Northern California Record

Monday, November 18, 2019

Lafayette City Council to mull options following court ruling to allow Deer Hill Road development referendum

By Karen Kidd | Feb 25, 2018

California First District Court of Appeal Judge Ignazio J. Ruvolo

LAFAYETTE — The Lafayette City Council will decide on Monday (Feb. 26) how to best respond to an appeals court decision last week siding with a local preservationist group to place a referendum  on the development of a 22-acre parcel on Deer Hill Road on the ballot.

The City of Lafayette could take the appeals court's ruling to the California Supreme Court, but it appears likely that City Council will not fight the recent ruling, choosing instead to allow the referendum to move forward, according to an announcement on the city's website

"The City Council will discuss options on Monday night, but the City Attorney's staff report suggests the quickest resolution is to place a referendum on the June ballot and let the voters decide what they want at the controversial site," the announcement said.

That announcement followed a unanimous California First District Court of Appeal, Division Four, opinion issued on Feb. 21, which reversed a Contra Costa County Superior Court decision and ruled "the issue must be placed on the ballot for a vote by the citizens of Lafayette."

The city previously refused to place the issue on the ballot "because it believed if the referendum were successful, it would be invalid since it would resurrect the former zoning ordinance that was inconsistent with the amended general plan," according to the the appeals court's 17-page opinion. The three-judge appeals court panel concluded that such a referendum would not be invalid, according to the opinion.

Justice Ignazio J. Ruvolo wrote the opinion for the court, with Justice Timothy A. Reardon and San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Ethan P. Schulman concurring.

The appeals court's decision reversed the lower court's ruling against the local preservationist group Save Lafayette. The group describes itself as a citizens organization dedicated "supporting our city’s semi-rural character and slow growth, opposed to excessive urbanization that overcrowds our schools, causes massive traffic and parking problems," according to information on the Save Lafayette's website.

The Deer Hill Road developement, known as "Parcel 27" or "Homes at Deer Hill," was first proposed by a developer in 2014, according to the opinion. The development would include about 44 single family homes and would reserve almost eight acres for public parkland, in addition to a bike path and dog park, according to the opinion.

This past June, Judge Ruvolo issued a temporary stay that barred an ordinance allowing development, particulary high-end residential development, in the city of Lafayette.

In the opinion, Judge Ruvolo, who wrote on behalf of the court, said Lafayette's process for a general plan amendment that includes a 30-day wait to enact a zoning ordinance in the Deer Hill Road development "should not prevent the citizens of Lafayette" from voting in a referrendum over the development.

"The local electorate properly submitted a referendum petition that was certified," Judge Ruvolo wrote in the appeals court's opinion. "The City should have either suspended the ordinance or submitted the issue to the voters. The City did not have the discretion to keep the referendum off the ballot, nor was there a 'compelling showing' justifying its action. If the City believed that the referendum was invalid or illegal, the proper course of action was to file a writ of mandate."

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Organizations in this Story

First District Court of Appeal CaliforniaCity of Lafayette, CASave Lafayette