State mandated Housing Element forces Orinda to build subidized low-income housing

Under a State of California mandate, the City of Orinda is being compelled to construct 173 units of housing for low-income individuals. Strong opposition has emerged to Orinda’s Housing Element. A group called Orinda Watch is circulating a petition which requests that the Orinda City Council “withdraw [from] the Housing Element.”

Emmanuel Ursu, director of planning for Orinda, told in Orinda City Council on June 18 that what is called the Housing Element is “not optional.” The Housing Element is a program that tells a city how much low-income housing must be built. A city’s failure to construct the mandated housing can result in a cutoff of funds for road repair.

According to a June 3 report issued by Orinda, the city can meet its obligations for low-income housing by allowing city residents to rent “second units” to low-income people. Second units can be guest houses on an individual’s private property.

The report states: “The City [of Orinda] recognizes second units as an essential part of Orinda’s affordable housing supply . . . ”

Strong opposition has emerged to Orinda’s Housing Element. A group called Orinda Watch is circulating a petition which requests that the Orinda City Council “withdraw [from] the Housing Element.”

At a June 27 meeting sponsored by Orinda Watch, some 300 people showed up to protest the changes planned for Orinda. The meeting was held at the Veterans Memorial Building in Lafayette.

Another group, Save Orinda, is circulating a petition demanding “a citizens’ vote” on any housing, zoning, and building-height changes.

On May 13 over 200 people crammed into a meeting of the Orinda City Council. About 30 Orindans addressed the council. All but four individuals spoke in favor of preserving Orinda’s environment. Several individuals present at the meeting said the attendance was the highest ever for a city-council meeting.

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