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May 2017

The Urban Land Institute’s Recent Technical Assistance Panel in Orinda 

As reported recently in the Orinda press, a Technical Assistance Panel organized by the Urban Land Institute spent two full days in Orinda, April 10 and 11. The panel of experts, intimately familiar with the processes of renewal and revitalization in other Bay Area cities, was invited by the City Council which has at long last turned its attention to downtown planning.  In addition to needing to update our General Plan, you may also know that we are the only city in Contra Costa County without a plan for its downtown.

The ULI panel was well prepared thanks to an extensive briefing book prepared by Planning Director Drummond Buckley and his staff.  The panel members conducted numerous interviews with the primary downtown stakeholders, including City Council members, Planning Commissioners, City staff, the Orinda Association, the Chamber of Commerce, property owners, and a variety of community groups, including OrindaVision. At the conclusion of their visit the panel members described what they had heard and offered their own initial observations, with the promise of a full report to follow this summer.

In describing Orinda’s strengths and weaknesses and its opportunities and threats, the panel members demonstrated they had come up to speed quickly. In response to questions posed by the City, they gave us some preliminary “Big Ideas” to think about. There was no grand scheme to remake downtown, but rather a thoughtful approach to build on its existing assets and to consider ways of integrating them better within our commercial districts. You may click on this link to review their concluding public presentation.

 Those who have been Friends of OrindaVision for the last couple of years are aware that the retention of the ULI panel by the City was recommended by OrindaVision, endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce and put forward to the Council in the summer of 2015. The purpose of this initiative was to restart the community dialogue about the future of our downtown, a dialogue which had been tabled in 2009 and given low priority by the City Council since then. OrindaVision’s objective has been to urge the Council to re-engage with the community in the conversation on a professional plane, to help us all move beyond the “growth” vs. “no growth” standoff in which the public discussion had been framed.

I believe the panel has made an excellent beginning in accomplishing a more professional and civil tone to the community conversation. We all look forward to its final analysis and recommendations. We should not expect a grand plan for downtown Orinda from the panel, rather some practical guideposts for us to consider based on the experiences in other Bay Area cities that have preceded Orinda down the path toward renewal and revitalization.

The challenging work of addressing the General Plan update and the details of a specific plan for Orinda’s downtown remains ahead of us. Success or failure in these endeavors will be up to the Orinda community, not to outside experts. There is, however, no lack of talent in the Bay Area to help us along the way. Hopefully the ULI TAP process will bring into focus some useful concepts and best practices from the experience of our sister cities.

Thanks for your continuing interest in the future of downtown Orinda.

Sincerely,

Tom Trowbridge
Chairman, OrindaVision

www.orindavision.org
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April 2017

Urban Land Institute Presentation 5 PM Tuesday, April 11, Library Auditorium

As you are aware, the City of Orinda has recently decided to give priority attention to planning for the future of our downtown. To facilitate the community discussion on this important subject, the City Council has retained two highly respected research and planning organizations, National Main Street Center and the Urban Land Institute. These two non-profit organizations have considerable experience in helping communities across the country deal with the various issues that downtowns commonly face.

National Main Street Center has begun a study of the Orinda’s commercial districts and their potential for economic development. Their field staff will focus on strategies for successful and sustainable revitalization. We should have the benefit of their analysis and recommendations in the next 60
days.

The Urban Land Institute has assembled a Technical Assistance Panel of Bay Area experts who will offer multidisciplinary advice to the City of Orinda. The panelists will address downtown’s land use and real estate issues, ranging from site specific development opportunities confronting commercial property owners to public policy questions for our civic leaders.

The ULI Panelists have already received an extensive briefing book from the City of Orinda Planning Department. They will spend two days in Orinda on April 10 and 11 when they will focus on getting familiar with the real estate in the Crossroads and Village, as well as interviewing various downtown stakeholders. At the end of their second day, the panel will address a joint meeting of the Orinda City Council and the Orinda Planning Commission, providing their initial reactions to issues the City has asked them to address. An in-depth written analysis and set of recommendations will follow in a final report to the City.

Anyone interested in the future of downtown Orinda will want to attend this public meeting scheduled from 5 PM to 8 PM on Tuesday, April 11, Library Auditorium. Those of us involved with OrindaVision are looking forward to the beginning of a process of community engagement on this important topic. The City of Orinda has taken the first critical step in this direction.

