Plans to ease height limitations and build a five-story condominium village in downtown Orinda have the citizenry up in arms and both sides of the initiative flinging invective.
At stake, both agree, is the future look and feel of the downtown, a zone currently occupied by many of the town's most venerable small businesses. A plan put forth by the city Planning Department and up for review by the City Council calls for construction of a five-story transit village served by BART and topped with condominiums for senior citizens who, ostensibly, would give up their "empty nested" single-family homes in favor of low-maintainence condo living.
But fledgling citizen's group Save Orinda is waging an electronic campaign against the development plan, alleging that it was "created by a task force, led by real-estate developers" and that razing existing businesses would negatively impact the semi-rural character and charm of the town. The group says it was put off the planning process when a commissioner referred to dozens of people who had turned out in opposition of the plan as "uniformed" and "not representative of true Orinda residents."
"(This plan) would level much of our quaint downtown and replace blocks with 55-feet-tall (sic), five-story, high-rise condo condominiums," Save Orinda says on its web site. "(This plan) is going to the City Council with no opportunity for citizens to vote on the issue."
The Save Orinda site offers visitors a chance to sign a petition urging the City Council to put the plan before the voters. They say it does not take into account issues with parking and traffic.
Not so, says Orinda Mayor Thomas McCormick.
"During the 150-plus public meetings and six workshop/town hall-type meetings, the task force heard from a majority of those who understood and saw drawings of the how the proposed height limit increase would work had approved of the task force's Revitalization Plan," he wrote recently. "After reviewing information and drawings, the public understood that the proposal would not create a Walnut Creek-type setting, but instead would maintain the charm of Orinda while updating the many old buildings to allow for more services to Orinda residents."
We'll just have to see how this latest battle plays out in Orinda, where residents —it seems — have no trouble speaking out.