In a Nov. 30, 2022, ruling, the California First District Court of Appeals unanimously upheld approval of the Terraces of Lafayette development, a 315-unit apartment community in Lafayette, California. FirstCarbon Solutions (FCS) provided consulting services that helped advance a project that will provide relief for hundreds of families amid California’s monumental housing crisis.
Overcoming 10 Years of Opposition
In 2011, a developer applied to the Lafayette City Council for approval to proceed with the Terraces of Lafayette housing development, 315 units of multi-family housing. Another consulting firm, PlaceWorks (previously known as The Planning Center|DC&E), prepared an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) in 2013 (herein referred to as the 2013 EIR) when the project was first proposed. Almost immediately, anti-development groups expressed their opposition to the project. Concerned the Terraces of Lafayette housing development would violate the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), Safe Lafayette, a citizen’s group, filed a lawsuit against the City of Lafayette.
After the City approved a smaller, 44-unit single-family project put forth by the developer, Save Lafayette filed a second CEQA lawsuit (settled in 2016). Safe Lafayette circulated a referendum that would allow the smaller project to move forward. This referendum was rejected by the voters, and, in line with the process agreement with the City, the developer resubmitted a revised application for the Terraces project for the 315 units.
CEQA Addendum Recommendation
The 2013 EIR identified several significant and unavoidable impacts including air quality, biological resources, land use/planning, and transportation and traffic. FirstCarbon Solutions (FCS) was consulted to act as a neutral party, using the 2013 EIR to compare the potential effects of the revised development plan with what was first evaluated in 2013.
FCS analyzed the revised development plan to determine whether it would result in any new or more severe impacts than were previously disclosed. In 2018, after a thorough review of the project and 2013 EIR, FCS recommended and prepared a CEQA Addendum to document compliance with the prior environmental analysis contained in the 2013 EIR.
Given the public attention on the Terraces of Lafayette development, once FCS completed its CEQA Addendum, the City required alternate consultant Impact Sciences to prepare an Addendum as well.
The FCS Addendum and the Impact Sciences Addendum came to the same conclusion and found that the project would not introduce any significant new environmental effects or substantially increase the severity of previously identified effects.
After years of processing and 120 public hearings, the City of Lafayette approved the project in 2020. Save Lafayette again sued the City of Lafayette in fall 2020, and filed litigation against the property owner and developer.
Save Lafayette’s legal challenge was based on a perceived inadequacy of the 2013 EIR and the revised development proposal’s purported failure in addressing noted environmental impacts disclosed in the 2013 EIR. Additionally, Save Lafayette argued that the CEQA review failed to fully address effects on scenic areas, resources, air quality, GHG emissions, and noise, among other concerns.
The Superior Court heard the case in 2021 and upheld the City of Lafayette’s decision to move forward with the project, as did the First District Court of Appeal in the 2022 ruling. In each case, the courts held that the environmental review complied with CEQA requirements and that the City properly followed the state’s housing accountability act.
FCS has 40 years of experience completing environmental documents for many housing projects, and we have the privilege of evaluating potential ways to streamline projects and guide lead agencies in reducing environmental impacts. We were proud to assist in the environmental review for this project and thrive on navigating difficult issues while remaining unbiased and objective, to further the vision and goals of lead agencies and communities.
FirstCarbon Solutions (FCS) comprises over 100 individuals offering due diligence, technical analysis, planning, environmental compliance, permitting, and mitigation/monitoring services for public and private projects. FCS has more than 35 years of experience navigating the complexities of CEQA and securing project approvals. Contact us for a free consultation to learn more about how we can help with your specific requirements.