I hope to see you in the Orinda Library Auditorium on the 11th.

Sincerely,

Tom Trowbridge
Chairman, OrindaVision

November 2016

Moving Forward on Downtown

The recent local election represents a sea change in the expression of community will with respect to the future of downtown Orinda. By a 2 to 1 margin, Orinda voters stated their preference for – as Councilman Orr recently stated – “moving forward on downtown”.

Last week the Council voted to retain two widely respected non-profit research firms, the Urban Land Institute (ULI), the premier real estate research and planning organization in the country, and Main Street America (MSA), the outreach subsidiary of the Trust for Historic Preservation. Each will assess the condition and trends of downtown Orinda and offer recommendations for the path forward.  ULI will come from the planning approach. MSA will come from an economic development approach. Citizens will have ample opportunity to voice preferences and concerns as their processes unfold in the spring.The Orinda community owes a big thank you to the generation that has brought forward Monica Fitzsimmons and Whats Up Downtown Orinda (WUDO) to the conversation about the future of our downtown. It was Monica whose widely circulated petition to the City Council revealed that many Orindans were very interested in renewal. Whats Up Downtown followed on to insist that action be taken by our civic leadership. The clear result has been a change in focus on the part of the Orinda City Council. Fixing our roads continues to be a strategic priority, but downtown has now emerged as a strategic priority as well.

The latest WUDO initiative to support merchant vitality is now offered on their website. www.whatsupdowntownorinda.com . Click on the “Whats Up Now” tab. Have a look and support our Orinda merchants throughout the coming holiday season!

Best wishes for the holidays,

Tom Trowbridge
Chairman
OrindaVision

 

September 2016

OrindaVision Report and Endorsement Announcement

City Council Votes in Favor of Downtown Revitalization:

The widespread community support for the revitalization of downtown was quite evident at last week’s City Council Meeting. Prior to the meeting well over 100 letters had been received from Orinda citizens urging the Council to move forward with a process of renewal. Over 30 citizens spoke during the meeting with essentially the same message. Council members took note of the community sentiment and voted 4 to 1 to proceed with a process of community engagement and planning. These are the first action steps by the Council in 10 years toward facilitating the much needed improvement of Orinda’s downtown.

Downtown Revitalization has become a Key Issue in the November Election for City Council:

Four candidates have filed to run for the two available City Council seats in the coming election. Two of the candidates, Darlene Gee and Inga Miller, have indicated their strong interest in the improvement of downtown Orinda. Both are well suited, by virtue of their respective professional backgrounds in infrastructure engineering and real estate law, to understand the issues presented in a downtown planning and renewal process. Two candidates, retired radiologist Bruce London and advocate for disadvantaged students Linda Delehunt, have indicated that no significant change in downtown is needed.

OrindaVision, along with What’s Up Downtown Orinda? and Monica Fitzsimmons, the Wagner Ranch mom who in 2015 circulated a petition to the Council – backed by over 700 signatures – to commence development of a plan to renew downtown, have combined in their endorsement of Darlene Gee and Inga Miller for the two open seats on the City Council in this fall’s election.

We encourage you to add your name to each candidate’s endorsement list, request a yard sign, volunteer, and make a contribution.  These types of support can be offered on each candidate’s website ( www.darlenegeeforcouncil.com andwww.ingafororinda.com/ ).

The outcome of this election will determine whether the City of Orinda is able to realize its stated 2016-17 priority of planning for the future of its commercial districts, or is to be relegated to continue as the only city in Contra Costa County with no plan for the future of its downtown.

Sincerely,

Tom Trowbridge
Chair, OrindaVision

August 2016

Downtown is on the Agenda for the September 6 City Council Meeting

To the Friends of OrindaVision

Hopefully you received my July 24 message that the Orinda City Council is scheduled to take up a discussion of the future of our downtown at its regularly scheduled Council meeting on Tuesday, September 6. The City’s staff report including attachments can be found via the following link:

https://cityoforinda.app.box.com/v/citycouncilmeetings/1/11055689253/93008864281/1

Among the alternatives the Council plans to consider is an OrindaVision recommendation to retain the Urban Land Institute to conduct a Technical Assistance Panel in Orinda to help the community focus early in the process on the planning issues that need to be addressed.

