A fierce debate over a plan to build low-income housing in Orinda is expected to occur at a meeting of the Orinda City Council on Tuesday, August 20. The meeting will take place at 7 P.M. in the auditorium of the Orinda Public Library at 26 Orinda Way in Orinda. The hot topic will be the city’s Housing Element derived from state mandates to relocate low-income Californians into wealthier communities like Orinda, Lafayette, and Danville.
A huge crowd is expected to be present at the meeting. Individuals interested in attending the meeting are being advised to arrive early.
What is called the Housing Element will be on the city council’s agenda. The Housing Element is derived from a state law that mandates the movement of low-income Californians into wealthier areas like Orinda, Lafayette, and Danville.
A nonpartisan group, Orinda Watch, which, according to its Web site, “is fighting for local control of planning and governance” has delivered a letter to the Orinda City Council in advance of the August 20 meeting. The letter, dated August 15, expresses concerns about the “manner” in which the City of Orinda has developed the Housing Element.
Orinda Watch’s letter says that the organization has concerns relating “to the actions of the Planning Director and City Attorney — and possibly those of the City Manager — whose actions may have violated the public’s trust.”
Orinda’s planning director is Emmanuel Ursu, the city attorney is Osa Wolff, and the city manager is Janet Keeter.
Orinda Watch wants the Orinda City Council to “engage or hire an independent agency or body to investigate” how Orinda has developed the city’s Housing Element.
Orinda Watch claims, in its August 15 letter, that there has been “no public disclosure of the substance of the Housing Element . . . ”
On June 18 top Orinda officials released a report which describes plans to place low-income people in all parts of Orinda. According to the report, California law “requires every county and city in the state” to have a plan to house low-income individuals. The report states that Orinda “could accommodate . . . the construction of 530 additional single family dwelling units . . . ”
The report recommends that “the City [of Orinda] explore a program to permit second units [such a guest cottages] on lots where they are not currently allowed today . . . ”
According to the report, “Second units are an important part of the City’s affordable housing supply and are often rented at rates that are affordable to low and very low income households.”
Peter Singleton, a lawyer opposed to high-density housing, said in an August 15 statement that Mr. Ursu, Orinda’s planning director, favors “a redevelopment plan for the downtown [of Orinda], complete with high density, subsidized housing . . . ”
In an August 16 statement, Orinda Watch criticized the process by which Orinda is developing the Housing Element. “The total lack of transparency is one of the gravest deficiencies of a process that has been conducted totally outside of public view,” the statement said.