Low Density Single Family Residential (SF-LD) and zoning laws which would allow up to 14 single family homes. (R-65 adopted 7/23/18 – Ord. 668). Neither the old General Plan and zoning, nor the new General Plan and zoning allow multi-family housing by right on the site, or projects anywhere near the size of the Terraces. 

Violation of CEQA

In addition to the significant unavoidable adverse impacts identified in the 2013 EIR, the Addendum failed to adequately address impacts on scenic vistas and resources, visual character, air quality, airborne cancer risks, greenhouse gas emissions, and noise. The project is inconsistent with City of Lafayette land use and planning policies and the Hillside Development permit requirements set forth in the Municipal Code.

Traffic Congestion

The City’s traffic consultant TJKM had previously been hired and paid by the developer to work on a traffic report in December, 2018, that on April 29, 2019, was rejected by the City as “inadequate and requires substantial revisions and additional technical analysis. … Some of the conclusions made were not accompanied by sufficient evidence or justification.” The Council instructed staff to have a new traffic study prepared. Incredibly, staff hired TJKM to do this new study despite their obvious conflict of interest.  So earlier this year, TJKM provided another woefully deficient study of the expected impacts on traffic in the area surrounding the project site.  Save Lafayette, in response, hired traffic consultant Elite Transportation Group, whose report revealed numerous egregious omissions in the TJKM report.

Furthermore, the August 10 City staff report represents the project is “adding a trap lane [forced turn] for the SR-24 westbound on ramp,” but this has not been approved under the Gateway Constraints policy, which other agencies control and may not be forthcoming.

Fire Safety and Evacuation

The worst part? The property is located entirely in a Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone as designated by the State AND the City. Astonishingly, TJKM also declared that the project (which would house at least 550 cars) would have essentially NO impact on the evacuation of existing Lafayette residents trying to escape via Pleasant Hill Road in the event of a significant wildfire. Do you believe that? Four members of City Council apparently did. 

Save Lafayette’s traffic consultants reviewed the evacuation study done by TJKM and found that within the Terraces project, including the new questionable Trap lane, of the 551 cars assumed, only 208 are able to get out in the first hour of the evacuation. 343 would be stuck.  If there is no Trap lane, only 16 cars would make it out in the first hour. 535 cars would be stuck in their driveways.

If no trap lane is built, an additional 553 neighborhood cars would be stuck in their driveways after the first hour, unable to even get to Pleasant Hill Road. Adding the trap lane drops this to 152 extra cars stuck in the first hour, but that is still 152 cars too many.  If you live on Springhill Road, Reliez Valley, Quandt Road, Stanley Boulevard, or one of their side roads, this project could prevent you from escaping the oncoming fire.

Both the Lafayette and Acalanes school districts have stated that traffic causes great concern for the safety of our students. The emergency plan to evacuate them from Acalanes High School, Springhill Elementary, and Montessori School relies on parents driving to the schools to pick up their children, adding to traffic and threatening gridlock. The Terraces plan is illusory. The June 22 TJKM evacuation scenario asserts that 266 Springhill and 1,124 Acalanes students “would be evacuated” by 5 County Connection buses for Springhill and 22 for Acalanes. This would supposedly eliminate 1,400 inbound and 1,400 outbound vehicle trips during emergency evacuation.

Actually, there are no such buses. The General Manager/CEO of County Connection wrote to the City Council that his agency had no contact with TJKM at all. He added that it could not in any case commit such resources in advance in the event of a wildfire evacuation. City staff and City council did not see this falsehood as reason to distrust TJKM’s traffic report, on that or any other issue.

Last October a relatively small wildfire swept across Highway 24 and burned down the Lafayette Tennis Club. Mandated evacuations resulted in total gridlock on side streets and in both directions of Pleasant Hill Road — and that was on a quiet Sunday afternoon.  Add over 550 vehicles from the Terraces, a larger wildfire, or one during commute or school hours, and you have a calamity waiting to happen.

What Happens Next?  

The City of Lafayette’s inattention to detail and willingness to overlook critical issues has forced Save Lafayette to take legal action in order to protect Lafayette’s current and future citizens.  Save Lafayette’s legal counsel, Lozeau Drury, is well versed in CEQA law and experienced in CEQA litigation.  We are in good hands.  But legal representation is expensive, and Save Lafayette must fundraise in order to continue this challenge of the City’s abuse of discretion and failure to proceed in a manner required by law. You can view the entire Verified Petition for Writ of Mandate on Save Lafayette’s website (www.savelafayette.org).

