Orinda may be getting close to getting a revised Housing Element
Citizens told the City Council and city planners on Tuesday evening that they have come a long way in the past few months toward developing housing guidelines that residents can live with.
“A lot has been accomplished and a lot has been corrected,” said resident Chris Neal.
Rusty Snow, a leader of the group Orinda Watch, said he too was satisfied with many of the revisions in the latest draft of the Housing Element.
He also said city leaders and council members have been more responsive to citizens’ concerns over the plan.
“I’m very encouraged by the change in tone,” he said.
Owen Murphy also commended city planners for the revisions they’ve made over the past few months. He said he didn’t agree with everything in the proposed element, but he felt the document was now ready for approval.
“I think we’re close enough,” he said.
Some residents still expressed concerns over some of the density guidelines, affordable housing, height limits and some of the language in the plan. But most said they felt the element was vastly improved.
There were some dissenters.
Clyde Vaughn said the low-income housing goals in the plan would create “slum housing” that would be occupied by gangs and criminals.
This was the seventh public hearing on the element, which is now in its fourth draft.
The early stages of the process created a lot of acrimony between some citizens and city leaders.
At past hearings, some residents urged the council to withdraw the proposed Housing Element and form an advisory committee to study the issue because some citizens have lost confidence in the process.
After Tuesday’s hearing, council members gave furthur guidance to city planners on revisions to the guidelines.
City planners will now distribute a revised and a required “negative declaration” to the public and interested parties in mid-October.
The Planning Commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the revised plan on Oct. 29.
The City Council will then be asked to final version of the Housing Element at its second meeting in November.
This plan replaces the Housing Element adopted in 2004. That element covered the time period from 1999 to 2006.
The new element covers the period from 2007 to 2014. Since most of that period has passed, the document focuses on Orinda’s housing decisions during the next 18 months.
The element has five overall goals.
The first goal involves new housing production. The draft element encourages to develop a variety of types of housing for all income levels.
Specifically, it recommends construction of at least 50 new single-family homes suitable for moderate and above moderate income households. It also calls for development of at least 37 second units, 17 of which would be built between 2012 and 2014. It also recommends completion of eight affordable unit at the former Pine Grove school site and 66 units of senior housing for low-income seniors at the Orinda Senior Housing Project.
The second goal encourages the city to promote the conservation and maintenance of Orinda’s current housing stock.
The third goal seeks to provide additional housing opportunities and sites for low and moderate income households. It calls for a zoning change in the RM District to allow construction of 64 non-age restricted housing on the Santa Maria site.
The fourth goal is to reduce governmental constraints on housing production and preservation. Specifically, it recommends completing 80 percent of planning applications within two weeks.
The fifth goal urges the city to promote equal housing opportunities for all Orinda residents.
The report notes Orinda’s population rose 0.3 percent between 2000 and 2010 to 17,643 residents. Contra Costa County’s population rose 5.8 percent.
The median age of Orinda residents increased by 2.6 years to 47.8 years. The city has the second highest median age in the county’s 19 cities. The only city with a higher median age is Walnut Creek, whose numbers are skewed by the Rossmoor retirement community.
The report says seniors are the fastest growing segment of Orinda’s population and will continue to be so as Baby Boomers reach the age of 65.
Therefore, the report notes, the city’s most important housing emphasis should be on seniors.
The element notes the 2010 Census shows 6,553 households in Orinda. Almost 34 percent of those units are occupied by individuals 65 years or older. Overall, about 20 percent of residences in Contra Costa County are occupied by seniors.
There are 150 units set aside for seniors in the Orinda Senior Village. However, the report notes, there are about 2,100 senior-occupied homes in Orinda, so the village units only represent a fraction of the demand for senior housing.