LAFAYETTE -- The developers of what would be the largest residential complex in the city's history are threatening to sue if officials approve an environmental review they say inaccurately portrays the project's impacts.

Lawyers representing the O'Brien Land Company say they could mount a court challenge if the city council certifies a state-mandated environmental review of the Terraces of Lafayette, a 315-unit apartment complex planned for a hillside near Acalanes High School.

The developers and property owner are appealing the planning commission's March 4 certification of the review that lists environmental impacts of the estimated $100 million project as well as mitigation measures and alternatives.

Developers contend city staff changed conclusions about the Terraces project's impacts. The city's environmental consultants, meanwhile, this week said such changes are part of the collaborative, interactive environmental review process.

At a meeting Monday, project manager Dave Baker asked the council to either certify the review without including the "significant or unavoidable impacts" outlined in the report, or defer certification until project hearings. The city is reviewing the latter.

"We would ask that the council would consider the merits of the project when making these conclusions in the EIR," Baker said, explaining most impacts can be remedied.


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Those impacts include blocked ridgelines and views from Highway 24, construction equipment emissions and the elimination of trees and native grasses.

Baker and another development team member then answered questions raised at a previous appeal hearing in May. They also briefly outlined remedies for traffic and other issues under an "alternate" plan after showing a digital aerial simulation of the project's grading. Council members asked for more information about grading and other issues before ruling.

Residents continued to voice their opposition to the project and emphasized environmental consequences from more cars in an area they say is already congested. One challenged a development consultant's depiction of traffic in the area. Another questioned placing a complex on a seismically active site.

Still another worried about an impact on nearby schools, and said consultants had underestimated the number of potential students and residents who will live at the Terraces.

"There are going to be more students per resident here (when) you have an opportunity for somebody (of) moderate income or more-than-moderate income to move into an apartment at a price point that they haven't been able to before," said resident Keith Jarett. "Of course they're going to bring a lot of kids. That's expected. That's part of the value proposition that the developer offers."

Developers are billing the apartments as "luxury" dwellings on their website, www.terracesoflafayette.com, Baker says the project is proposed for 100 percent "moderate income households" and "luxury" features will include a pool, fitness center, meeting areas and walking trails.

According to county guidelines, income levels for "moderate income households" vary from $72,360 for a one-person household to $111,600 for a large family. Maximum affordable homeownership prices range from $224,124 to $345,680 and monthly rents range from $1,747 to $2,666.

The developers are receiving no federal or state money for the Terraces' construction, and said they do not anticipate applying for any affordable housing grants.

The council is scheduled to continue hearing the appeal on Aug. 12.

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