Remember, we won our last lawsuit against the City and the developer!

You can help. Please donate to Save Lafayette to defray legal costs for our campaign to keep this dangerous project out of Lafayette’s most gridlocked intersection.

Let us return to thoughtful inclusion of projects that work for our city and for the new members of all ethnicities whom we welcome into this community.

Read more and make a tax-deductible donation at www.savelafayette.org

Or send your check (payable to “Save Lafayette”) to

Save Lafayette, PO Box 1183,  3641 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, CA 94549

Superior Court of the State of California: Filed !

Petitioner SAVE LAFAYETTE (“Petitioner”) petitions this Court for a writ of mandate directed
to Respondents CITY OF LAFAYETTE, LAFAYETTE CITY COUNCIL, LAFAYETTE PLANNING
COMMISSION (collectively “Respondents” or “City”) and Real Party in Interest O’BRIEN LAND
COMPANY, LLC, and ANNA MARIA DETTMER as trustee for the AMD FAMILY TRUST (“Real
Parties” or “Applicants”), and by this verified petition alleges as follows:
1. Petitioner brings this action to challenge the unlawful actions of Respondents in… CONTINUE READING

CCTA Completely Refutes TJKM’s Traffic Testimony

Members of the City Council:

Attached to this correspondence is a letter dated August 21, 2020 from Rick Ramacier, General Manager/CEP of the Central Contra Costa Transit Authority (County Connection). You should all have a copy of this letter as it was addressed to the Mayor and council regarding testimony made by Renee Powell of TJKM Transportation Consultants at the council’s meeting of August 10, 2020. On the council’ s agenda that evening was the staff-recommended acceptance of the CEQA addendum and approval of the Terraces project. The letter was in response to a query by former Mayor Don Tatzin after Ms. Powell testified at the August 10th hearing that the County Connection would be providing 22 busses to evacuate Acalanes students and 5 for Springhill students in the event of a wildfire. However, the letter indicates that contrary to Ms. Powell’s very specific testimony as to how the evacuation process would play out, it does not appear that the County Connection had any knowledge of this supposed arrangement. In fact it does not appear that TJKM ever contacted the County Connection at all. You’ll recall that the subject of wildfire evacuation of students from the schools near the Deerhill property had been of major concern to the council at the August 10th hearing, and the assurances ofTJKM that that evacuation would be handled by parents and County Connection busses, was meant to assuage those concerns. However, attached the letter states that no one on the County Connection staff recalled ever speaking with anyone from TJKM regarding the proposed project (the Terraces), the topic of wildfire evacuation, or with someone from TJKM at all.

The information contained in Mr. Ramacier ‘ s letter completely refutes Ms. Powell’ s testimony…  CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE

Misstatements in Staff Report

Re: Response to Misstatements in Staff Report dated August 24, 2020 on L03-11 Terraces of Lafayette {Deer Hill); City Council Agenda August 24, 2020

Dear Mayor Anderson, Vice Mayor Candell, and Members of the City Council:

Staff has submitted another staff report dated August 24, 2020 for the upcoming City Council hearing on August 24, 2020. There are two significant misstatements in the staff report, respectively concerning (i) Gov. Code section 66300 and the 2015 General Plan land use designation and 2018 zoning , and (ii) that purportedly the Deer Hill property is not within the Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone duly designated by the City of Lafayette on June 10, 2013, Ordinance No. 620, which is final and shall not be rebuttable by the state director pursuant to Gov. Code sections 51178 and 51179(d).

Staff also continues to review statistics on progress of current permit issuance on multi­ family units for the 5th cycle (2015-2023) without mention that Lafayette’s housing element was determined to be in “full compliance” through 2023 by the California Dept. of Housing and Community Development, by letter dated March 26, 2015. For purpose of the HAA, Gov. Code section 65589.5(d)(5), denial of a project is authorized if the jurisdiction’s “revised housing element … is in substantial compliance.” Staff fails to mention this indisputable fact and that the City satisfies the HAA standard, erroneously implying that the city is required to approve this project.        CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE

Staff Report statements are completely contradictory

Dear Mayor Anderson, Vice Mayor Candell, and Members of the City Council,

 

Thank you for sticking with the public comments until the very end of your August 10, 2020 meeting and for allowing them to be done “in person.”

I appreciated the questions you asked to the hired experts especially regarding fire safety and traffic.  Mr. Kinzel, the TJKM consultant stated that “we are not aware that either school has an evacuation plan.” (Marker 3:11:00, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crMzz-1AJwc&t=31294s). As I said in my public comments that evening, that is not correct.

