LAFAYETTE -- The owner of a hillside overlooking Highway 24 wants to build a 315-unit apartment complex there, despite a City Council stipulation last year that the land be used only for single-family housing.

The development, called The Terraces of Lafayette, would be set on a 22-acre lot at the corner of Deer Hill Road and Pleasant Hill Road known colloquially as the "Christmas tree lot."

The Dettmer family, which owns the property, submitted the project March 21. The city has not yet reviewed the application, said Ann Meredith, special projects manager for Lafayette.

City officials have been discussing the eastern Deer Hill Road area, including the Dettmer property, since 2001.

The lot is zoned for offices, with multifamily housing allowed with a permit. This past April, the City Council asked that the property be rezoned to accommodate just four single-family houses.

The city has not moved forward with that request because of staff reductions and other, higher-priority projects, planner Christine Sinnette said.

The current proposal would put 315 apartments in 14 two- and three-story buildings throughout the property. One of the buildings would be located in the flat, low-lying area at the corner of Deer Hill and Pleasant Hill roads. The remainder, plus a two-story clubhouse and one-story leasing office, would be on a series of plateaus overlooking Highway 24.

The buildings would be constructed in a way that preserves views from Deer Hill Road and hides them from the city's lower elevations, said Dettmer attorney Allan Moore and project manager Dave Baker.

Moore acknowledged the discussions about rezoning the site, but he said that a decade of debate has not brought the city any closer to a decision.

"We haven't heard anything from the City Council since last July," he said. "After 10 years of waiting, a property owner, in our view, has a right to move forward under the current general plan designation."

If the project moves forward, it undoubtedly will run into stiff opposition.

Residents last year overwhelmingly said they opposed anything but the smallest level of development on the site, citing traffic and safety concerns as well as the belief that prominent city gateways should be kept as open space.

As the council discussed the property, the Dettmer family never expressed interest in development, said resident Eliot Hudson, who supported rezoning the lot.

"I think this is transparent lawyer strategy to pressure the city and to trump up a lawsuit, a claim, and inflate their damage claims," he said.

Not true, Moore said, adding that the Dettmer family and developer want to work with residents and the city on the project.

"We want to process this application," he said. "We're very serious about it."

Contact Jonathan Morales at 925-943-8048. Follow him at Twitter.com/sosaysjonathan.