Infamous 315-Unit Lafayette Housing Development Finally Approved

One of the most dra­mat­ic exam­ples of anti-devel­op­ment pol­i­tics in Cal­i­for­nia case to a sud­den and dra­mat­ic con­clu­sion week, the Cal­i­for­nia State Supreme Court declined “to hear an appeal from a group attempt­ing to stop the devel­op­ment of a 315-unit apart­ment build­ing in Lafayette,” accord­ing to an arti­cle by Danielle Echev­er­ria for the San Fran­cis­co Chron­i­cle.

The Ter­races of Lafayette devel­op­ment is a “poster child” of the divid­ing lines between sides of the hous­ing debate in Cal­i­for­nia, accord­ing to the arti­cle. The book Gold­en Gates, by Conor Dougher­ty (one of Plan­e­ti­zen’s top of 2020), cred­its the con­tro­ver­sy over the devel­op­ment for the incep­tion of a new era in pro-devel­op­ment pol­i­tics, with the pop­u­lar­iza­tion of a spe­cif­ic branch of the YIMBY move­ment known as “Sue the Sub­urbs.” The project weath­ered “two law­suits, a bal­lot ref­er­en­dum and over 100 pub­lic hear­ings,” from incep­tion to this court rul­ing.

The ini­tial polit­i­cal resis­tance of the devel­op­ment plan forced devel­op­ers to reduce the size of the project from 315 units to 44 homes in 2015. The plan was reborn with its full com­ple­ment of hous­ing units in 2020.

“The project will 20% of its 315 units set aside for income house­holds, qual­i­fy­ing it as an project under the state’s Hous­ing Account­abil­i­ty Act, which bars local gov­ern­ments from deny­ing or repeat­ed­ly delay­ing hous­ing devel­op­ment projects for very low, low‑, or mod­er­ate-income house­holds,” adds Echev­er­ria. “The law was a key to the pro­jec­t’s ulti­mate .”

The law­suit in ques­tion this week relied on oppo­si­tion pow­ers grant­ed by the Cal­i­for­nia Qual­i­ty Act (CEQA), which in the past was enough to derail projects like this. CEQA is still pre­vent­ing devel­op­ment in Cal­i­for­nia, to be sure, as exem­pli­fied by a recent court rul­ing over­turn­ing a devel­op­ment plan on the same side of the bay in Berke­ley, out of con­cern for noise pol­lu­tion cre­at­ed by stu­dents.

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