Downtown Planning

Downtown Planning Subcommittee Meeting - Thursday, May 11, 2017
The National Main Street Center will make a presentation regarding its market research study and strategy recommendations to the Downtown Subcommittee of the City Council at 6:00 pm on Thursday, May 11, 2017 in Room #8 of the Orinda Community Center, located at 28 Orinda Way. This meeting will be followed by another visit from NMSC to present the final report to the full City Council, probably in June. The National Main Street Center Preliminary Draft Report can be viewed here.

Update: May 4, 2017 -- Streetscape Master Plan Funding:  On April 19, the Southwest Area Transportation Committee (SWAT) of the Contra Costa County Transportation Authority (CCTA) voted to recommend awarding $200,000 in grant funding to prepare a new Streetscape Master Plan for downtown Orinda. Using funds from the Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) Measure J Transportation for Livable Communities (TLC) program, this grant will allow the City to refresh the existing, partially-implemented Orinda Way Streetscape Master Plan while also expanding it to cover all of the downtown area. The next step is a vote by the CCTA on June 21.  Once officially awarded, staff will work on a Scope of Work for the new Streetscape Master Plan that would be reviewed by the City Council and other stakeholders at a future date.

Update: April 11, 2017 --
The ULI Technical Assistance Panel (TAP) presented its findings to a joint meeting of the City Council and Planning Commission following an intensive two-day process during which the TAP toured Orinda, met with staff, interviewed stakeholders including the Downtown Subcommittee of the City Council and the Chair and Vice Chair of the Planning Commission, and brainstormed to address the four questions posed by the City in the TAP application to ULI.  The TAP was comprised of the following ULI volunteers: 


  • David Cropper, Director of Development, TMG
  • Jessica Von Borck, Assistant City Manager, City of Fremont
  • Jeff Gee, Councilmember, Redwood City
  • Geeti Silwal, Associate Principal, Perkins+Will
  • Craig Semmelmeyer, Principal, Main Street Property Services
  • David Shiver, Principal, Bay Area Economics
  • Megan Keith, Urban Planner, AECOM 

The well-attended joint City Council/Planning Commission meeting included an hour presentation from ULI which can be found HERE.  The presentation was followed by public comments, and then Councilmembers and Commissioners comments.  The meeting was streamed live on the internet as well and can be replayed in its entirety by clicking here. ULI will complete its work with a written report that reflects the presentation and addresses the comments received from the Council and Commission.  Based on standard ULI TAP timelines, that report will be completed sometime in July or August.  

The National Main Street Center will make a presentation regarding its market research study and strategy recommendations to the Downtown Subcommittee at 6 pm on May 11 (location TBD).  This will be followed by another visit from NMSC to present the final report to the City Council in late May or early June.

Update: March 6, 2017 -- Over the past few weeks, the Planning Department team has been working to complete the "Briefing Book" required by the Urban Land Institute  (ULI) as background information for the Technical Assistance Panel (TAP) scheduled for April 10-11 to determine the next steps for Orinda's downtown.  It can be accessed online here.  A copy is also available for review at the City of Orinda Planning Department.

The Briefing Book contains the following information as it pertains to downtown Orinda:

  • A description of the ULI assignment
  • Planning status, approved or pipeline projects, and approved development downtown
  • Historical overview of downtown
  • A description of the Study Area (land uses, topography, San Pablo Creek, man-made constraints, transportation characteristics, vacant land and buildings, and property ownership)
  • Demographic characteristics of Orinda
  • The economics of the Study Area
  • Government overview (including adopted plans/policies and development standards)
  • Existing downtown surveys and studies
  • Description of stakeholders and their role in the TAP process

The Briefing Book is useful for the ULI TAP members and for the wider community interested in downtown Orinda.  It also contains useful background information for the joint City Council/Planning Commission meeting at which the TAP will present its findings and recommendations (this meeting is scheduled for 5-8 pm on Tuesday, April 11, 2017). 

Key documents used to prepare the ULI Briefing Book, can be viewed here.

If you have any questions regarding the Briefing Book or downtown planning, please contact Drummond Buckley, Planning Director, at  dbuckley@cityoforinda.org.

