Bruce London, MD, Candidate for the Orinda City Council, Seeks More Openness In Government & Wants to Preserve Orinda’s
By Richard Colman
Bruce London, MD, now running for a seat on the Orinda City Council, wants more openness in city government.
Dr. London, a 32-year resident of Orinda and a retired physician, says that Orinda is threatened by a “loss of local control.” The State of California, he says, exerts too much control over local communities.
During a late August interview in a private Orinda home, Dr. London said that Orinda is becoming too “urbanized.”
Asked if he favors a 35-height limit for Orinda buildings, Dr. London said, “I absolutely do.”
In the area of crime prevention, Dr. London said, “Public safety is the number one priority.”
Dr. London said, if elected, “his goal is to be an advocate for all Orinda residents.”
Dr. London expressed concern over Orinda’s Housing Element, a California-mandated plan to bring hundreds of new residences to Orinda, a city that is basically full. Citizens, not government, should “make the decision” on whether or not to have a Housing Element, he said. Between 1960 and 2010, Orinda’s population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, went from 4,712 residents to 17,653, an increase of 275 percent.
In his platform, Dr. London states: “I support a refreshed downtown.” Several Bay Area cites like Danville, have renewed their urban areas. Danville built attractive shopping areas that are compatible with the city’s environment.
Also in his platform, Dr. London says, “I will fight to preserve Orinda’s semi-rural character and the downtown village character.”
He says, in his platform, that he supports “real fiscal restraint.”
In his interview, Dr. London was critical of such regional governmental agencies as ABAG (the Association of Bay Area Governments) and MTC (the Metropolitan Transportation Commission). ABAG is involved in land-use planning for Bay Area counties. MTC is concerned with Bay Area transportation matters.
The respective members of the boards of directors of ABAG and MTC are not directly elected by voters. The directors of each agency come from a pool of locally elected officials. Dr. London favors the direct election of ABAG and MTC directors.
The Orinda City Council, according to Dr. London, needs to communicate better with the city’s residents. He favors town-hall meetings, public forums, and press conferences. In the last six years, the city council has held no town-hall meetings at which council members and residents could exchange views. In those six years, there have been no press conferences.
Dr. London was critical of the way most members of the city council handled Measure L, a $25 million bond to fix Orinda’s damaged roads and drains. He said the majority of the current city council made a “big mistake” by not holding a series of town-hall meetings on Measure L.
On June 7, Orinda’s voters passed Measure L, a $25 million road-repair bond. The city council put Measure L on the ballot.
Measure L’s $25 million bond falls far short of the $47 million needed to fix all bad roads in Orinda. Dr. London said that the city council, through town-hall meetings, should have tried to educate residents about the value of going forth with the full $47 million, enough money, he said, to fix all of Orinda’s bad roads.
Orinda’s environment is in jeopardy, Dr. London said. He cited the Orinda Grove/Pulte development on Altarinda Road. In that development, 73 homes are squeezed into a tiny area. Many of the homes are so close together that a tall person, by extending his arms, can touch two adjacent structures.
Potential school overcrowding concerns Dr. London. All the extra residential construction planned for Orinda, he said, will lead to classrooms that are too crowded. He said that cities like Dublin and Fremont are experiencing overcrowded classrooms because too much residential construction has gone on in each city.
Dr. London said he opposed raising the Contra Costa sales tax by one-half percentage point. On the November ballot, there will be a vote on raising the county-wide sales tax. In Orinda, the sales tax, if the ballot measure passes, will go from 9.0 percent to 9.5 percent. The tax, if enacted, will bear down heavily on low-income people and senior citizens living on fixed incomes.
On the subject of BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), Dr. London said he opposes the $3.5 bond measure to upgrade BART. The bond measure, which will be on the November ballot, will raise, if passed, property taxes in Orinda and elsewhere. BART, Dr. London said, needs to “put its fiscal house in order.” BART has been criticized for paying too much in salaries and benefits to its employees. In 2013, BART employees went on strike twice.
Dr. London’s views closely align with those of incumbent city-council member, Eve Phillips. In 2014, Ms. Phillips a newcomer to Orinda politics, ran for one of three open city-council seats. Phillips, one of six candidates, came in first.
Ms. Phillips who grew up in the Orinda area and graduated from Orinda’s Miramonte High School, did her university studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Later, she received a degree from the Stanford Business School. After her university days, Ms. Phillips returned to Orinda, saying the city had drastically changed from her Miramonte days.
In her 2014 campaign, Ms. Phillips ran on a platform of addressing Orinda’s traffic problems, protecting Orinda’s semi-rural, small-town atmosphere, and supporting the city’s schools.
On workday evenings between 5:00 P.M. and 6:00 P.M. Camino Pablo, one of Orinda’s main streets, can be very congested. Often one sees long lines of cars between the Orinda BART station and Miner Road, a distance of about two miles. Traveling from the BART station to Miner Road can sometimes take 20 to 30 minutes.
In written statement, Dr. London said that he has “no ties to any business or group that will profit financially from work performed in Orinda.”
In his interview, Dr. London said he believes that city-council members should have no conflicts of interest. He said that if a donor offered him money in exchange for support of a special project, he would reject the contribution. “I intend to set a standard,” he said.
Election day is Tuesday, November 8.
Disclosure: This reporter is a supporter of Dr. London’s campaign for the Orinda City Council.