In its fall 2017 issue (volume 2, number 4), The Icon reported, “Orinda has many assets: excellent schools; a semi-rural environment, friendly people; a low crime rate; a salubrious climate; and beautiful homes.”
No one knows how long “traditional” Orinda will last. But powerful forces want to destroy local control and transform the community into some sort of Tokyo or Manhattan.
Developers and supportive political forces have plans to add additional housing to Orinda, a city which is full. There is even talk of constructing high-rise, high-density housing in Orinda.
Plans are being considered for demolishing the Rite Aid drug store and the post office on Orinda Way. The plans involve installing multi-family, and, possibly, high-rise housing units where Rite Aid and the post office are located. Orinda currently has a height limit of 35 feet for buildings. By action of the Orinda City Council, that limit could be exceeded. (The limit was exceeded for the Monteverde/Eden Housing complex at 2 Irwin Way. The complex is across the street from the Orinda Way firehouse and the local branch of Citibank.)
There is a blueprint for the proposed transformation of Orinda.
The blueprint can be found by examining the career of Robert Moses, who for four decades was the unelected central planner for New York City and environs.
Moses held the position of New York City’s Park Commissioner and simultaneously held 11 other positions. Moses, in his 40-plus-year career, which began in the 1920’s, developed parks, highways, bridges, and tunnels. Moses had strong political backing and was, for many years, very popular with residents of New York City and New York State.
An excellent book, “The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York,” by Robert Caro gives a complete picture of Moses’ life and career. The book is 1246 pages long and was originally published in 1974 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
Moses was both an advocate of open space and of development.
For individuals familiar with New York City, Moses’ imprint is everywhere. He built the Triborough Bridge, the Cross-Bronx Expressway, and many other structures. Moses also built parks and playgrounds.
According to Caro, “ . . . between 1945 and 1958 no site for public housing was selected and no brick of a public housing project laid without his [Moses’] approval.”
Moses, Caro wrote, “was the dominant force” of two immense housing developments, Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village.
What does Robert Moses have to do with Orinda? Just look around.
Between October 2013 and June 2015, 73 homes were built on Orinda’s Altarinda Way. The homes are squeezed into 8.2 acres (one home per 0.1 acre).
Another big operation is Plan Bay Area 2040. According the plan’s sponsors, MTC (Metropolitan Transportation Commission) and ABAG (Association of Bay Area Governments), “Plan Bay Area 2040 is a state-mandated, integrated long-range land use plan.”
MTC and ABAG are regional governmental agencies that operate in the Bay Area’s nine counties. None of the directors of MTC and ABAG are directly elected by voters.
According to MTC and ABAG: “Plan Bay Area 2040 provides a roadmap for accommodating projected household and employment growth in the nine-county Bay Area by 2040 as well as a transportation investment strategy for the region. Plan Bay Area 2040 details how the Bay Area can make progress toward the region’s long-range transportation and land use goals.”
No one can be sure what level of growth, if any, can be expected between now and 2040. In 2012, California voters approved Proposition 30, a plan to raise the state sales tax and the state income tax. In the wake of Proposition 30, 300,000 people left California, according to the Internal Revenue Service.
California has high housing prices. Taxes are also high. Currently, California has the highest sales tax in the nation, the highest gasoline tax in the nation, and the highest top bracket (13.3%) for the state’s personal income tax. The state’s gasoline tax and vehicle registration fees are slated to rise in November 2017.
Additional housing in Orinda will lead to overcrowded schools, more traffic jams, and more difficulties in finding parking spaces. Moreover, extra housing will put pressure on Orinda’s police services, fire services, and remaining open space.
If there is an economic downturn, demand for housing will tumble. Under proposed, new housing plans for Orinda, the supply of housing will increase. When demand drops and supply goes up, housing values fall.
Perhaps growth in California, including the Bay Area, will not occur. Instead, California may shrink in population. If shrinkage does occur, then all these plans involving land use and transportation will be for naught.