Thanks to those of you who have already taken the time to urge the City to begin a process of planning for the renewal of our downtown.  As we have come to know, the Council pays attention to citizens who take the trouble to express their views on City matters. If you haven’t already done so, a brief email message addressed to the Orinda City Council and emailed to Sherry Kelly, the Interim City Clerk, skelly@cityoforinda.org ,is a simple and effective way to communicate to the City. It is best to do so by this Thursday, at the latest, in order for your message to be included in the individual packets that go out to Council members at the end of the week.

From all indications, this meeting will be very well attended. If you are planning to come out for it, I suggest you come early to get a seat in the Library auditorium. If you are willing to address the Council in the three minutes allotted for each citizen to speak, your voice will be much appreciated by those of us who believe downtown Orinda is long-overdue for improvement!

Thanks for your interest in the future of our downtown.

Sincerely,

Tom Trowbridge
Chair, OrindaVision

July 2016

New date for City Council’s Downtown Planning Discussion: September 6

To the Friends of OrindaVision

You may have already read in the most recent “Orinda Outlook” from City Manager Janet Keeter that the City Council has postponed its downtown planning discussion from August 2 to September 6. In view of the considerable interest in this topic, the City prefers to launch this conversation at a time when most of us will be back from summer vacations.

You will recall that the Council has put this matter on its agenda in response to a proposal made by OrindaVision to resume the long-postponed community discussion on the future of downtown. OrindaVision, www.orindavision.org  is a citizen’s group whose members seek improvement in Orinda’s downtown. We have no ties to developers, no funding from developers, and no motivation other than to improve our city. Our proposal is for the City consider to retain the highly regarded Urban Land Institute to conduct a Technical Assistance Panel in Orinda. This would be a sensible means of launching the conversation with the benefit of advice – at a very reasonable cost – from professionals from the planning, market research and development disciplines.

Whether the Council decides to accept this proposal or to proceed on another tack after reviewing the alternatives available, it is essential that the Orinda community begins to focus on a downtown which has lost much of the vitality it had a generation ago.

We appreciate there are those of us living in Orinda who are uncomfortable with the prospect of the changes that renewal of downtown would bring about. Our response to those concerns is that change and renewal are bound to occur in the next several years in the normal process of commercial real estate ownership turnover. This is already beginning to occur with the sale of the Phair’s property and the pending transfer of the Rite Aid/Post Office parcel by bequest.

It makes sense in our view for the City to have a plan to guide its future development, a plan in which there has been sufficient community involvement for all views to be heard.  We believe a part of that plan should be a limited amount of market-rate, high density housing. This would enliven downtown, would be very well received in the housing marketplace and would produce increased real estate tax revenue for the City of Orinda and its school districts.

A reasonable plan is certainly better than no plan. Orinda remains the only city in the county that has no plan for its downtown. The City can certainly afford to create such a plan, and fortunately, has already begun to set aside funds for it.

I hope you will register your own views on the need for downtown planning with the City Council (Some time during the last two weeks in August would be most timely.) and that you will join us in attending the September 6 Council meeting.

Sincerely,

Tom Trowbridge
Chair, OrindaVision
www.orindavision.org

June 2016

Update on OrindaVision’s Proposal for a ULI Technical Assistance Panel:
City Council Discussion Scheduled for August 2, 2016

Orinda City Manager Janet Keeter has confirmed that a discussion of planning alternatives for downtown Orinda will likely be taken up by the City Council at its regular meeting on Tuesday, August 2 (7 pm, Library Auditorium). The Council agreed to put this topic on the agenda last summer, but following the resignation of Planning Director Emmanuel Ursu, deferred the matter until his replacement was hired. Our new Planning Director, Drummond Buckley, has been working on the staff report for this agenda item and will presumably be asked to present it to the Council at the August 2 meeting.

Among the alternatives to be considered, hopefully, will be an initiative by OrindaVision requesting that the City retain the San Francisco chapter of the Urban Land Institute to convene a Technical Assistance Panel that would address the issues associated with planning for the future of Downtown Orinda.

