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March 28, 2016 / orindavision

March 2016 Newsletter

The Orinda Planning Commission has voted unanimously to approve the proposal by developer Paul Ugenti of Tandem Properties to build an 18,000 sq. ft. office, retail and restaurant building on lot 25A Orinda Way, across from the Orinda Library. The Commission granted a waiver of the zoning requirement of ten foot setbacks of the building from its lot lines as well as a waiver of the 35 foot height limit for a portion of the building.

In the course of several hearings the Commission, to its credit, challenged the developer to improve its original submission on this important site in Orinda Village. OrindaVision joined other citizens in supporting the challenge to do better on the admittedly difficult site. In the end Tandem improved the eastern façade of the building and moved the building line back to create a more comfortable eleven foot sidewalk vs. the eight foot sidewalk originally planned. The developer also created a more visually pleasing western facade in response to objections from the owners of the Vintage House building behind this site.

Is the building perfect in all respects? Of course, no project ever is. Some Orindans will object to its relatively massive appearance, rising 35 feet from the sidewalk on Orinda Way. Others will find rooftop parking to be awkward and insufficient, especially if a restaurant or two are leased on the ground floor. Overall, however, in granting its approval, the Planning Commissioners expressed appreciation for the manner in which the developer responded to their suggested improvements and were willing to accept the possibility of the building being under-parked. To paraphrase Commissioner McGrath, “if we have a shortage of parking spaces, it will be a sign of a successful project”.

OrindaVision appreciates the developer’s willingness to tackle a project with all its various constraints: high land cost, small lot size and city requirements for ground floor retail on a long vacant retail site. In the final analysis, Paul Ugenti showed persistence and resourcefulness in winning Planning Commission approval. Both attributes will be needed in leasing up the building. We thank him for undertaking what may become the first new commercial building in downtown Orinda in a generation. We wish him every success with it.

Tom Trowbridge

Chairman, OrindaVision


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