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Will Equality Sell in Orinda?


We have asked this of the six candidates running for City Council.  Below is the answer.


For almost 100 years public road maintenance benefits have been denied to a significant minority, currently over 20%, of Orindans.  The cost to those denied is not extreme, but the benefit to those avoiding the cost (the 80% of Orinda who do receive the benefits) is far less.  The true cost is that 1,600 Orinda families are treated as second class citizens and that has an insidious negative impact on the fabric of the community.


98 years ago, one of the first Orinda housing developments was created by the DeLaveaga family and approved (April 7, 1924) by the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors.  This was Unit 1 of Haciendas Del Orinda and included 161 parcels southeast of Camino Sobrante between (what is now) Orinda Way and El Caminito.  All streets were offered to the County for dedication as Public Streets.  Today, four of those streets, with 39 of the original 161 parcels, have still not been accepted as Public Streets and are thus called “private” streets (even though the “owners” have posted no restriction for public access).


These “private” streets provide the same service to the people living on them as do Public Streets that have been granted public acceptance, namely paved access to private homes for the residents and service providers including public utilities and emergency service vehicles.


Since 1924 these four streets have been joined by 200 additional streets which have been denied public dedication while over 250 others HAVE been granted the title, and associated benefits, of Public Street.


The logic of what is (or should be) and what is not a Public Street is non-existent.  The City “owns” and maintains 193 cul-de-sacs and “loops”, home to 2,300 Orinda families, whose sole purpose is to provide paved access to those families living in private homes and to their service providers including public utilities and emergency service vehicles, exactly the same service provided by the “private” streets.  Yet in 1990, and reiterated in 2018, the City created a policy that restricted any street which did not offer “a demonstrated need for the incorporation of the road in question into the City's Public Roadway Network for purposes of traffic circulation which provides benefit to the general public” from gaining Public Street status.  This obviously excludes cul-de-sacs which defines 90% of private streets but also defines the 193 Public Streets receiving public benefits.


The owners of the parcels on “private” streets pay the same taxes as every other residential property owner, including:

* From 2012 to 2020 they paid the half cent Measure L sales tax which generated about $1 million a year, $150 per household, and was used to repair Public residential streets.

* Since 2015 they have been paying off $45 million of road bonds, also used to repair Public residential streets.  This year the cost is $2.8 million, $400 per household

* Starting in 2021 the sales tax increased to a full cent (Measure R) and this year is expected to generate $3.6 million in revenue, $500 per household.  Over its 20-year term, three quarter of it is expected to be used for infrastructure (road and storm drain maintenance) on Public streets.


They also pay to maintain their own streets, most of which are well maintained despite being denied the right to the newly defined (by Measure R) Essential Service of road maintenance.


But what the residents of the “private” streets are really denied is the right of full, first class, citizenship.  And that creates unintended consequences which should not be ignored by a community that prides itself in treating everyone equally.


Two of the six candidates agreed to the following statement:


“I will support, within the first year of my election to the City Council, exploring the ways and means for the City, with citizen involvement (such as a Task Force, SSTOC sub-committee, ad hoc sub-committee, etc.), to provide road and storm drain maintenance to all roads which provide public access to the homes of Orinda residents.”


Those responding “yes” include:

Stuart House               

Latika Malkani   

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