By SALLY HOGARTY
At the July 10 City Council meeting, the council received a staff report on the formation of a Private Roads Task Force that would meet with residents and analyze alternatives in which the city might repair existing private roads. After review and hearing public comments, City Councilmember Dean Orr, Mayor Amy worth and Vice Mayor Inga Miller voted to not proceed with the task force. City Councilmember Darlene Gee voted for the task force and City Councilmember Eve Phillips abstained because she lives on a private street.
The amount of money in staff and City Attorney costs, as well fees associated with hiring a professional facilitator, were cited as primary reasons for not going forward. “The additional information in the staff report, makes it clear that this is beyond our very fragile budget,” said Mayor Amy Worth. “I wish we could provide the additional services that people want, but our budgets don’t even allow us to provide the public services we want to do. I encourage the staff to continue to work with residents of private streets who are interested in working within our existing policy.”
Councilmember Dean Orr, who had previously been in favor of a task force, had hoped that “the staff report would come back with some way around the financial obstacles, but instead it found even more problems so I’m not in favor of moving on with a task force.”
Vice Mayor Inga Miller concurred adding “I don’t regret that we have looked into this, but as a steward of the City, I can’t support spending money on a task force when, at the end, I don’t think we could do beyond what we are doing now.”
Councilmember Darlene Gee, on the other hand, felt a “full-blown conversation” with residents of private streets was important. “I’m supportive of having a professional facilitator and minimize the number of hours for staff and the City Attorney,” she said. “Twenty percent of our population lives on private streets, and I’ve been amazed by some of the very creative ideas and research of those residents. I understand the pitfalls, but this topic deserves the light of a bigger conversation.”
Members of the public in attendance were frustrated by the staff report, some noting as one of the 1,200 families on private roads, they felt like second-class citizens. Joe Libove, a resident of Canyon View (a private road) noted how in 1998, a culvert on Diablo View (a public road) clogged and eventually resulted in a large landslide that blocked Canyon View and caused extensive damage. “Instead of fixing it, the City wrote us letters saying we were at fault and demanded we fix it,” recalled Libove. “It was only after we threated to go to the Contra Costa Grand Jury that the City did anything. That wouldn’t have happened if we were a public road.”
For many months, residents living on private roads have appeared before the Citizens Infrastructure Oversight Committee and spoken during the public forum at City Council meetings, urging officials to look at incorporating Orinda’s 30.2 miles of private roads into the City’s list of publicly maintained roads. Currently, the city maintains 93 miles of public roads. The City Council addressed the issue at its April 10 meeting where it requested staff to draft a framework for the task force. That report was presented at the July 10 meeting.
To view the staff report, go to www.cityoforinda.com, click on City Council and go to Archived City Council Meeting Information.