LAFAYETTE -- Even though plans for the Terraces of Lafayette project -- including the name -- have been significantly altered, serious concerns remain, including those involving traffic on Pleasant Hill and Deer Hill roads.

At a Monday meeting, city planning and circulation commissioners said concerns about emergency vehicle access, safety at intersections, entries to the property and parking lots, and bike path connections need to be fully vetted.

The purpose of Monday's meeting was for review of changes to the Terraces project, first submitted by the O'Brien Land Co in March 2011 as a 315-unit apartment project. An EIR for the original project was certified by the City Council in August 2013.

After considerable public criticism of The Terraces, an alternative project, named "The Homes at Deer Hill," was presented to the council in December 2013 as a 44- or 45-single-family-residence development with community park facilities. The "Homes" project has since received mixed public reviews.

The project's changes required a supplemental environmental impact report, which was discussed at Monday's meeting.

Lafayette Senior Planner Greg Wolff said there will be more discussions on the revised project's merits at public meetings in September, following publication of the supplemental environmental impact report.


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Steve Noack, a principal with PlaceWorks, the firm that prepared the EIR for the original Terraces project, said the supplemental report need only look at changes to the certified first report. Noack said that after additional public comment is taken in the fall, a final version of the supplemental EIR is set to be published late this year or in early 2015.

Commissioners asked staff about the project's impacts on a nearby ranch, and urged staff and consultants to examine more closely the bike path infrastructure, the presence of sidewalks, emergency ingress and egress, lights and noise from the planned sports field, bus drop-offs, landscaping with native plants and trees and a proposed roundabout on Deer Hill Road.

Residents' comments Monday focused primarily on the impact of the sports field and traffic and safety issues related to the increased population in the area.

"Marginal increases can have a significant impact. Our town is running out of room as it is," said Lafayette resident Hunter Davis. He predicted a parking lot planned at the corner of Pleasant Hill Road and Deer Hill Road "will be a nightmare." Fences that don't completely cover the sports field, he said, would allow "projectiles" (balls) to fly into the road, and grading would "strip the hill." Davis suggested asking O'Brien build a 3-D topographical model of the project so people could better evaluate its impact -- an idea that later received support from several commissioners.

Planning commissioners reiterated other items of concern, including glare from lights on the sports field, potential impact on historical resources and other items. Noack said several items -- a stormwater plan, land use issues and a ridgeline exception -- were either addressed by the EIR or would be covered by permits required before beginning construction activities.

Asked by Planning Commissioner Will Lovitt if a "hardship requirement" must be met for the project's ridgeline setback exception, Wolff said it was "generally not an absolute requirement." He said the Planning Commission could request that city council set "site-specific provisions to tailor-fit the situation."

Commissioner Thomas Chastain questioned a clause suggesting declining enrollment trends at area schools would mean the impact on Acalanes High School rated "less than significant." Acknowledging his information was anecdotal, he said overcrowding is indeed a concern and, supported by several fellow commissioners, he asked for the matter to be revisited.

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