By Jim Caroompas
Opponents of the city’s plan to increase low-income housing in Orinda are expected to jam Tuesday City Council meeting to voice their disapproval.
Additionally, some of those residents accuse city staff of working with the state housing agency outside of the public process to rezone parts of Orinda for that housing.
Some of the complaints are effects on home values, schools, and traffic.
At issue is the city’s Housing Element, a state-required document that identifies areas of the city where housing can be built for various income levels. That includes low and very low-income housing.
The draft housing element now before the state, which is ready to approve it, calls for a total of 106 moderate, low, and very-low income units in Orinda. According to a staff report, second units, or “in-law” units, can provide all but 64 of those necessary homes. The rest could be supplied by building a condominium or apartment project on 3.2 acres behind Santa Maria Church on Santa Maria Way, the staff report states. To do that, the council would have to agree to double the number of homes per acre allowed on the site, from 10 to 20.
If that happens, there is no requirement that homes would go up. Church officials have stated that there are presently no plans to sell the parcel. However, should the property be rezoned for the higher density and then sold, the city would have a difficult time stopping a developer from building a project of that size.
Meanwhile, members of the group Orinda Watch believe that the addition of low and very low-income housing will drastically change the city’s bucolic character.
A letter to the council from Orinda Watch charges city staff with working behind the scenes, with no public input, to get approval from state housing officials for the rezoning and the overall Housing Element. Staff denies the charges, saying that the Housing Element process has been open to the public all along.
The council meets Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Orinda Library Auditorium, 26 Orinda Way.