If the developers behind Lafayette’s largest apartment project expected a warm and fuzzy reception at Monday night’s Design Review Commission meeting, they didn’t get it. Despite assurances of LEED Silver certifications and rosy predictions of enhanced traffic flow in one of the city’s busiest locales, backers of the Terraces of Lafayette project were blistered by members of the public and by the commissioners themselves.
In a packed hearing room dominated by a massive scale model of the proposed 315-unit complex, architects representing property owner Anna Maria Dettmer and the O’Brien Land Company – who want to build the complex on a hillside at the corner of Pleasant Hill and Deer Hill Roads – maintained that the nexus of Highway 24, Pleasant Hill and Deer Hill roads was a “great location for apartments.”
But if anyone in the room agreed with that assertion, they didn’t admit to it Monday. Despite commission chair Bob Cleaver’s entreaties that interested parties confine their comments to the design aspect of the project, speaker after speaker lined up to lambaste the plan as “too big,” “too busy,” and out of character with the city’s perceived semi-rural allure.
Resident Michael Walker bluntly called the project a “monstrosity” and urged the commission to “use your power to erode the momentum this juggernaut of a project has built up.” If it were to be built, Walker said, “the proposed project will be a blight on this city.”
To one degree or another, subsequent speakers seemed to agree, with neighbor Jean Follmer maintaining the project was “aggressive, disrespectful, and fueled by greed.”
Commissioner Cleaver, gently trying to keep the focus of the evening’s meeting on the project’s proposed design, summed after public commentary had ended that “we have some issues here,” and stressed that the commission’s goal was to generate a series of questions the applicant could draw from to come up with a plan to better meet the city’s expectations for a gateway project on the scope and scale of the Terraces.
Commissioner Ken Hertel was a bit more blunt, questioning the amount of grading needed to provide a buildable surface for the Terraces and referring to the proposed, linear design as “Train Wreck Architecture,” with big boxes jammed on top of one another.
Commissioner Gordon Chong suggested that developers set aside their initial approach to the project and “come back with some alternatives” prior to the commission’s October 28 meeting.
“Otherwise,” Chong said, “our 28th meeting will be a waste of time.”