“Like a knife-fight in a phone booth – only bloodier.” That’s how one local described the initial debut of Lafayette’s “Terraces of Deer Hill” project before the city’s Design Review Commission waaay back in 2013. And he was right, but the combatants were only getting started, apparently.
From the outset, the O’Brien Land Company’s plans for a 315-unit complex on the site of an old quarry across from Acalanes High School and virtually at the nexus of the city’s morning traffic morass along Pleasant Hill Road and Mt. Diablo Boulevard met with – resistance – both from commission members (one of whom labeled the project’s initial drawings “train wreck architecture“) as well as from the project’s prospective future neighbors, who lined up that evening to speak out against it.
Over the intervening years, the knives still flashed occasionally with bluff charges and threats of lawsuits, but were put away long enough to whittle down the initial scope of the apartment project from a 315-unit blockbuster to a 44-house development built on the site’s 22 acres – replete with city planner-pleasing givebacks like sports fields, dog parks, public art spaces and traffic-calming roundabouts.
Substantial time, money, and effort has gone into promoting the project’s latest iteration, billed as “The Homes at Deer Hill,” with the project gaining grudging acceptance from some city officials as it moves toward a June 5 vote but incurring even more steadfast wrath from locals and conservationists who allege dirty campaign tricks ranging from midnight lawn sign thefts to deliberate disinformation tactics by pro-“Measure L” forces.
Most everyone who has watched The Terraces/Homes at Deer Hill project wend its way through city committees designed to bring the best possible resolution to the city and its residents has said the “knife fight” over the development will almost certainly move into the courts – no matter which way the public votes on June 5 – and that the knives will flash again, only in a different venue.
Preservationists maintain that if Measure L is defeated a referendum can be held on a future plan, an assertion the city’s legal counsel says can not happen.
As the June 5 vote looms and both sides trade last-minute salvos over environmental risks incurred by the development’s positioning and shady tactics, the outcome of a vote on Measure L has never been more clearly in doubt.
Perhaps commenters will give some indication of their predilection in the comments field below, we’re taking that as the best possible method of determining which way the vote is likely to swing.