Downtown Planners Set Goals, Objectives; Discuss Lack of Vibrancy, Development

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    Enhancing the economic vitality of downtown with mixed-use businesses and multi-unit development top the list of goals of a panel working on the future of downtown.
    A vision statement and list of proposed objectives were presented at the June 23 joint Planning Commission and Downtown Precise Plan (DPP) sub-committee meeting.
    The list includes creating a safe and inviting space, maintaining a semi-rural sense of place, adapting to a diverse and enduring hub, establishing a balance with a mindful change, promoting unique art and event experiences and fostering a better quality of life.
    Visioning is an “exercise to promote greater awareness of societal change,” said Mayank Patel, senior planner for the project who resigned in June. “It creates a stronger sense of control over its density.”
    Commissioner Robert Hubner said, “Downtown needs to be vibrant … the neighborhoods are OK as semi-rural.”
    “Why haven’t we kept the downtown vibrancy?” asked City Council and DPP sub-committee member Inga Miller.
    Lack of restaurant and grocery store choices was noted by commissioner Ann Parnigoni. “We leave Orinda to dine out and to food shop,” she said.
    According to Vicki Pedersen, whose family inherited part ownership of the crossroads center (home to CVS, BevMo and others), current “laws do not allow meaningful development.” Due to height and density restrictions, “we can’t go up … there’s no incentive to develop the property.”
    Andres Douzoglou, who moved Beyond Aero bicycle shop to Orinda last year, said he is encouraged by the plan. Referring to the Phairs building, which has been empty for many years, he said, “It’s a bit of a nuisance; an eyesore for sure.”
    Director of Planning Drummond Buckley said current maximum density regulations have not created an incentive to develop the downtown commercial district. “We will definitely be looking at this and bonus density options,” he said.

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