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Lafayette Big House Battle: Court Of Appeal Affirms Trial Court Ruling – Orders Plaintiffs To Reimburse City For Trial Costs


A Lafayette couple’s plans to build a massive, Tudor-style English country house in a neighborhood of single-level ranch homes were dashed Thursday when a Court of Appeal decision failed to find in their favor.

Not only did the Contra Costa County Court of Appeal affirm an earlier negative decision against Plaintiffs Nancy and Michael Woodall but, in a move sure to give second thoughts to those pondering a similar course of legal action, it ruled that the city is entitled to recover all monies it spent defending itself against their suit.

While an exact amount was not immediately known, insiders described the city’s court costs as substantive and – since those costs were paid by taxpayers – declared the appellate court decision as a win for the city and its residents.

The case took form in November 2013 when the Woodalls filed an application with the city seeking permission to demolish their existing single-story, 4,111-square-foot ranch home in the Happy Valley Dell subdivision and construction of a two-story, 5,595-square-foot residence.

While speaking approvingly of the overall design scheme city officials expressed concern about the scope of the project, which they said overshadowed neighboring homes and presented a drastic departure from the area’s look and feel.

Those concerns gained additional credence when neighbors, notified of the Woodall’s intent, began expressing their dissatisfaction over the plan with city leaders and planners.

Although the city’s design review commission initially approved the design, the Lafayette Planning Commission and City Council denied approval, citing the project’s incompatibility with the neighborhood and unreasonably affected views of adjacent properties. The Woodalls sought review of the decision, arguing that the Council’s administrative findings were not supported by substantial evidence. The trial court denied the writ petition, a decision affirmed Thursday.



  1. Wow weird, they didnt give two shits when mcmansion 10,000 square feet and mini 6,000 sq ft were built overshadowing our neighbor of single store 1900 sq ft homes.

    The city id fucked in the head, surprised they actually stepped up.

  2. Not in our area but must say we don’t understand this trend and that we’re glad the neighborhood in question was able to keep a semblance of its original look and feel.

  3. We lived in Texas for a while while husband worked out there and it was hard not to laugh at some of the bizarre attempts at Tuscan or French Baronial architecture people came up with back there. We would go to dinner parties where the hostess would show us around the manor — the bathrooms with thirty foot ceilings and fountains everywhere. Nice people once you get to know them but the whole scene is strange if you’re not used to it.

  4. Interesting case. At what point do the rights of the property owner overshadow the rights of neighbors. In this case LITERALLY overshadow. But I can point to other examples that have been built despite neighborhood objection. How are those homes getting approved?

  5. The Lafayette city council voted 4-1. I think I read there’s a 9,600 sq. ft. home on the docket. How are those homes getting approved? It’s probably like anything else. It’s not what you’re voting on, it’s who’s voting. Voting is subjective.

  6. I guess so. I guess it also comes down to do you want to live in an area where large homes dominate the neighborhood. I say no, and would choose an alternative lifestyle over an area where they are in fashion.

  7. I applaud the city for putting a lid on these mcmansions. They can totally change the character of the neighborhood . People wanting such should move to Alamo, Diablo or Blackhawk

  8. How did the monstrosity behind Panda Express get approved? City should have bought that land to secure downtown parking.

    FWIW – This area of Happy Valley already has large homes so it’s not like this is a 5.6k sq ft home being built in the middle of 2k sq ft homes. Rich neighbors and a Lafayette government with a history of helping friends. I would check to make sure no council member or planning commission member has friends or relatives next to this property.

  9. Umm….5,600 sq ft is *not* that huge, especially if the lot is big and the set-backs are appropriate (I do not know the facts here). I think the lesson is that we should have clear and consistent rules in terms of roof-line height limits and home size vs. lot size ratios. Otherwise, many projects will lead to fights.

    Fuzzy rules are no good for property values. The value of many (relatively) modest homes in the area are strongly supported by the potential to build something bigger/nicer on the land in the future. We should not be too quick to celebrate this case and a “win.”

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