At their February 16, 2016 meeting, the Orinda City Council voted to put a $25 million bond, to be repaid by an Ad Valorem Tax, on the June 2016 ballot.  This is despite the fact that there is a very high probability, as expressed by Councilmember Darlene Gee and other members of the community, that passage of this bond will cause us to, in Councilmember Gee’s words, “never finish the last one third” (repairs to 15 miles of Orinda’s residential streets). (Gee was appointed to Council for her road expertize including 35 years as a profession transportation planning engineer in the Bay Area)

While they did not vote to update the City’s Road and Storm Drain Master Plan at the February 16 meeting, they implicitly agreed to extend the plan to three more votes to fully fund repairs and then maintenance of the upgraded road system. These are detailed in the attached Draft Master Plan excerpt.  Gee believes that if the June vote for a $25 million bond passes, the remaining two, to complete repairs and then maintain the system, will never pass.

There are two additional issues to the proposed bond. First it puts 90 percent of the tax burden on a very small segment of Orinda homeowners (the new homeowners). Secondly, the 20 percent of homeowners who live on private streets will gain virtually no benefit from this funding.

  1. If the proposed $25 million bond passes, 15 miles of residentiall streets will remain in bad condition and NEVER be repaired.  There are 50 miles of public Residential streets in Poor condition (below a PCI of 50). The proposed $25 million funding will bring the total available to fix these streets up to $60 million out of the $80 million required to repair all of our roads. This will leave about 13 miles of streets in Poor condition or 20 percent of all (64 miles) of Orinda’s Public Residential streets. About 65 percent of Orinda’s residents live on these Public Residential streets (the other 35 percent live on Arterials, Collectors and Private Streets). This means 13 percent of Orinda’s residents (voters) will continue to live on Poor streets after the current and projected funds are used. Can we reasonably expect that this 13 percent will be joined by at least 37 percent of the population who will be living on Good roads to form a simple majority, or an additional 54 percent to form a super majority, and vote for the final $20 million to fix the last Poor roads in Orinda?  Or will these 1,000 families be destined to continue to live on bad roads?  If you knew that you would be one of these 1,000 households, would you vote for the "partial" solution?  If you did not know whether or not you were to be one of these 1,000 households, would you roll the $25 million dice?
  2. If repair funds are voted for without sufficient follow-on maintenance funds, our roads will fall back into disrepair.  Once all of our streets are repaired, it will require at least $3 million per year to maintain them. The City budget only has $1 million to maintain the road system we plan to spend $80 million to repair. It needs another $2 million. It proposes to get this $2 million with: a) An extension of the half cent Sales Tax which is currently generating about $1 million per year ($150 per household) and b) Another tax to provide the additional $1 million. If this were a Parcel Tax (7,500 parcels in Orinda), that would be an additional $135 per household.  Will a simple majority vote for a $150 Sales Tax and a super majority for a $135 Parcel Tax after their roads are already repaired? ($285 total tax) The recent City survey of 350 residents asked how many would be willing to pay a Parcel Tax of $258 to repair the existing road system with 50 miles of roads in Poor condition. 51 percent said they would. Would a Majority, or a Super Majority pay that amount to maintain a system which already had no Poor roads? Or should a repair funding initiative include mandatory maintenance provisions?  Would you buy an $80 million car you only had one third the funds necessary maintain it, hoping that you would be able to find the rest when the time came to start the maintenance?
  3. An Ad Valorem tax puts 90 percent of the payments on the shoulder of Orinda's newest residents.  The bond proposed would be repaid with an Ad Valorem Tax. One third of Orinda’s property owners (mostly its newest / youngest owners with assessed values averaging 85% of their property’s market value) are currently paying 60 percent of the Orinda's Ad Valorem Tax ($60 million per year total) including the tax to repay the $20 million bond voted for in 2014.  In addition, long before the proposed bond is repaid, the most senior members of this community will pass the vast majority of the debt onto the next generation. Projections show that the most senior 2/3 of the current homeowners will only end up paying 10 percent of the total tax while their home values will increase due to better roads.  In otherwords, a super-majority of the voters can vote in a tax which will benefit them but they will only have to pay a tiny fraction of the tax.
  4. Disenfranchised private street holders. 30 percent (26 miles) of Orinda’s residential streets (90 miles total) are maintained by the residents of those streets with no public funding.   20 percent of Orinda’s households live on these streets. The claims that everyone will gain from the repair of Orinda’s public residential streets are false. Over half of the private streets feed directly into Arterial and Collector streets which will receive none of the funds being sought for residential street repair. Only 20 percent of all private street holders traverse more than a quarter mile of public streets before they enter a Collector or Arterial. There is little benefit to the private street holders to vote for funding for Orinda’s public residential streets. Something must be done to bring the private streets into the Orinda community of publicly funded street repairs and maintenance. Until then, any majority vote for public funding of street repairs is questionable.

This web site suggests that the community demand:

A) A fair tax.
B) A tax which is guaranteed to fix all the roads.
C) A tax which guarantees that after we spend $80 million, the roads will then be properly maintained and not allowed to again fall into disrepair.

It is not imperative that we secure these funds in June.  We still have $20 million of Measure L and J funds.  We cannot wait until those funds are gone to start the conversation but we do have time to engage the community in a discussion of what the community wants, not just what the Council is willing to offer.