LAFAYETTE -- Design officials have rejected plans for a much-debated 315-unit apartment complex proposed for a Lafayette hillside -- and they're advising planning leaders to do the same.

Members of the city's design review commission unanimously agreed Monday to forward a recommendation to the planning commission to deny an application for the Terraces of Lafayette apartment complex. Commissioners cite concerns about the project's design and overall inconsistency with the general plan, among other issues. They also suggested developers "restart" the project.

Design commissioners are scheduled to approve a resolution formalizing the recommendation Nov. 25 in advance of a December planning commission meeting.

The decision applies to the application developer O'Brien Land Company submitted to the city more than two years ago to build the moderate-income apartment complex on the prominent 22-acre property at the corner of Deer Hill Road and Pleasant Hill Road.

The application includes a number of permit requests, such as one that would allow for residences on land zoned for administrative and professional offices.

At the first design review hearing Sept. 30, commissioners indicated they would not approve the project as proposed, and recommended the developer return with an alternative.

On Oct. 15, the developer submitted a plan to reduce the number of proposed units to 208, and scale back parking spaces from 569 to 375. The number of planned buildings would remain at 14.


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Other changes include placing taller three-story buildings in the site's interior to reduce their visibility, and balancing on-site grading to lessen environmental impacts.

Despite these modifications, project manager David Baker acknowledged the new plans were not as fleshed out as they could be. "A month is a very short amount of time to design a project this complex," Baker said.

Acting as a liaison, planning commissioner Tom Chastain said he couldn't remember having a project arrive at a commission as a "non-starter," and asked the developers whether they had pre-application meetings or a design review study session with city staff. The city offers such sessions for a fee so developers and others can get preliminary feedback on issues that may arise.

Project architect Norm Dyer responded that developers had initial discussions with city staff but were told further discussions were not part of the city process. In addition to the design review commission's recommendation, the planning commission will consider input from the city's parks, trails and recreation, and circulation commissions.

Should planning officials decide to deny the application for the 315 units, developers could resubmit an application for the 208 units or another configuration. They could also appeal the decision to the City Council.