Historical Background:
This information is shared as a follow-up from the City Council September 6, 2016 meeting following a report by Planning Staff regarding Downtown Planning and Community Engagement.  The September 6 meeting was well attended, with a standing-room-only crowd and approximately 30 speakers.  In addition, City staff received approximately 120 pieces of correspondence from members of the public.

After receiving the September 6 report, listening to public testimony and asking questions of staff, the City Council directed staff to return at a future City Council meeting with the following:

  1. A more detailed strategy to engage downtown property owners.
  2. Regarding a Technical Assistance Panel (TAP) option from the nonprofit ULI:Provide additional information regarding the potential services of Main Street America as it pertains to downtown planning.Provide additional information regarding the potential services of Main Street America as it pertains to downtown planning
    1. Present suggested questions or issues that ULI could address as part of the TAP process;
    2. Bring a representative from ULI to answer questions from the City Council
  3. Provide additional information regarding the potential services of Main Street America as it pertains to downtown planning.
  4. Identify potential grant sources for revitalization of San Pablo Creek.

The existing regulations and policies for downtown Orinda can be found primarily in the following documents, all of which are available on the City’s website:

  1.   The City of Orinda General Plan5th Cycle Housing Element and General Plan Land Use Map.  The General Plan establishes the broad policies and objectives for the City of Orinda, including chapters (“Elements”) about Land Use (and the supporting General Plan Land Use Map), Open Space, Circulation, Housing, Conservation, Safety, Noise, and Growth Management. With the exception of Action 3.A of the Fifth Cycle Housing Element, which states that the City will “study the feasibility of mixed-use development [in the downtown] at appropriate densities,” most downtown-related policies date to the original adoption of the General Plan in 1987. 
  2.   Orinda Municipal Code (OMC) “Title 17—Zoning” and Zoning Map.  The Zoning Ordinance, together with the Zoning Map identifying zoning districts, contains establishes the permitted development standards (heights, setbacks, parking, etc.), allowable land uses, and the required permitting processes for proposed development and/or land uses.  Many of the zoning standards and land use regulations for the downtown area date to the original adoption of the City of Orinda Zoning Ordinance in 1999. 
  3.   Downtown Design Guidelines.  Design Guidelines for Downtown Commercial (DC), Downtown Office (DO), and BART Station/Parking lot area.  These Guidelines, which cover both architecture and streetscape design, were adopted by the City of Orinda in 1990. The Orinda Crossroads Beautification Plan, a companion document adopted in 1988, contains more detailed design suggestions for the streetscape of the Crossroads area.
  4.   Orinda Way Streetscape Master Plan.  This plan, which was adopted in 2000, resulted in the streetscape improvements in the vicinity of the Orinda Community Center (OCC) and established planned streetscape designs for other segments of Orinda Way between Highway 24 and Camino Pablo Road.
  5.   Bicycle, Trails and Walkways Master Plan.  Adopted in 2011, this plan presents a long-term vision to guide the development of Orinda’s bicycle facilities, walkways, and trails over the next 20 years and beyond.  It includes several proposed pedestrian and bicycle enhancements in the downtown area.
  6.   The 2001 San Pablo Creek Through Downtown Orinda: Preliminary Restoration Plan that was endorsed by the City Council.

 Follow-up discussions and action items pertaining to Downtown:

The Staff Report and a video of the PowerPoint presentation from the September 6, 2016 City Council Meeting. Meeting Minutes are available here, and the full September 6 meeting can be watched here.

The Staff Report for the October 18, 2016 City Council Meeting. Meeting Minutes are available here, and the full October 18 meeting can be watched here.

The Staff Report for the November 15, 2016 City Council Meeting. Meeting Minutes are available here, and the full November 15 meeting can be watched here.

The Staff Report for the January 24, 2017 City Council Meeting. Meeting Minutes are available here, and the full January 24, 2017 meeting can be watched here.

The Staff Report for the February 7, 2017 City Council Meeting. The full February 7, 2017 meeting can be watched here.

The ULI Presentation to City Council (with recommendations) during the April 11, 2017 City Council Meeting. The full April 11, 2017 can be watched here.

The National Main Street Center Preliminary Draft Report can be viewed here.

Email Notifications
To subscribe to Downtown Planning Subcommittee and/or Planning Commission meeting agendas and notifications, sign up using 
Notify Me.