LAFAYETTE -- A suggestion by the city to replace a contentious plan for 315 moderate-income apartments near Acalanes High School with a new proposal for up to 45 single-family homes and a number of amenities is being met with both praise and scorn.

Residents gathered at the Lafayette Veteran's Memorial Building Monday to voice their thoughts on the idea pitched in December by City Manager Steven Falk. The 45-house plan could replace a proposal for the Terraces of Lafayette apartment complex submitted by developer The O'Brien Land Company in 2011.

The new plan would place 44 to 45 single family homes, a combined soccer and lacrosse field and various other features on 22 privately-owned acres at the corner of Deer Hill Road and Pleasant Hill Road.

City leaders -- minus councilwoman Traci Reilly who continues to recuse herself from the hearings because of a petition she signed regarding the Terraces apartment project before joining the council -- voted to meet again Jan. 22 at the Veteran's Memorial building to decide whether to approve or reject a process agreement between the city and the developer presented Monday. That document outlines project specifics, including the number of proposed houses, lot sizes and concealment of the homes from Mt. Diablo Boulevard, Pleasant Hill Road and portions of Highway 24 within Lafayette. It also lays out terms of a development agreement including the $1.81 million purchase of 13.6 acres by the city for the public amenities.

The document also explains that it will consider the development as an "alternative project" in a supplement to a completed state-required environmental review, among other details.

"It's an agreement for how we would process it if we were to proceed," said Mayor Don Tatzin, noting that moving forward is neither an approval nor denial of the project.

Following the decision on the process agreement, the project's land-use plan will be reviewed by various city commissions, including design review, circulation and planning, said Lafayette Senior Planner Greg Wolff. If the council rejects the agreement, hearings for the 315-unit apartment proposal will restart immediately.

Some residents praised elements of the new project such as the proposed sports field, and some lauded the city for reducing the size of the development. Others said such housing was attractive to young homeowners.

A local land-use attorney gave the city kudos for negotiating a different project and crafting what he called a "spectacular solution to a very vexing problem."

"I think the city and staff have done a service to the community by trying to figure out a way to solve what was a huge problem and very costly one for the city and for the taxpayers," said Lafayette resident Daniel Muller.

Muller also complimented Falk but said he was disappointed by accusations by some residents against Falk, some of whom angrily singled him out for criticism. One suggested Falk resign over the rezoning of the property agreed to by the council in 2010 but not implemented. The rezoning would have allowed only four single family residences on the property. The proposed zoning for the apartment project is 35 units per acre.

In a 2012 update authored by city attorney Mala Subramanian, the city explained the rezoning had been delayed because staff resources had been focused on issues with Lafayette's housing element. In the meantime, the developer submitted an application for the apartment project and the city had to process it under the zoning in place. That zoning allows administrative and professional office uses and multifamily housing with a permit.

Under the new proposal, the overall density can't surpass more than two units per acre.

The Jan. 22 meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at 3780 Mt. Diablo Blvd.

If you go:
What: Lafayette City Council special meeting
When: 7 p.m. Jan. 22
Where: Lafayette Veteran's Memorial Building, 3780 Mt. Diablo Blvd.
Contact: www.ci.lafayette.ca.us.