There are 26 miles of private streets in Orinda in addition to the 64 miles of publicly maintained -residential streets. These streets are not gated enclaves but, for the most part, small cul-de-sacs indistinguishable from the adjacent publicly maintained one. About 1,300 families (including, ultimately, 245 families in Wilder) live on these streets; almost 20 percent of Orinda. They pay their property taxes including their share of Measure J which is being used to upgrade the public residential streets. They pay their share of sales taxes including their share of Measure L which is being used to upgrade public residential streets. They pay for garbage collection which generates franchise tax revenue which is used to maintain public streets, including residential streets. Yet, none of the tax revenue that they pay reverts to the private streets.
The claim is made that the taxpayers living on private streets benefit equally with those living on publicly maintained streets because we all use the public streets. Is this true? The reality is that over half of Orinda's private streets feed directly into collectors and arterials which are maintained with traditional funding sources and not the Measure L sales tax or the Measure J bond or the proposed Measure L bond. These new taxes will not benefit, or only marginally benefit, private street holders. Not one dollar of this money will upgrade the street in front of their homes; increasing the value of the home (one of the major selling points of the new taxes).
Is there any reason to segregate 20 percent of Orinda's homes from the public domain? Obviously, Orinda does not have the funds to maintain the 93 miles of roads it does have without incorporating an additional 26 miles. However, if we want to become a unified community agreeing on a common solution to our road funding problem, it might behoove us to invite everyone under the same roof sharing not just the costs but also the benefits. What are the issues involved in doing this?
The City already has an $80 million dollar repair bill on its hands for the existing 93 miles of public roads. What would it cost to bring the 26 miles of existing private streets up to agreed-upon standards? This year Orinda will perform its biannual road survey. What if it expanded the survey to include private streets? Then there would be a benchmark.
If there was an "amnesty" program and private streets were "invited" into the public domain, would there be "conditions" for their acceptance? There could be a series of conditions required (pavement condition, width, drainage, etc.); or some; or none. On one hand, why should the City "adopt" a substandard street it will then have to pay to upgrade? The City already has a large enough “repair bill”. On the other hand, the City has a lot of public streets that are in miserable condition and the people owning homes on those streets, who are seeing their streets repaired with new tax funds, are paying no more, or less, than taxpayers living on private streets. So why shouldn't they City accept a private street into the public domain even if it were in substandard condition? The people living on that street have paid the same taxes as everyone else and will pay the same taxes for upgrade costs. Why shouldn’t they benefit?
If a street does not wish to “go public”, should it be forced to? The answer is probably no and any private street which is well maintained would resist until the City had a viable maintenance program in place. And there is the “chicken and egg” problem. The private street holders could hold the key to passing taxes for a viable maintenance program and yet, would they vote for it if they were not yet part of it?
What would maintenance costs be if private streets became public? There are 93 miles of public streets and the estimated cost to properly maintain them once they are upgraded to acceptable conditions is $3 million per year. The 26 miles of private streets represent a 25% increase in street mileage. Would the maintenance cost increase 25% ($750,000)? Probably not quite that much as private streets are less utilized than the 29 miles of arterials and collectors so the cost would probably be less than a full pro-rata 25%. Maybe $600,000 per year; a 20 percent increase to maintain the streets on which 20 percent of Orinda lives on. Is that too much to expect?