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Future Of Local Development Playing Out In Lafayette, Goes To The Vote June 5

Photo: Pamela Dunn

“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.


  1. Not touching this one. Rather lick BART’s third rail. Been around Lafayette 30+ years, nope, not going there. Interesting that some of The Usual Suspects have stayed quiet over the last couple of years with this. Did they move? Die? Give up? Lose their last marble?

    • We’re still here… hanging on by our fingernails! Perhaps The Usual Suspects will shed their shyness and let folks know how they feel. Or, we can all run over to BART and try that third rail-licking thing.

  2. Why are people now afraid to talk about it? Has there been intimidation in some form? Anyway even though I don’t live in Lafayette I hope they vote this down. I would like to see a measure to limit the population to less than what it is right now. Would anyone vote yes on such a measure?

    • You mean – gulp – culling? You know reporters would be the first to be neutralized! Okay, we’re joshing a little, but this is a great question, actually, and is rarely addressed. We fear conditions will force us to address it harshly someday in the not-so-distant future.

      • More like no one else can move in until the number drops to below the limit. So as people move or pass away new people can take their place but not until the number drops back down to a reasonable one.

  3. Lafayette does not have the infrastructure to deal with all these new developments. They have already approved 282 units in downtown that have no occupants yet. This project is wrong for many reasons. Traffic being the major one and building a soccer field so close to 3 major thorough fares, I24, Pleasant Hill Road and Dear Hill Road which combined them there are more than 180,000 car trips per day with major air quality problems. Vote No on L!

  4. Hoping people give this one some thought. It’s getting harder and harder to drive through Lafayette and even harder to find a reason to visit.

    • I think it’s being sold in such a way that if voters don’t vote yes they will have an equally bitter pill to swallow. It’s unfortunate that almost any government no longer feels the slightest obligation to serve those it governs and instead chooses to serve special interest at every turn.

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