Overwhelming opposition to plans to bring low-income housing to Orinda was expressed at a special workshop held in Orinda on Wednesday evening, July 9. At the workshop, which was sponsored by the City of Orinda, a crowd of over 100 people gathered at the Garden Room of the Orinda Public Library to learn about Orinda’s plans to construct 227 low-income housing units.
The 227 units are part of what is called the Housing Element, a housing quota mandated by the State of California. The state’s Department of Housing and Community Development is requiring the state’s cities to construct housing for low-income individuals. The Housing Element under review at the workshop covers the years 2015 to 2023.
The July 9 meeting was much calmer than a June 26 meeting during which Orinda residents who were opponents of the Housing Element shouted and screamed at a speaker who tried to provide details of the plan.
At the July 9 workshop, individuals were asked to put round stickers on various charts. On one chart, an individual could place a sticker where he thought a house for a low-income person should be located.
Interviews with over 20 people attending the workshop indicated strong opposition to the Housing Element. Many people said that they had to pay full-price for their homes and resented the fact that the Housing Element would provide subsidized, low-cost housing for new residents.
Many workshop attendees said that traffic and parking conditions in Orinda are already intolerable. These individuals added that new housing in Orinda will only make traffic and parking worse.
Since the 1960’s, the government’s role in housing has changed. Initially, the government sought to build special high-rise, high-density rental housing, often called project housing, for low-income people. Criticism of project housing was based on the fact that project housing contained renters instead of owners. Owners, opponents of project housing said, are more likely to keep their living space in better condition. Another criticism of project housing is the prevalence of crime and illegal drug-use at some locations.
In the last decade, government housing authorities have changed from supporting government-owned housing to favoring individually-owned low-income housing subsidized by the government.
Government pressure to construct low-income housing is not unique to Orinda. In Westchester County, a wealthy region north of New York City, the federal government is pressuring the county to building housing for low-income people. Westchester’s refusal to comply with federal rules cost the county $7.4 million in federal housing funds in 2013. Federal authorities are threatening to cut off another $5.2 million this year.
One attendee at the July 9 Orinda housing workshop said that opponents of housing were being labeled racists. However, this attendee said that he vigorously opposes racial discrimination, adding that he would have no objections if Oprah Winfrey, the African-American television personality, bought a home in Orinda. This individual said that the only obstacle to owning a home in Orinda is the amount of money needed to make a down payment on a home.
An Orindan attending the workshop said that he had no objections to Imelda Marcos’s owning a home in Orinda. Ms. Marcos, who is of Asian-Pacific background, is the wife of the late Philippine dictator, Ferdinand Marcos. This Orindan said that Ms. Marcos might need to buy two homes: one house for her personal use and a second house for her vast and notorious collection of of shoes.