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


  • Wildfire risk is very high at the site, as the city itself has noted since 2013.Wildfire evacuation of 550 cars from the Terraces will create additional deadly risk for apartment residents and deadly delays for other residents heading south on Pleasant Hill Road (PHR).
  • Wildfires can burn up to one acre a second.
  • 95% of wildfire is caused by humans, 90% of its fuel from buildings.
  • Sparks from Vehicles on adjacent Highway 24 could start a wildfire.
  • Apartment air pollution will be ten times the Bay Area acceptable standard.
  • Remember the tennis club fire that stopped the freeway, caused PHR traffic and evacuation delays on a Sunday afternoon in non-commute time.
  • Outside air pollution and contaminants will be nine times the Bay Area acceptable standard and will cause cancer and other serious illnesses, especially in Acalanes HS students, who will be at the center of the pollution fallout. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District noted that the site is unacceptably polluted.
  • PHR Traffic has increased by 30% since the 2013 data the city used for their Terraces analysis – Pleasant Hill Road intersections already get an F grade.
  • Traffic congestion endangers lives, especially students, and makes emergency response even worse.
  • Noise pollution during the many months of moving/grading 500,000 cubic yards will be above Bay Area acceptable standards, impacting nearby schools.
  • The Planning Commission given incorrect/ inadequate information by City StaffNew information was presented, but public not given opportunity to respond
  • The developer’s threat of a $15M legal penalty is unrealistic – more than 90% of that cost can be easily avoided by the city.
  • A wildfire class action lawsuit would make $15M look like chump change – how much are 10-50-100 deaths worth?
  • Lafayette’s Housing Element, which has been approved by the State as in “full compliance” for 2015-2023, identified land where 792 very low, low, moderate, and above-moderate income units can be built in the city core, almost double the state RHNA assignment of 400. Furthermore, according to numbers provided by City staff, since 2014 the City has approved, in process, or in the pipeline about 920 housing units, many which are not included in the 792 identified units.
  • The Terraces application is inconsistent with the City’s General Plan and Zoning, the California Environmental Quality Act and the Housing Accountability Act.
  • Approval of this project could set a dangerous citywide precedent, which would allow other massive residential developments, without resident recourse to lawsuits or referendums.

We are pursuing all possible remedies to ensure Lafayette gets the best outcome for its residents, protecting their lives as much as possible.

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.

Michael Griffiths
Save Lafayette

The original project, recommended for denial by City staff, has hardly changed. But now City staff is recommending approval ?!

Colin Elliott

3356 Hermosa Way, Lafayette, CA 94549

June 23, 2020

Dear Chair Sturm and Planning Commissioners:

Re: The Proposed Terraces Project

As you consider the revived Terraces application, I thought it might be informative for you to review a copy of the November 25, 2013 City Staff Report for the Design Review Commission authored by Mr. Greg Wolff recommending denial of The Terraces application. In addition to City staff, both the Circulation Commission and Design Review Commission (DRC) recommended denial of the project to the Planning Commission in 2013. In Exhibit 1 of this City Staff Report to the DRC is a list of twenty-one General Plan (GP) goals, policies and programs from the Land Use Chapter of the GP (as it existed at the time the application was deemed complete) as they apply to the project.  Of those twenty-one GP goals, policies and programs, the project was found to be inconsistent with nineteen of them.

Obviously, more than sufficient grounds for denial of the project. An approval of the project would require major changes to the General Plan. Since the same City staff is now recommending approval of the project, why aren’t they also finding the same inconsistencies to the GP?

Given the Planning Commission and subsequently the City Council had previously certified the EIR in August 2013 containing 13 significant adverse impacts that could not be mitigated, one could also … CLICK HERE TO READ FULL LETTER


Terraces attorneys threaten the City with lawsuits BUT….

These five items below are the real threats to the City:

  • Terraces wildfire and traffic evacuation delays would threaten lives for all those anywhere near Pleasant Hill Road north of Highway 24.
  • Terraces violates local and regional policy, and state law in regard to traffic impacts, wildfire risk and evacuation, air pollution, noise pollution, wildlife species, grasses and trees.
  • Terraces EIR Addendum is not compliant with the City General Plan nor with State Law.
  • The City’s Planning Commission Terraces-related meetings violate the State’s Brown Act.
  • This project, if approved, could remove lawsuits/referenda as protections against other housing development projects anywhere in Lafayette.

