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Orinda Private Street Policy

Orinda has had a policy for private streets since 1990 (Resolution 56-90).  However, it is an unworkable policy.  Since it was put in place, no private street has become public. 

The main reason the policy is unworkable is one condition (paragraph C) which states "There shall be a demonstrated need for the incorporation of the road into the City's road system for the purpose of traffic circulation."  It gives three examples:

       1) The road is a Collector. (No private street is a Collector.)

       2) The road connects two existing public streets.  (Only 12 of Orinda's 203 private streets are through streets, complying with this condition. The other 191 are cul-de-sacs.)

       3) The road can provide an viable alternative to an existing public street. (None of the 191 private cul-de-sacs comply.)

In other words, this one condition exempts all but 3.5 miles of Orinda's 29.5 miles of private streets.  Note, 29 miles of existing public Residential streets are also cul-de-sacs or loops which would also not comply with this restriction.  In fact, over half of Orinda's families live on this "class" of street which represent the very nature of Orinda's semi-rural neighborhoods.

In 2018 the Council asked staff to review this policy.  Staff came back with a revision, Resolution 59-18The only substantive change made to the previous resolution was the addition of one more constraint, the exclusion of any street maintained by and HOA. While this new exclusion applied to 59 streets providing access to 645 Orinda homes, it effectively only applied to 4 of the 12 through streets not already excluded by Paragraph C (which became Paragraph D in 59-18).  The warped logic of why they do not deserve to be considered public streets is that their HOAs already "provide" maintenance so why should the property owners on those streets expect their tax dollars to be used for road maintenance when their HOA fees are already covering that cost?  This resolution was passed with a 3-1 vote with only Council Member Gee, a professional transportation engineer, opposing. 

The closest any street has become as being accepted as a public street, and thus being maintained with public funds, was a 1992 maintenance agreement between the Orindawoods HOA and the City where in exchange for granting public access on three streets, the City agreed to maintain those three streets.  These streets do not lead to any public building or other facility, they "simply" provide public access to private Orindawoods homes (as do the other 63 miles of public residential streets).  They two would fail Resolution 56-90's Paragraph C and with the new 59-18, they would also fail the HOA exclusion).   But it has been confirmed that they provides a public benefit and thus public tax dollars can be used to maintain these streets.  The agreement comes up for review every five years and in 2022 the City Council "renewed" it for another five years by not terminating it.

Of the 29.5 miles of private streets, home to almost 1,600 families which pay the same taxes as everyone else, Resolution 59-18 excludes all but 2 miles of these streets from ever becoming part of the public street network and receiving the full benefits of the other 93 miles of public streets.  It is an unworkable (and mean) public policy.  Not something that would unify the community.

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