After a 90-minute public hearing, the council voted 4-0 Wednesday evening to approve a process agreement with the project’s developer, the O’Brien Land Company.
The agreement allows the developer to replace their original plans for 315 apartments on the 22-acre property at Deer Hill Road and Pleasant Hill Road with the current proposal for 45 single-family homes.
David Baker, the project manager, said the company might be able to submit new plans to the city planning department within a month
"It's the beginning of a new process," said Councilman Mark Mitchell.
They said the 45-home proposal gives them an option to the 315-unit proposal. They added it's a plan that can be altered and is worth considering.
"We do have an opportunity to have input," said Councilman Mike Anderson. "At least we have a chance to do something different and something better."
The council members added the threat of a lawsuit by the developer should the project be denied is a real threat and can't be ignored.
"We have a very difficult situation," said Vice Mayor Brandt Andersson.
The council got its first official look at the new plan at its Dec. 9 meeting.
As currently proposed, the development would have up to 45 homes from 2,000 to 2,500 square feet each on 9 acres in the center of the site.
The remaining land would contain open space, an all-weather soccer/lacrosse field, a dog park, a tot lot and a 75-space public parking lot that could help with overflow parking needs at Acalanes High School events.
During the public hearing, more than 20 residents spoke, most of them opposed to the development.
Many of them said the new subdivision would increase traffic near Acalanes High as well as in downtown Lafayette.
One of them, Ron Brown, said “downtown Lafayette is already overcrowded” and these additional homes along with other developments will discourage people from shopping in Lafayette. He said people will go to Walnut Creek or Pleasant Hill instead.
Adam Gilberd said the project would harm two of the city’s best assets -- its semi-rural character and its schools.
He said the failure of city staff to rezone the property years ago is “a catastrophic error for the city.” He said the 45-home project is too large for the site.
“It will not fit on the dirt we are talking about,” said Gilberd. “It’s a disaster. This is not a reason to be doing high fives.”
Kendra Loveless said 45 new homes could bring 100 new students to Lafayette’s already crowded schools, especially nearby Springhill Elementary School.
“It is full. There isn’t the square footage,” she said.
Other residents accused the council of approving the project because the developer has threatened to sue the city if the development wasn’t approved.
“Please do not be bullied by the threat of a lawsuit,” said one resident.
Eliot Hudson, representing the Secluded Valley Homeowners Association, criticized the project’s size, the height of the homes and the traffic it will cause.
He said the city is approving too many projects and destroying the semi-rural character of the community.
“This city government is ruining this town from end to end at breakneck speed,” he said.
Eliot and other speakers also said they felt City Manager Steven Falk has been using the city’s website to make a “pitch” for the development.
Eliot said Falk should be reprimanded and should refrain from offering “personal opinions” on the website.
Several residents did speak in favor of the project. Daniel Muller, a land use attorney, said The Terraces are “smart growth next to a freeway” and is a proper development for the site.
Susan Callister said the project will bring additional housing as well as a park and other amenities to the community.
“It has my full support and the support of friends and neighbors,” she said.