Housing Reforms Help Break Resistance to East Bay Project

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When people want to know why housing is so scarce and so expensive in California they should look no further than the Terraces of Lafayette for answers. First proposed by Bay Area Council member Dennis O’Brien in 2011 the development at the intersection of Pleasant Hill Road and Highway 24 on a long-abandoned rock quarry site, seemed, by any objective standard, like a great fit. The site was zoned for high density housing, it was close to the freeway and BART, and the developer had a stellar track record of building high quality projects.  

Fast forward almost 10 years, a couple of lawsuits, dueling referendums, multiple design changes, 105 public hearings (not a typo), the Terraces, which will include 315 new apartments–63 of which will be available at below market rates–was finally approved by the Lafayette City Council at 12:45 a.m. on Monday (Aug. 24).

And the hearings might still be dragging on if not for legislation by state Sen. Nancy Skinner that the Bay Area Council strongly supported. SB 167 (2017)  increases the burden of proof that a local agency has to meet to deny a project while SB 330 (2019) slashes the time it takes to obtain building permits, limits fee increases on housing applications, and bars local governments from reducing the number of homes that can be built.

Even with these reforms, it remains far too easy to delay and block construction of new homes in California. The Council continues to chip away at the impediments and we continue to make progress. Congratulations to everyone who helped make this happen and, in particular, Dennis O’Brien for having a vision and the will to see it through. To engage in the Council housing policy work, please contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.

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