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Appeals court approves controversial Lafayette real estate project

LAFAYETTE - Lafayette's controversial The Terraces of Lafayette development can move forward, a state court of appeals ruled Wednesday.

Held up in court for about two years, the court upheld a superior court's 2021 decision, finding that the city's 2013 environmental review report complied with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and that the city properly followed the state's housing accountability act in approving the project.

Save Lafayette sued the city in 2020 to overturn the city council's approval of the project. The group said there were environmental, general plan and zoning consistency issues.

According to a statement from the city on Thursday, the appeals court held the city properly followed the housing accountability act by applying its general plan and zoning standards that were in effect when the application was deemed complete. The city said the court rejected all of Save Lafayette's CEQA challenges.

The court's decision becomes final 30 days after the ruling.

"We are pleased that the appellate court has affirmed that the city complied with the California Environmental Quality Act in its environmental review of the development project," said Lafayette Mayor Teresa Gerringer.

The council approved the project in August 2020, after more than nine years of planning by developer O'Brien Land Company, which is planning to build 315 rental apartments, including 63 below-market-rate units.

Community members had a long list of concerns about the project, including questions about wildfire safety and the project's traffic study. 

The development will sit on a 22-acre parcel on Deer Hill Road, just west of Pleasant Hill Road and north of state Highway 24, near Acalanes High School. Plans are for seven three-story buildings and seven two-story structures.

Project supporters said the dense residential development, about a mile and a half from Lafayette BART, is the type of transit-friendly housing called for in regional planning efforts including Plan Bay Area 2050, a long-range plan for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.

Opponents said the project is inconsistent with the city's semi-rural character and would make traffic worse near key commute routes. They also said it would violate the city's general plan.  

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