Published January 6th, 2010
Lamorinda 2009-The Year-in-Review
By Andrea Firth, Sophie Braccini, and Cathy Tyson
Cartoon by Barry Hunau, www.cartoonsbybarry.com

Declining revenues, budget cuts, staff furloughs, flagging commercial districts, and aging infrastructure were all part of Lamorinda's civic landscape in 2009. The new mayors for 2010, Ken Chew of Moraga, Tom McCormick of Orinda, and Brandt Andersson of Lafayette take the helm faced with the challenge of increasing city revenues while the outlook for commercial growth and development is mixed and new residential developments are slow to break ground. Still much has been accomplished over the past year to position all three cities to take advantage of an economic recovery when it arrives. Task forces have reported, surveys have been taken, polls have been drafted, and specific plans have been made.
It was not all bad news in Lamorinda last year-Lafayette opened a state-of-the-art Library and Learning Center, Moraga's Saint Mary's College celebrated 80 years, and Orinda welcomed the arrival of the California Independent Film Festival. Lamorindans continued to flock to traditional community gatherings like the farmers' markets, summer concerts in the parks, and local theater showing their support for and commitment to our tri-city community.
To learn more about Lamorinda's new mayors and their plans for the upcoming year, turn to pages 2, 4, and 6. For an overview of what happened throughout the year turn to page 9 for Lamorinda 2009-The Year-in-Review.

Lamorinda 2009 - The Year in Review





Civic Landscape

$300K cut from budget in last 2 years; 5 staff positions eliminated or reconfigured Infrastructure maintenance underfunded

Town Manager Mike Segrest and Town Clerk Marty McInturf were hired

Corp yard to move from the Hacienda to Rheem Blvd; Town Hall to be remodeled

Over $500K cut from 2-year budget; City staff get 10.5 furlough days and reduced medical benefits

City lost $166K on CIT bond investments

Finance Director Beverli Marshall left, no replacement expected

Budget shortfall of $900K--$387K managed by shifting and cuts, $513K to be covered with reserves

City staff got 4 furlough days

Hiring freeze implemented

Revenue Enhancement

Revenue Enhancement Committee (REC) identified unfunded infrastructure needs of $2M to $3M per year; and reserves of $1.7M should be doubled

Recommended business license tax, re-evaluation of Lighting District, and hiring economic development director

Charter City status and property transfer tax under consideration

Infrastructure needs estimated at $73M

City to poll residents regarding tax options to fund infrastructure

Charter City status and property transfer tax under consideration


Property Transfer Tax identified to fund infrastructure needs

This tax requires changing from a General Law City to a Charter City with majority voter approval in general election

Draft Charter approved; City to poll residents to gauge interest

City/Town Planning Progress

Moraga Center Specific Plan close to approval?proposes up to 90,000 square feet of new retail/entertainment space, up to 50,000 square feet of new office space, up to 630 new housing units (includes 20 housing units per acre to meet town?s State housing obligation)

Task force recommendations to streamline residential development process and foster downtown development under review by Planning Commission and Council

Downtown Strategic Plan under review by Planning Commission (PC); Environmental Impact Report underway

Senior survey identified needs for affordable housing downtown and expanded home and transportation support

Residential Development

Palos Colorados, 123-home development, approved and grading may start in 2010

Rancho Laguna, 27-home development, under appeal over visual and environmental impacts

Hetfield project, 6-home development, under appeal, possible non-compliance with General Plan

Town Housing Element incorporates 6-acre area with a density of 20 units per acre that could break ground in 2010

Wilder development of 245-upscale restarted after stalling for several months as owner re-secured financing

Plans submitted to City for Eden senior affordable housing?71 units in downtown at the old library site; funding to take multiple years

Pulte Homes requested revision to proposed 73-unit development on the former JFK University site consolidating lots to 2-3 homes; may break ground in 2010 if market improves

Woodbury and Lafayette Park Terrace projects approved by PC and seek financing

Preliminary comments from PC and Council given to developer KB Homes for Town Center Phase III?a proposed condominium project located behind Panda Express?

Plans submitted to City for Eden senior affordable housing?a 46-unit project on Mt. Diablo Blvd (site formerly Butler Conti Dodge)

Commercial Development

Fees waived for businesses moving into previously unoccupied retail space

Kimco-owned Rheem Shopping Center occupation rate declines?Blockbuster, Bianca?s Deli, and Fudge Alley close; Lori?s and Loard?s move to Moraga Center; Kumon Center the only new business

Rheem Theatre?s survival in question

Theater Square zoning broadened, vacancies continue, art galleries and Republic of Cake open

Architects Hasselman and Simpson present vision for downtown revitalization

Stimulus package enacted to promote business development

Mercantile Building fully leased

Whole Foods projected to open in 2010


$700K in WW funds designated to restore Camino Pablo field

Rancho Laguna Park and dog use rules in planning phase

Town introduced new community events: Cinco de Mayo, Oktoberfest, and holiday home decorating contest

Bike, Trail, Walkway Master Plan under review

California Independent Film Festival moved to Orinda Theater

First kids? triathlon and community service day held


Parks and Recreation Facilities Master Plan adopted

Bike/walk pathway along Mt. Diablo Blvd. to Reservoir completed

Open Space acquisition plan close to approval

Dog park and bike park on hold, waiting for environmental reviews

Other Happenings

Saint Mary?s College Celebrates 80th Anniversary


Lamorinda Teen Center proposed, location TBD

Cal Shakes starts major renovation on Bruns Theater

New Library and Learning Center completed; City responsible for $120K of ongoing expenses

Farmers? markets pilot successful; future markets given the green light

Police Services

Moraga Police Department celebrated 30 years

New Chief of Police Robert Priebe succeeded Chief Mark Ruppenthal.


Currently subcontract with Contra Costa County Sheriff?s Office, pensions costs could make contract cost unsustainable

Joint study of police services commissioned with Danville under review

Fire Services

Tri-agency discussions find Moraga Orinda Fire District (MOFD) tax allocations for Moraga and Orinda equitable

Former Chief Pete Nowicki?s retirement, rehiring, and pension sparked debate; Chief Randy Bradley appointed new Fire Chief

Citizen group F.A.I. R. said reallocation of MOFD budget can generate $65M for Orinda infrastructure

Board member Wilson retires and returns; Sperling of Moraga appointed Board President

Fire services provided by Contra Costa County Fire District

Old Betsy?Lafayette?s 1920 Model T fire engine moved to new Library

John Ross named interim Fire Chief

This year-in-review is based on articles published on the Lamorinda Weekly throughout 2009. Links to key articles that cover these topics in greater detail are listed below:



Civic Landscape



Farmers Market



Town Center Phase III Condos



Solicitors and Peddlers Law



Lafayette Stimulus Package








State of the Town Address



Specific Plan



Dog Park



Retail in Moraga



St Mary's Anniversary





Civic Landscape








Commercial Development






Police Services



Moraga Orinda Fire District


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