The Urban Land Institute is the most respected non-profit research and education organization in the field of real estate. Its membership is comprised of the leading practioners of real estate research, planning and development in the country.  A number of Orindans are members. ULI’s technical assistance panels are comprised of local members – in our case from Northern California – who serve on a volunteer basis and do not have a financial interest in the outcome. The panels have been conducted in over 30 cities in our region. Each interdisciplinary panel is tasked to address the three or four planning issues deemed most important by the city-applicant. At the conclusion of two days of intensive review of the real estate and meetings with property owners, the City staff, Planning Commissioners, elected officials and other community stakeholders, the panel presents its findings in a public meeting. Many California cities large and small have benefitted significantly from similar panels.

In its 2016-17 two year budget, the City Council set as a strategic objective the preparation of plans for the future of the Crossroads and Orinda Village. Currently Orinda has no specific plan for its downtown. The creation of such a plan is a long term undertaking.  A two day panel will not provide a planning document, but it seems to OrindaVision to be an excellent way to begin the community conversation on a professional plane. In order to come upon the right answers for downtown’s future, it is essential to start by asking the right questions.

All citizens interested in the future of Orinda’s downtown should attend the August 2 meeting to hear the City Council discussion.  For those inclined to speak up for improving Orinda’s  downtown, this will be a significant opportunity to do so, either by addressing the Council on August 2, or by emailing Council members in advance of the meeting, not later than July 26.  The staff report will be posted on the city’s website (cityoforinda.org – see “City Council Meetings”) by Friday, July 29.

Tom Trowbridge,
Chair, OrindaVision
www.orindavision.org

March 2016

25A Orinda Way

The Orinda Planning Commission voted 5-1 (one Commissioner was absent) 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 the developer was willing to work on. 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,
Chair, OrindaVision
www.orindavision.org

February 2016

A New Planning Director

The City of Orinda has recently announced that Drummond Buckley has agreed to be our new Planning Director, following the resignation of Emmanuel Ursu last September.  Drummond assumes his duties at City Hall on February 29, replacing Interim Planning Director,Victor Carniglia.

We welcome Drummond back to Orinda where he was a Staff Planner in the Planning Department from 1996 to 1999 and subsequently served as Interim Planning Director.

Most recently Drummond has been employed as a Civilian Master Planner by URS Corporation with whom he served in Afghanistan, embedded with the US Air Force Base Engineer Emergency Force Squadron. His primary responsibility was the development of some 20 Base Master Plans throughout the country. Prior to this overseas assignment, from 2004 to 2010 Drummond had his own consulting practice in San Francisco. From 2001 through 2004 he served as the Planning Director of the City of Sausalito.

We look forward to getting to know Drummond and to working with him in his new role. Among the tasks awaiting him will be assisting the City Council in fulfilling its 2015-17 strategic objective of preparing improvement plans for the Crossroads and Village.

We very much look forward to resuming the community conversation about the future of our downtown at the Council level. As those of us who have lived in Orinda a while are well aware, downtown needs attention. There has been no new development in downtown Orinda since the City was incorporated in 1985. The only commercial building to be renewed since then is One Camino Sobrante.

Orinda remains the only City in Contra Costa County without a downtown plan. Drummond thus starts with “a clean slate”. Some sort of plan would seem to be a good thing, as would be a thoughtful process of renewal, encouraged by the City.

OrindaVision’s suggestion to the City Council of retaining the Urban Land Institute to conduct a Technical Assistance Panel in Orinda remains on the table from 2015. Such a panel has been very helpful to 40 other cities in Northern California. It would be a useful tool to assist the community in beginning the conversation.

Sincerely,

Tom Trowbridge,
Chair, OrindaVision
www.orindavision.org

January 2016

Orinda City Council News

Late last year the City Council selected Victoria Smith to serve as Mayor and Eve Phillips as Vice Mayor for one-year terms ending December 1, 2016.  In her inaugural remarks, Victoria cited downtown renewal and continuing road improvements as the highest priorities for her term of office. She observed that, “many people in the community have expressed interest in deciding and discussing the future of our downtown in Orinda. As you all know, we have a vacancy in our planning director’s position and our city manager is moving to fill that (now). Once that happens, we will be able to begin the process of having a community conversation regarding what the community wants to see in the downtown; what changes, if any, we would plan for the next decade or at least plan for what our children might be able to enjoy in the years to come.”

Updated FAQs

If you haven’t visited our website recently, check out two new pages: “FAQ”, where we’ve posted frequently asked questions (with answers of course!) and “Speaking Out” where we are posting letters of support for restarting the process for determining the future of our downtown.

