The Orinda Road Facts web site recommends the following Road Action Plan:

  1. Improve all Orinda roads to a “Good” condition; greater that a PCI (Pavement Condition Index) of 50. No one in Orinda should live on a Poor road.  After years of being complacent with the goal of a 70-PCI system average, which would leave 15-20 miles of roads in Poor condition, the City Council increased the goal to "no road below 50 PCI" in November, 2015.
  2. Enact all repairs by 2022, including the repair of the underlying storm drainage system. The total cost to complete this work has been estimated to be $80 million.
  3. Provide a series of forums and workshops for the community to discuss the need to provide all citizens with Good roads and the funding options to meet those goals.  To date (April 2016), there have been none.
  4. Bring to a vote of the citizens a package of taxes which will (a) provide the $80 million to bring Orinda’s roads up to an acceptable condition and (b) provide funds to maintain them at that condition for an extended period of time (suggested 25 years through 2041).  This web site suggests the following two taxes to provide the required funds for both the $80 million in repairs and the funds required to maintain the road and storm drain systems: (a) An extension of the half cent Sales Tax through 2041 and (b) a Real Estate Transfer Tax for 25 years from 2017 through 2041.
  5. Provide some form of "inclusion" for the 1,300 homes (20 percent of Orinda) that are on "private" streets which recieve no public funding even though they pay the same taxes as everyone else.  This could include inclusion into the public system for roads that request it (with possible conditions attached) or a "trust" for sharing public funds for private street maintenance.

No Bad Roads

No one in Orinda should be forced to live on or drive on a road in Poor (below PCI 50) or Very Poor (below PCI 25) condition. All residents should be willing to pay enough to upgrade all of our roads. The total cost, $80 million, is less than one percent of the market value of Orinda’s residential real estate.

A Single Vote for Repair and Maintenance Funds

To date, the voters have approved two taxes: Measure L, a half cent sales tax expected to generate $10 million; and Measure J, a $20 million road bond to be repaid with ad valorem property taxes over 20 years. Combined with $5 million from existing sources, this $35 million leaves Orinda $45 million short of being able to repair all of its roads. The $35 million available will cure about half of the road problem.

The majority of Orinda residents currently, or soon will, live on good roads. But a significant number do not. If we pass another small tax which is not a full solution to the problem, we run the risk of stranding a significant number, 1,000 – 2,000 households, on poor roads with the appetite for yet another tax dropping below the majority to pass the that tax. In addition, if we pass taxes just to repair the roads and not to maintain them after they are repaired, then we run the risk of ending up with a very good road system and inadequate funds to provide the maintenance to keep it from degrading back to the condition our streets are in today.

If the City and its residents are committed to the idea of bringing its roads up to reasonable standards so that driving on them is safe and enjoyable and so that they are not degrading the value of our homes as they are today, then we need to commit to pay for those improvements. It is not going to cost any more in the long run if the commitment is made today in a single vote than if it is made in a series of votes over the years. And if the commitment is made, then new buyers can be told that even if the roads are not currently upgraded, they soon will be and they will also be maintained after they are repaired. This alone should improve property values.

The Cost is Reasonable

Regardless of funding options, the cost to both repair and maintain the roads over the next 25 years, in addition to commitments already made, is about $4 million per year adjusted annually for inflation. This averages to $600 per household per year or less than $2 per day. Depending on the financing option(s) chosen, existing residents will pay less than the full amount. The average Orinda home is worth $1.5 million. Each year it increases almost $40,000 in value with inflation (averaging 2.5%). Allocating less than 2 percent of that gain to good roads is affordable.

Discuss the Issues

Fixing our roads is a serious decision. Most people want good roads and virtually everyone who can afford to live in Orinda can afford them. The question that needs to be discussed, so the appropriate taxes can be passed, is what is the most cost effective and fairest tax(es) to pay for the improvements and on-going maintenance. A series of forums and workshops so that residents can better understand the options and discuss their pros and cons plus other elements of a road repair program (which road gets fixed first) is most desirable.

