Why do people move to Orinda? What did they expect to find in such a warm, friendly place?
Orinda has many assets: excellent schools; a semi-rural environment; friendly people; a low crime rate; a salubrious climate; and beautiful homes.
Rarely, if ever, does life get better than it does in Orinda.
But are Orindans’ expectations being met today?
The Orinda of 1960, 1970, or 1980 is being challenged. The population has grown. The schools are on the verge of overcrowding, the traffic is unbearable, and downtown parking is practically nonexistent.
Can a person who bought a single, detached family home be sure that his or her home and lifestyle are not threatened?
The accompanying chart shows the population growth of Orinda over the last several decades. Note that the population between 1960 and 2017 has quadrupled.
(1960 – Present)
And now, Orinda which is really full, has plans to make the city even bigger.
The assaults on Orinda come from two sources: the Orinda City Council and the State of California.
What happened to Orinda? Around 2004 (and perhaps before), the Orinda City Council stared to become enamored with development. Before 2004, there was really no need to attend city-council meetings. Everything was going fine. Why sit through boring council meetings when life was good?
But around 2004 advocates of development took control of the council. Suddenly, Orinda did not seem to be the original Orinda. And who benefits from development? Answer: real-estate interests; construction workers; banks; insurance companies; and architects.
Orinda residents should ask which city-council members are aligned with development interests.
The three major blows to Orinda’s environment can be seen in several projects. Readers of The Icon have seen many articles about these projects:
• the 67-unit Monteverde/Eden Housing project at 2 Irwin Way. The project has room for 30 cars. Monteverde is across the street from an Orinda fire house and violates Orinda’s 35-foot height limit.
• the Orinda Grove/Pulte project on Altarinda Road. The project has 73 homes squeezed into 8.2 acres (one house per 0.1 acre). Try to find a parking space in Orinda Grove.
• Plan Bay Area, a scheme to add to Orinda and other Bay Area cities high-rise, high-density housing. Plan Bay Area was approved by regional governmental agencies on July 18-19, 2013.
Now another project is under discussion. The project involves the construction of high-rise residential units, where the Orinda post office and the Orinda Rite Aid drug store are.
Orinda is now on the verge of looking like New York City or Tokyo than the Orinda of yore.
What can be said about the State of California?
The state does not have the same type of government it used to have. In the era from 1946 to 1990, the state built freeways, educational institutions, and water projects. In 1965, gasoline cost 32 cents a gallon. Tuition at any campus of the University of California was $180 a year then. Today, tuition is $12,000 annually.
As California began to change, the State Legislature became less supportive of education, freeways, and other big projects. Housing prices began to rise sharply. Then, Silicon Valley emerged as a sort of world power.
The nation’s heretofore big companies were no longer just General Electric, Proctor and Gamble, and General Motors.
New names appeared like Apple, Google, Intel, Netflix, Facebook, and Uber. These new firms now dominate the financial world. And the headquarters of all these firms are located in the San Francisco Bay Area.
According to The New York Times (Aug. 13, 2017), here are the rankings of some Bay Area firms in terms of stock value: Apple (first), Facebook (third), and Google (eighth).
The 20th century was dominated by petroleum. The 21st century is dominated by data.
In recent years, the State of California began to take control away from local communities. California, not local communities, would have control over building heights, zoning, and housing density (houses per acre).
In effect, local communities, like Orinda, are now colonies of the State of California. This phenomenon raises the question: Why even have a local government?
With the pressure from some members of the Orinda City Council and the State of California, Orinda is on the brink of tremendous change.
This change, if it occurs, will be irreversible.
Is the kind of change planned for Orinda what Orinda’s current residents expected — or wanted– when they first moved here?