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Re: soils pressure

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Joe-
You don't say where you are located. But here in Northern California, some of our rock can be pretty lousy and with time it often weathers to expansive clay.  As such, the pressure can build significantly over time. It sounds like you need some good geotechnical advice on this project from someone (definitely not the architect) familiar with the local materials.
 
Again, don't plan on the diaphragm resisting the load at the top unless you have a proper load path.  And fully think through the construction process (i.e., when the backfill is placed relative to the diaphragm being in place.) when designing the diaphragm.  If the wall moves, the footing you didn't build will look pretty inexpensive in hindsight.
 
Regards,
Bill Cain, SE
Berkeley CA