Vote for an Inclusive Tax Package

The Road Action Group has spent considerable time reviewing the options and recommends the following:

A) An extension of the existing one half cent Sales Tax. This is currently generating $1 million per year and it should increase with inflation. Everyone in Orinda pays part of it. The majority comes from a tax on vehicle sales for cars registered in Orinda so there is a nexus to road use. There is also a “progressive” element to this tax (the wealthy pay more) as the wealthy probably spend more on taxable purchases. This tax will provide 25 percent of the total funds required.

B) A Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT) equal to 0.8 percent of the sales price of a property with the seller paying half. The pros and cons of this tax are enumerated on a separate page but briefly are reiterated here:

  • There is currently no other tax in Orinda based on the market value of a home. The vast majority of our real estate taxes are ad valorem taxes based on assessed values which have been skewed by Proposition 13; one third of the community paying 80 percent more than the average and another third paying 70 percent less than the average. Most of this difference is based on how long you have lived in Orinda. This tax generates $64 million per year in revenue. We should not add another $3 million to this patently “unfair” tax.
  • Current homeowners will only pay half of this tax when they sell their home. If 25 percent of the total $600 per year required comes from sales tax as suggested, and the remaining 75 percent from a RETT of which the current residents will only pay half of, then the total tax per year per household is only $375; one dollar per day.
  • The new homeowners, who are paying a disproportionately high share of the ad valorem tax, will not have to pay the RETT for many years.
  • The long standing homeowners, who are paying a disproportionately low share of the ad valorem tax, will have to pay an “exit fee”. However, they may see a higher sales price because the road in front of their home has been improved or the tax will guarantee that it will be improved within a few years which will have to be a good selling point. Plus, if fairness is to be considered, the roads are in poor condition because we have been paying too little over the years to maintain them.
  • The major “complication” to passing a RETT, in some people’s minds, is that to enact one would require Orinda to become a Charter City. This is a topic which needs serious discussion in the community but the Road Action Group has researched the subject and strongly believes that Orinda could become a Charter City with few of the risks associated with one. A Charter which provides minimal changes to our current form of government can be enacted. Many of the fears people have of charter cities are, in fact, unfounded or avoidable. Charter Cities do not have the right to raise taxes without voter consent. The City Council cannot revise the charter on its own; only the voters can do that. In fact, a charter can be written such that the only power the City has which is different from a General Law City, which Orinda currently is, is that it can enact a RETT. A restrictive charter is what the Road Action Group recommends.

Start Discussing the Issues

A RETT and the obligatory Charter City election can only be held at a general election (November 2016 or 2018).  By putting a partial funding initiative on the June 2016 ballot, the City has killed all chances for a total solution in November of 2016.  The City has not spent the majority of the $20 million Measure J money and has enough to continue construction through 2018.  The community needs to begin the discussion of appropriate funding measures which include equity for Private Street Holders and is fair to our Newer Residents.  If the RETT is the agreed upon choice, then the complexities of becoming a Charter City must also be discussed.  If an informal city concensus is arrived at, the City can plan to move beyond 2018 even though RETT funding cannot be voted on until November of 2018.


A survey to gauge the community’s commitment to move forward has been created. We ask the community to participate and forward the request to friends and neighbors. The survey asks:

  1. Do we want to bring all of our roads up to a good condition?
  2. Do we want to make a single financial commitment to repair the roads or risk a declining will to vote for the required taxes, leaving many to continue to live on poor roads?
  3. Should we commit, in advance, to pay for proper maintenance for the road system we are paying to repair?
  4. What tax do you believe is the most reasonable tax to pay for the required repairs and maintenance?

The survey gives respondents the ability to comment and the comments will be posted on this website.  Please take a few minutes to participate in this survey.


Thank you for your participation