Now on Facebook

Also, OrindaVision is now on Facebook!  If you are also, find and follow us for alerts on what’s happening with regard to downtown revitalization opportunities and challenges. Urge your friends to do the same.

Best wishes for the New Year to our fellow Orindans,

Tom Trowbridge,
Chair, OrindaVision
www.orindavision.org

December 2015

A Welcome New Player in the Downtown Orinda Conversation

I am pleased to forward to the Friends of OrindaVision the message below from Laura McDowell to the Mayor of Orinda, announcing the formation of a new citizen’s organization, called Whats Up Downtown. I understand it’s intention is to be the voice of the younger residents of Orinda, the generation of families – with two wage earners in many cases – who stepped up to Orinda’s home prices because of the quality of our schools, but  whose time to get involved with civic affairs is understandably limited.

 When OrindaVision has reached out to this generation in our Dessert & Coffee events over the past several years, the overwhelming response has been “we love our community, but we are so disappointed in our downtown. We appreciate the way forward being shown by OrindaVision, but what is this community waiting for? We need to get on with a downtown renewal process!” 

Following up on Monica Fitzsimmons’ widely circulated petition to the City Council (If you haven’t signed it yet, visit our website for a link.), I expect Laura and her colleagues will emphasize to our civic leadership the depth and breadth of sentiment in the community that yearns for a downtown that offers more to its residents that it has in recent years. OrindaVision salutes the organizers of Whats Up Downtown, and pledges its enthusiastic support of their efforts.

Tom Trowbridge,

Chair, OrindaVision

August 2015

To the Friends of OrindaVision,

It’s been over a year since my last newsletter to the Friends of OrindaVision. During this time there has been little to report in terms of significant activity in downtown Orinda. Hopefully, this is about to change.

Chase Bank

The Chase Bank’s application to build a wealth management branch on the former BP service station site has been withdrawn. Chase evidently decided its better real estate alternative was to pursue a rental of existing space in Orinda, and filed an application to the City of Orinda for a use permit at One Camino Sobrante. This application was denied by the Planning Commission on August 25. Coincidentally, the Lafayette Planning Commission approved a wealth management branch for Chase at about the same time.

Rite-Aid, Post Office Property

Late last year the longtime owner of this property, Theresa Caygill, passed away. Her estate is in the process of being settled. New owners will undoubtedly formulate their plans for its renewal. OrindaVision’s thoughts include the possibilities of undergrounding the parking, developing a mini-park under the utility lines, opening up access to San Pablo Creek, relocating the existing structures and replacing them with two stories of office above ground floor retail (structures which would be lower than the existing Vintage House) and providing pedestrian- friendly walkways throughout the parcel.

Phair’s Property

The owner of the Phair’s property has been unable to find a user for the abandoned Phair’s store and has sold his property to the adjacent owner on Avenida de Orinda. We remain hopeful that all of the property owners in the block will in time participate in an assembly that will enable the replacement of some very tired commercial properties with more productive uses of this important downtown land. A consolidated ownership would be in a position to build underground parking and consider a number of alternate uses that could contribute significantly to the much-needed revitalization of downtown.

Brookwood Mini-Park

A plan for an attractive small-scale ongoing project in downtown is making progress. It entails the expansion and upgrading of the mini-park at the intersection of Brookwood and San Pablo Way across Brookwood from the BevMo parking lot. The City of Orinda will contribute some of the funding needed and the Orinda Community Foundation is prepared to raise the remainder for this very worthwhile project at the front entrance to Orinda.

Downtown Planning

Looking further ahead at the prospects for improving downtown, in June the City Council authorized the Planning Department to study the options for downtown planning as a part of the City’s Strategic Initiatives for 2016-17.

In July, the Council agreed to resume the long-deferred community discussion on the future of downtown, possibly as early as October. This second step was in response to a proposal by OrindaVision that the City invite the Urban Land Institute (ULI) to convene a Technical Assistance Panel in Orinda.

The ULI is the nation’s foremost real estate research and educational institute. Its expert, multi-disciplinary panels have been conducted in 32 cities in the Bay Area, addressing issues that our sister cities have identified as important to their planning and renewal efforts. We see this as a potentially useful tool available to the City of Orinda to get our community’s conversation going on a professional plane. You will find a more detailed discussion of this initiative on our website www.orindavision.org .

