A significant minority (20 percent) of Orinda residents live on streets that receive no public money for maintenance. The property owners on these streets pay the same taxes that fund the repair and maintenance of their neighbor's streets. There are claims that this is appropriate and that the city has no choice in not addressing the inequity. The following facts question these claims and present a solution to the current inequity that exits within the city between those living on publicly maintained streets and those living on privately maintained streets.
The city has three basic classifications of streets:Common streets (arterials, collectors, school streets) used by all residents and non-residents Publicly maintained residential streets Privately maintained residential streets* 20 percent of the homeowners live on a privately maintained street.* Privately maintained streets account for 30 percent of the residential street miles in Orinda* If residential streets were included as publicly maintained streets, Orinda’s road system would increase by 30% from 93 miles to 122 miles.
Privately maintained streets are not driveways.
There are 202 privately maintained streets in Orinda with an aggregate length of 29 miles for an average length of 750 feet (a half acre lot is 100 feet by 100 feet). While 20 of these streets only have one home on them, one street has 49 homes.* Half of the streets (107) have five or fewer homes. However, there are 88 publicly maintained streets in Orinda with five or fewer homes. * A quarter of the streets (46) have between six and ten homes. This is fewer than the 77 publicly maintained streets in Orinda with the same number of homes. * About the same number (44) have between 11 and 20 homes. This is also fewer than the 63 publicly maintained streets in Orinda with the same number of homes.
Paying to repair the publicly maintained Residential streets.
Since 2012 the city has raised $55 million to repair the 64 miles of Residential streets. The $45 million in bonds will cost about $65 million to repay over 20 years including interest. The private street home owners are paying their share of the taxes used to fund these repairs. In fact, their homes are assessed at about 20% greater than the homes on publicly maintained streets so they are paying 20% more of the bond payments than the public street neighbors. The claim was made that the private street residents use the publicly maintained Residential streets just as much as the public street residents. This in not so. 50 percent of private streets feed directly into Orinda’s Common streets. On average, the private street homeowners traverse publicly maintained residential streets less than 1,000 feet to get to a Common street. Over the next 20 years they will be paying about $20 million for that privilege.
Does the city does have the money to include 29 more miles in its road maintenance program?
Not at this tme. In fact, the city does not have the money to include the 64 miles of publicly maintained Residential streets in its road maintenance program. That needs to be dealt with and the 2,500 - 3,000 voters living on private streets can help.
The biannual 2016 road engineer’s report stated that after the city completed the repairs to the Residential streets, bringing their minimum PCI (Pavement Condition Index) up to 50 (no “Poor” roads in Orinda), the city should spend $3.5 million per year to maintain the system. The funds for this come from the State’s gas tax and the County’s Measure J sales tax. This year those two taxes only provided $600,000 in revenue. With increased gas taxes, by 2019 it is projected that these revenues will increase to $1.2 million. That is still $2.3 million short of the estimated expenses to adequately maintain the current 93 mile road system.
Before the voters agreed to an extra half cent sales tax and the two bond measures for road repair, the city policy was that all existing funds would be spent on the maintenance of Orinda’s Common streets. That policy still stands. Therefore, without new taxes to fund the $2.3 shortfall in maintenance expenses for the existing 93 miles of publicly maintained roads, all funds will go to maintain the Common streets and the Residential streets which we have spent $55 million to repair, will revert back to being not maintained. New taxes will have to be voted in to prevent this waste of repair funds.
The Gas Tax and half of the County Measure J Tax are allocated to cities based on their miles of streets. If Orinda included its 29 miles of private streets in its public maintenance program, its share of those taxes, taxes we are already paying for, would increase 30 percent. That would be an additional $300,000 per year the city is not collecting for the benefit of the private streets. This is money the private street residents are paying but cannot collect on their own behalf; only the city can do it. It is unknown how much it actually would cost to maintain the lightly used residential streets but it must be far less than it costs to maintain the heavily used Common streets. Would the $10,000 per mile per year from the state and county be sufficient? It would certainly be a significant benefit to the private street holders.
If a tax needs to be raised to fund the $2.3 million shortfall in maintaining the 93 miles of publicly maintained streets; and the private street holders will provide 20-25 percent of that tax (and see little benefit from it); and the private street holders represent 20% of Orinda’s voters; why not increase that tax to more fully fund the maintenance of the private streets (in conjunction with $300,000 from the state and county) and provide those additional tax revenues to the private street holders for maintenance of their streets. This would erase the current inequity with regards taxation and street maintenance and bring the city closer together. No more “Tale of Two Cities”.