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 


“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.”


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.


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.


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


  • 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