Mayor Anderson acknowledged just three months ago that Lafayette need local local jobs (short about 600) and local businesses, not more housing (Lamorinda Weekly 3/18/20).  Lafayette has already met its State Housing Element requirement through 2022.

Please read the documents below to learn more

Roadmap for Denial – 06/10/2020

Experts highlight Air Quality issues,  which City ignores – 06/10/2020

City Can Deny the project – 05/18/2020

Traffic Study Significant issues  – 05/17/2020

“City Attorney’s Mistaken Advice” – 05/14/2020


Conflict of Interest: Traffic Impact Study

April 2, 2020

Save Lafayette,
3220 Ronino Way,
Lafayette CA. 94549

Attached: Terraces of Lafayette Traffic Impact Study Report Review

Re: Terraces of Lafayette Updated Traffic Impact Study

Dear Planning Commissioners

As you are aware, Save Lafayette has expressed serious reservations in the past
about using TJKM to undertake an updated traffic study for the Terraces, because
of its conflict of interest in having been previously hired by the developer. Since
City staff showed no interest in correcting this situation, Save Lafayette decided to
hire an independent traffic consultant to undertake a peer review of the January
2020 updated report prepared by TJKM.

Save Lafayette has hired Elite Transportation Group, whose principals – Lawrence
Liao and Lin Zhang – are highly experienced and respected traffic engineers, with
clients such as BART, SFMTA, the Federal Highway Administration, and
Caltrans, as well as various Bay Area cities. A copy of the peer review memo
prepared by Dr. Zhang is attached for you to read.

You will see from the memo that it raises numerous significant issues and
shortcomings with the TJKM report, all of which will need to be addressed before
it can be accepted and included in the supplemental EIR for the Project.

Following are some of the major issues raised by Dr. Zhang in his memo:

  • The Delay Indexes used by TJKM for Pleasant Hill Road and Highway 24
    are based on outdated (2013) information and therefore significantly under-
    estimated. Based on the correct data, the project would have an un-
    mitigatable significant adverse impact on Pleasant Hill Road.
  • The emergency vehicle preemption (EVP) system recommended by TJKM
    as a mitigation measure to offset the impact of the project on emergency
    vehicle access will NOT work during congested or peak times. This is
    therefore also a significant adverse impact that cannot be mitigated.
  • The impacts during construction have incorrectly assumed an 8-hour
    workday and therefore significantly understate the impacts of dump truck
    traffic on local streets during the massive grading that would be required.
    Yet another significant adverse impact.
  • The impact of the significant reduction in the size of the passenger pick-up
    zone on the west side of Pleasant Hill Road, south of Deer Hill Road has not
    been considered.
  • The safety conflicts between the proposed bike lane, trap lane, loading zone
    and entrance driveway on Pleasant Hill Road have not been adequately
  • The property’s location in a VHFHSZ fire zone and the proposed project’s
    impact on evacuation routes and emergency first-responder access have not
    been considered and should have been. Also, the impacts of PG&E power
    shut-offs have not been considered. These are all serious safety
    shortcomings in this new reality of high fire risk.
  • The impact of the project on the intersection of Deer Hill Road and Laurel
    Drive has not been considered.

In conclusion, the TJKM report is inadequate and needs to be revised before it can
be accepted as part of the EIR. Alternatively, you can deny the project based on
the unmitigable issues raised in the Elite memo. We therefore request that you
allow fifteen minutes for Dr. Zhang and his colleague to present their findings at
the next Commission meeting on April 27.

In addition, as you know, a project can be denied if there is just one significant
adverse impact that cannot be mitigated. There are numerous un-mitigable
problems with The Terraces. Additional new and essential EIR related material
that is being prepared by Impact Science should be made available for the public to
review at least a month before any further meetings are scheduled on the Terraces
proposal. Many of these are significant health and safety issues – this project
would literally put people’s lives at risk. Lafayette is allowing plenty of new
housing elsewhere in more suitable locations – this project is not worth the risks
and should not be rushed through without the opportunity for full public

Michael Griffiths
President, Save Lafayette

Attached: Terraces of Lafayette Traffic Impact Study Report Review