And Then There Were Eight: Council Narrows ConnectOrinda Projects

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    After receiving thousands of comments and extensive public feedback on ways to beautify and improve travel through downtown, the City Council has narrowed the list of proposed projects from 19 to eight.
    The council received an extensive presentation last month on the eight projects, marking the next step in the ConnectOrinda Downtown Orinda Streetscape Master Plan begun in June 2018.
    The projects were culled from 19 proposed undertakings presented at a January 2019 workshop. At the workshop, participants viewed the various projects and responded via surveys. According to the Orinda Planning Department staff report, more than 1,000 project-specific votes and more than 1,000 comments were received.
    “We’ve had consistent interest and lots of participation from residents,” says Planning Director Drummond Buckley.
    Several residents at a March 5 City Council meeting spoke on the proposals showing support for most, especially improving access to San Pablo Creek, creating a part-time pedestrian alley at Vashell Way across from the Orinda Theatre, and activating the Library Terrace area on the Village side.
    Speaker Bruce Burrows was against closing the current eastbound Hwy. 24 on-ramp at Davis but agreed that creating a new left turn lane and on-ramp at Camino Pablo/Brookwood would divert some traffic from Moraga Way and create a more pedestrian-friendly environment.
    Divided into five short-term and three long-term projects, each included approximate costs and potential funding sources. The presentation also contained a list of five potential beautification components such as lighting, public art and paving treatments.
    After much discussion, councilmembers decided to eliminate the proposal closing the eastbound on-ramp to Hwy. 24 but keeping the proposed on-ramp at Camino Pablo/Brookwood as an additional access point to the highway. Councilmember Dennis Fay also noted that the second on-ramp could be helpful during an evacuation.
    Councilmember Darlene Gee applauded city staff’s efforts putting together the detailed presentation and suggested doing some of the “low hanging fruit” (short-term projects) first while securing additional funding for the more extensive projects.
    Fay agreed, suggesting doing more plantings around the fencing at the end of Moraga Way now. “While this won’t mitigate the noise from Hwy. 24, it will at least improve the visual. We can look at a more permanent sound barrier, such as the living sound wall suggested under long-term projects, in the future.” Fay also asked city staff to look at overall traffic circulation among vehicles, bikes and pedestrians for the proposed projects.
    City staff will incorporate the council’s suggestions and prepare a revised report. A return date to the City Council was not decided. To view the ConnectOrinda report on the projects, go to https://cityoforinda.org/391/Connect-Orinda-Downtown-Streetscape-Mast.

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