Development Proposed for Large Orinda Valley

Development Proposed for Large Orinda Valley

An engineering firm has outlined a proposal for the development of housing in Southwood Valley, a large, natural area in the midst of Orinda.

The Southwood plan might not comply with Orinda’s General Plan.  Each city in California is required to have a General Plan, which is a document covering a city’s governance, especially in the area of land use.

At a meeting at the Orinda Public Library on April 16, 2018, Design Resources, an engineering firm in Walnut Creek, described a plan to build 18 homes in the valley.  The 18 homes would occupy 10 acres of Southwood Valley’s 43 acres.  

Over 100 people attended the meeting, many of them critical of the plan.

Southwood Valley is near such Orinda streets as Bates Boulevard, Tahos Road, and Southwood Drive.

Orinda’s General Plan, which provides rules governing the city’s use of its land, specifically mentions Southwood Valley.  The General Plan states:  “Prior to development . . . for the 43-acre Southwood Valley parcel, an environmental constraints study shall be completed by the City at the expense of the owner and upon request of the owner.”

Chris Kniel, an Orinda resident, has criticized development of Southwood Valley.  Kniel, in an April 19, 2018, written statement said:  “The General Plan specifically says for Southwood Valley that a complete Environmental Impact Report must be prepared prior to any determination of development and the number of homes that might be supported on 10 acres . . .”

Ross Avedian, an official of Design Resources, said at the April 16 meeting that an Environmental Impact Report has “not yet” been done.

Referring to Design Resources proposal, Mr. Kniel said, “Their proposal is absurd.  It represents a major insult to the neighborhood and the Orinda community.”

Another Orinda resident who attended the meeting said, “The development, if carried out, could easily lead to mudslides during a rainstorm.”

According to Yuri Eliyahu of Design Resources, Southwood Valley is a geologically active site and can experience landslides.

At the April 16 meeting, officials of Design Resources said that they did not know what the probable cost of each of the 18 proposed homes would be.  A member of the audience familiar with construction estimated that each individual home would cost a buyer between $2.5 million and $4.0 million.

Making a presentation at the meeting was Emmanuel Ursu, Orinda’s former planning director.  When asked if any of the 18 proposed homes would be set aside for low-income people, he refused to reply and quickly walked away.

To learn more about Orinda’s plans for Southwood Valley, an inquiry to a high official of the Orinda government went unanswered.

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