The Moraga Town Council has gone on record supporting multi-pronged efforts to negotiate with a developer to maintain public access — and perhaps the launch of a museum — at the historic, dilapidated Moraga Adobe.
The council on Wednesday night voted unanimously to send a letter to the Orinda City Council, which has primary jurisdiction. The Moraga council expressed support for efforts by Friends of the Moraga Adobe and other groups to raise enough money to purchase the adobe — the oldest residence in Contra Costa County — and an adjacent lot to preserve the view of Mulholland Ridge and Mount Diablo from the adobe's porch.
"Our interest in this matter is preservation of a historic Lamorinda resource and maintenance of public access for the benefit of our citizens, especially our youth," states the town's letter.
The groups envision maintaining the adobe as an educational resource to teach local history, including docents and attendants.
FMA is hoping to negotiate an arrangement where — if it and other groups are unable to raise enough money after a couple of years — a public access easement would remain over the adobe parcel if it reverts to the homeowners association of the 13-home development. FMA anticipates an annual maintenance cost of $50,000 to $250,000 if it owns the adobe museum, according to a town staff report.
The developer had envisioned restoring the adobe as a clubhouse for the use of the development's residents.
The developer, mindful of the talks about historic preservation, has postponed a scheduled meeting with the Orinda City Council until January, said Moraga Town Manager Jill Keimach.
"Public access is very much worth a change in the plans," said Kent Long of Orinda, president of the Friends of the Moraga Adobe, who spoke to the Moraga council Wednesday.
The Moraga Historical Society board met earlier this week. The historical society sent the town a letter saying it would "use its best efforts to obtain pledges or donations over the next two years (November 2012 to October 2014) of at least $100,000, which can be applied to the purchase of the lot adjacent to the Moraga Adobe property …"
In October, the Orinda Planning Commission approved the subdivision submitted by J&J Ranch LLC on a 20.3-acre site in Orinda on the Moraga boundary on Adobe Lane. The planning commission found that the project met state environmental standards.
The adobe, a historic landmark in the state of California, has been plagued by vandalism and neglect. It is believed to be the oldest residential structure in Contra Costa County, dating to 1841. It was the 19th century home of Joaquin Moraga — who was the grandson of Jose Joaquin Moraga, a Spanish explorer who was the first commandant of the Presidio in San Francisco and helped found the pueblo of San Jose in the South Bay.