I have included the link to handbooks for both Acalanes High School and Springhill Elementary School.  I have pulled some excerpts from their plans below.

Acalanes Student Handbook, Pg. 17 

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0OnG_LIHQsVZkl2RllyQTd4aVUxX3J4VW5LVkJoZkVpa2VF/view

“A School District Disaster Preparedness Plan has been prepared, with individual school site plans. School personnel and students have been trained to respond properly to foreseeable emergencies such as fire, earthquake, or chemical accident.

In a major crisis the parent or guardian will report to the school to check out and pick up their students.”

Springhill Parent Handbook, Pg. 7

“If it is safe to do so, you are urged to come to school to pick up your child”

“If it is determined that the school would need to be evacuated to a different location, a safe exit would be the responsibility of the emergency service providers.  A plan to evacuate the schools was developed by the Lafayette Police Department and schools would be a priority if an evacuation was necessary.”

https://ses-lafsd-ca.schoolloop.com/pf4/cms2/view_page?d=x&group_id=1525505248024&vdid=i420g282mjh23

I sent the above information to the Planning Commission after their May 18th meeting because I, like you, questioned where TJKM came up with their suggested mitigation of 27 buses.  Having lived very close to both of these schools for over 14 years and having been through an evacuation last fall, I cannot comprehend how 27 buses would be able to get from a facility in Concord to the schools in a timely manner during an evacuation. Even if one could put the impact of traffic aside, I question how quickly you could mobilize 27 busses and 27 bus drivers.

I respectfully request you get input from the school districts as well as clarification from Chief Aldritt.  As I stated in my public comments, I would also like to know why TJKM did not factor in the two area preschools (Happy Days Learning Center and Diablo Montessori) in their evacuation plan.

Additionally, I request that you get input from the 4 nearby schools about what the impact of noise and air quality may have on the students.  For example, how will the noise from 45 dump trucks an hour for 9 months work with high school students daily learning and test taking?  How poor will the air quality be for kids playing on play structures or participating in sports outside?  If the project is built, how safe is the air quality for the tenants inside the buildings and outside such as at the proposed pool?

Lastly, if you have not already done so, please read the 2013 Design Review Resolution of Denial as well as the 2013 General Plan Consistency Analysis and compare it to the 2020 City Council Draft Resolution of Approval. I have attached a copy of both.

You will find that they are very different and I would ask that you please question our city staff why such drastic changes in their findings?

For example, look at the following regarding Land Use Permit.

  • 6-215 Findings Required For a Land Use Permit. A land use permit may be granted only when the proposed land use:
  1. Is not detrimental to the health, safety, and general welfare of the city; 

2013 Staff Report:

The proposed Project is not in the best interest of the public health, safety and general welfare. 

2020 Staff Report:

The Project will not be detrimental to the health and safety of the city. 

2013 Staff Report:

The EIR finds that the Project will result in 13 significant and unavoidable environmental impacts in the areas of aesthetics, air quality, biological resources, land use, and traffic. The Project does not comply with goals and policies of the General Plan…”

2020 Staff Report:

An EIR has been certified and an Addendum has been prepared and this analysis does not find any significant and unavoidable health and safety impacts on the environment or the community.”

  1. Is consistent with the general plan and each element of it and will not adversely affect the policies and goals set forth in the general plan;

2013 Staff Report

The Project is not consistent with many goals and policies of the General Plan.

2020 Staff Report:

The Project is consistent with many goals and policies of the General Plan…”

The statements are completely contradictory.  Same project.  Same Staff.  HAA was in existence in 2013.  The change in reports does not make sense and I urge you to ask our city staff why.

 

I truly thank all of you for the time you give to our wonderful community.

Sincerely,

Jenifer Paul

Lafayette, CA

Unavoidable Factors

Dear Mayor Anderson, Vice Mayor Candell, and Members of the City Council :

At the close of the hearing on August 10, the city council made it clear that it had listened to the public comment, reviewed the materials, and was ready to deliberate on this matter. Save Lafayette does not intend to submit more consultant materials, but reserves the right to respond if new and additional materials are submitted by the city’s consultants, the developer, or third parties.

RECOMMENDED ACTION

We would like to provide our position on the proper decision to be made by the council. This recommendation is shaped by several unavoidable factors:

First, it is abundantly clear that the ‘addendum’ document fails to adequately address multiple environmental and public safety issues and does not comply with the rigorous requirements of CEQA. The ‘addendum’ must be disapproved as it fails to comply with CEQA.

