EDITORIAL: Free Fall in Orinda

EDITORIAL: Free Fall in Orinda

The City of Orinda is facing decline.

Orinda, perhaps the nicest place anywhere to live, has gone from a community of 5,000 in 1960 to over 19,000 today.  While Orinda’s schools are still excellent, educational quality is likely to decline severely once more residences —  most likely high-rise, high-density residences — are built and more pupils arrive in a city that has no more classroom space.

During the evening rush hour in Orinda, driving one mile from the city’s BART station to Miner Road can take as much as 30 minutes.  During daylight hours, finding a parking space in the theater district is generally impossible.

In early December 2018, the city council will have five members — Amy Worth, Inga Miller, Darlene Gee, Dennis Fay, and Nick Kosla — who traditionally have supported more real estate development although in recent months Ms. Worth has called for more local control, not more State of California control, over Orinda’s land.

During the fall 2018 city-council campaign Mr. Fay and Mr. Kosla failed to respond to repeated inquiries to obtain their views on land use.  Are both men being evasive?  Perhaps that are afraid to tell the news media whether or not they support local control over the city’s land.  Mr. Kosla has a history of being involved in real estate development.

BART wants to build 20,000 housing units in local communities.  BART has received this authorization from Assembly Bill 2923, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law in September 2018.  BART is in the transportation business, not the real-estate business.  What does BART know about housing?  In fact, what does BART know about transportation?  Crime and dirty cars have plagued BART passengers in recent years.

Orinda’s homeowners may not be pleased to see the deterioration of their city.  Accordingly, a certain number of the city’s residents may want to sell their homes now while home prices are at record levels.  There is no guarantee that Orinda will avoid a future economic downturn or an exodus of people.  Orindans might want to remember the financial crisis of 2008-2009.

For years, Orinda has been bedeviled by the Housing Element, a state mandate to construct more homes in Orinda, a city that is full.  The most recent mandate called Cycle Five is demanding that the city build hundreds of new homes.

Then, there is the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA), another state mandate for the construction of homes for individuals of various income levels.  While all Americans must abide by the 1968 Fair Housing Act, which bars discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing, no person has an automatic, right to live in Orinda or anywhere else.  If a person wants to live in Orinda, he should make the necessary payment to purchase an Orinda home.

The new city council is obligated to show boldness by opposing State of California mandates concerning Orinda’s land.  In recent times, city council members Eve Phillips and Ms. Worth have shown the necessary courage and leadership to oppose state mandates covering Orinda’s land.

Taxes in Orinda are becoming burdensome.  In recent years, the voters have approved new taxes for Orinda’s library and schools.  The voters have been very generous.  Now, they should demand a limit on city taxes and city spending.

The time has come for all city-council members, especially the new ones (Mr. Fay and Mr. Kosla), to refrain from timidity and weakness.

If the city council fails to oppose more residential development, the council will have given more Orinda residents reasons to leave the city and find better places to live.  ν

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