We are hopeful the City will take advantage of the ULI panel, and that the community discussion will ultimately lead to a plan for the renewal of Orinda’s downtown, including both the Crossroads and Orinda Village. Orinda remains one of the few cities in Contra Costa County to have no plan for the future of its downtown. We think it is past time we had one.

Action Requested

Your encouragement of the Council to retain a ULI Technical Assistance Panel and get on with planning the future of downtown would be timely. An email to the Orinda City Council c/o Michele Olsen, City Clerk molsen@cityoforinda.org , prior to October 1 (in order to be considered by Council members prior to their October 6 meeting) would be the simplest and most effective way to have your voice heard.

Thank you for your support of a revitalized downtown Orinda. Please feel free to forward this letter to other Orindans and encourage them to sign up for future newsletter updates at www.orindavision.org .

Sincerely,

Tom Trowbridge,

Chair, OrindaVision

June 2014

Dear Friend of OrindaVision,

A number of the Friends of OrindaVision have asked if I would clarify the differing roles of the three citizen’s groups currently focused on downtown planning matters: SaveOrinda, Orinda Watch and OrindaVision. As Chairman of OrindaVision I am happy to attempt do so, though the best I can do is give my impressions of the other two groups. I will limit comments to what I know of their sponsorship and goals.

SaveOrinda came into being in 2009 at the time the City Council was reviewing the recommendations of the Planning Process Review Task Force for the revitalization of downtown Orinda. Its founder I believe was Dr. Bob Larson who had previously run for City Council.  Save Orinda’s primary goal, as I understand it, has been to challenge the proposed increase in downtown height limit from 35 to 55 feet. It has been opposed to high rise development in Orinda and to increases in density in the city’s commercial districts. Some of its members seem to oppose all further development in downtown. Scott Zeller’s campaign for City Council in 2010 gave political voice to the SaveOrinda point of view. While those of us involved with OrindaVision have disagreed with some of their positions, we share a fundamental belief in the importance of preserving downtown Orinda’s village character.

Orinda Watch was formed in 2013. Leadership has recently been provided by Orinda residents Chris Kniel and Dr. Bruce London. Like SaveOrinda, Orinda Watch is a protest group. Its focus is on the efforts by two regional planning agencies to implement state legislation designed to achieve greenhouse gas reduction goals by integrating land use, regional transportation and housing planning. Its concern is that the Association of Bay Area Governments and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission have the potential of exerting too much control over Orinda’s land use and zoning decisions. Orinda Watch has sponsored town hall meetings to inform citizens of this legislation and the process that has resulted. Its website offers useful background information on Plan Bay Area.

OrindaVision was organized in 2009. Peter Hasselman, FAIA, and I were among its founders and provide its leadership, along with current steering committee members Ian Baird, Michael Kaplan, Carol Penskar, Ethan Elkind, Dave Anderson and Bob Burt. OrindaVision is not funded by real estate development interests and steering committee members are not affiliated with companies engaged in real estate development. OrindaVision’s primary goals are to call attention to a downtown that is in need of serious renewal, to contribute to a vision of what Orinda citizens want downtown to become and to encourage the process of renewal.  We have put forward our own vision of how downtown might appear over time with an engaged citizenry guided by professional planning. We have participated in dozens of discussions with groups large and small over the past several years and are available to meet with any group that is interested in the renewal conversation.

OrindaVision has recently encouraged the efforts of a developer from within the community to assemble several properties at the northern end of Orinda Village. This assembly could support a market rate, for-sale residential project which has the potential to accomplish the most significant renewal to be undertaken in the commercial district of downtown since Theater Square opened a generation ago.  This type of project would provide a focal point for attractive retail development benefitting all Orindans. It would be built to high design and construction standards, would conform to height limitations in Orinda’s present General Plan and would reinforce the sense of village character that Orinda is all about.  We are hopeful that the adjacent property owners will find a way to join together in an assembly that would enable redevelopment of the Phairs block to occur. The success of small scale land assembly such as this is critical to the process of renewal in our downtown.

Large scale urban renewal is not practical for Orinda.  Instead, a succession of smaller, sensitively planned projects over a period of years is the likely path forward for our community. OrindaVision hopes you will stay tuned and be supportive.

Sincerely,

Tom Trowbridge,

Chairman, OrindaVision

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