Second, staff inadvisedly combined the hearings on the application with the hearings on the addendum and requirements of CEQA, even though this was not required . The HAA fully leaves the requirements of CEQA intact (note, for example, that the city council voted on the original EIR in 2013 without combining it with a hearing on approving or denying the project). This has placed great and unnecessary pressure on

the public and city council. Nevertheless, we are at the point … CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE

The City Can and Should Deny Approval Of The Project

Mayor Anderson, Members of the City Council and City Manager Srivatsa:

I am writing on behalf of Save Lafayette, a non-profit organization composed of
residents living in and around the City of Lafayette (“City”) concerning the proposed
Terraces of Lafayette Project (“Project”) proposed to be constructed at 3233 Deer Hill
Road, at the southwest corner of Pleasant Hill and Deer Hill Roads (APN-232-150-027)
by the O’Brien Land Company, LLC (“Developer”). Save Lafayette appeals the July 1,
20201 decision of the Lafayette Planning Commission approving the Project and the
Addendum prepared for the Project pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act
(“CEQA”), set forth in Planning Commission Resolution 2020-14. In particular, Save
Lafayette challenges the following decisions of the Planning Commission:

Read Full Letter Click Here

A Number Of Grounds For Denial

Dear Mayor Anderson and Members of the City Council:
There are a number of grounds for denial of the Terraces application including,
but not limited to, the failure of the ‘Addendum’ to comply with CEQA, and specific,
adverse impacts upon the public health or safety under the Housing Accountability Act
(HAA), Government Code section 65589.5(d)(2), which have been covered in other
correspondence and reports submitted to the city. Please refer also to the
correspondence of our attorney being submitted for the August 10 hearing.

There are two other important threshold grounds for denial of the current
Terraces apartments application which are not being addressed by staff. This letter will
focus on these two grounds and request that these two issues be specifically addressed
at the hearing on August 10.

As you and the public consider these issues, it is important to understand that
staff in this matter is not being objective, but presenting one-sided advocacy in favor of
the project. That includes …

Full Letter Click Here to Read

Lafayette has no shortage of housing

June 24, 2020

Dear Chair Sturm and Commission Members:

RE: The Terraces Project

The following information is provided to give you a more factual understanding of the housing that Lafayette has provided since 2014 and the future housing it can provide.  This information is also in response to the subjective housing concerns raised by City staff in their report to you.  It should be abundantly clear that the City does not have a housing problem, nor will it have a housing problem for its Housing Element and RHNA numbers, now, or in the distant future.

1) According to numbers provided by City staff, since 2014 the City has approved, in process, or in the pipeline about 920 housing units.  Under the City’s approved Housing Element, the City is only required to provide 400 housing units from 2014 through 2022.

2) The City has designated under their approved Housing Element (HE) about 20-25 parcels in the downtown with the potential for about 650 housing units to meet their State requirement of 400 housing units (RHNA) and the various affordability categories.  Most of the parcels set aside for housing in the HE have not been built upon.  And, almost all the parcels noted in Item 1 above are on parcels other than those the City set aside in their approved HE.  When you consider the parcels in Item 1 above plus the parcels set aside for housing development, they total almost 1,600 housing units.

3) And, if you take into account the up to 825 housing units that the BART property may require of the City by 2029 under AB2923, the total number of housing units available will approach 2,400 housing units.

4) Further, if you add the current growth rate of new housing based upon the period 2014-2020 on parcels other than set aside for RHNA numbers, there could be up to another 1,200 housing units approved, in process, in the pipeline, or available to be built by 2029.  When this figure is added to the above numbers, the total is about 3,600 housing units by 2029.  If the current number of housing units in Lafayette is about 9,000, then this is a 40% increase in housing available for the City by 2029.  Even if all of these housing units do not materialize, the City has nine times the amount required.  And these numbers do not even include The Terraces 315 housing units.

5) No other City in the State even comes close to meeting these numbers on a per capita basis.  And, given that the State’s population has been declining for the past few years, as well as in the nine Bay Area counties except for Santa Clara County, there could well be a much smaller increase in the RHNA numbers going forward.

6) The City has an approved Housing Element that was certified as being “in full compliance” with State law by the California Department of Housing and Community Development per letter dated March 26, 2015.  The City has adequate zoning and land available for full compliance with all RHNA requirements now and in the future.

In summary, you do not have to worry about Lafayette’s housing numbers.  It is not a valid reason to override the City’s General Plan, Hillside Development Ordinance and other protections.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,
Michael Griffiths
Save Lafayette