Downtown Precise Plan

The future of Downtown Orinda has been a high priority for the community for many years. The City would love to hear from you as the continuum of downtown planning efforts grows with the development of a Downtown Precise Plan (DPP).

While the DPP certainly relates and builds on the momentum of the recently-adopted Downtown Streetscape Masterplan, better known as ConnectOrinda, its focus is different. Unlike ConnectOrinda, which identified streetscape and transportation projects to beautify and improve travel modes in the public realm, the DPP involves the development regulations for private property.

Generally, the DPP will comprise of existing conditions; vision and guiding principles; and land-use and urban-design planning concepts. In conjunction with new development standards, one of the other primary outcomes of the DPP will be objective design criteria for mixed-use and residential land uses. As such, the DPP is intended to revitalize downtown and stimulate housing production by potentially increasing allowable residential densities in the Downtown Commercial zoning district and potentially allowing multi-family residential developments in the Downtown Office zoning district.

Any changes to the existing densities would be subject to approval by the City Council through adoption of the DPP itself as well as General Plan and Zoning Amendments, which are proposed to be adopted concurrently with the DPP.

In sum, the DPP would update the City’s downtown development standards and create objective design standards for multi-family residential and mixed-use projects.

Project Updates & History

2021.04.13 - City Council

Continuing the discussion on coordination between the DPP and Housing Element, on April 13, 2021, the City Council approved Option B to process the two projects concurrently. The staff report can be viewed here and the meeting recording can be viewed here.

2021.03.16 - City Council

On March 16, 2021 the Council considered two items related to the DPP:

  1. DPP and Housing Element coordination: Staff presented an overview of the pros and cons of two potential options for the Council’s consideration. Option A would process the DPP and Housing Element separately while Option B would process the two concurrently. While no action was taken on this item, the general feedback received from the Council was a preference for Option B. Staff will return to the City Council on April 13, 2021 a final decision and direction on next steps. The staff report for this item can be viewed here.
  2. PlaceWorks Creek Restoration Analysis - Contract Amendment: On December 1, 2020, the Council entered into a professional services contract with Placeworks for $54,100. During the initial review phase, Placeworks identified the need for additional tasks including a detailed topographic survey and a hydrologic model. The amendment proposes to increase the contract amount to a total of $113,760. The Council did not make a decision and continued this item to a future meeting. The staff report can be viewed here.

The recording for the entire meeting can be viewed here.

2021.03.02 - City Council

On March 2, 2021, staff presented the draft Development Feasibility Memo prepared by EPS, the economic consultant for the DPP. The memo addressed three components:

  • Development Feasibility - What type of allowable development is likely to generate financial returns sufficient to induce real estate investment in the DPP over the long-term given foreseeable market conditions?
  • Long-term Growth Projections - How much growth can reasonably be expected through build-out of the DPP under proposed zoning and other land use regulations?
  • Fiscal Implications - How will new development affect the City's General Fund budget over time?

In addition, staff proposed an refined residential buildout number and maximum building height for the EIR project description to set the outer limits of the environmental analysis for the DPP. The meeting was informational to receive feedback from the Council and no action was taken.

The staff report which includes the draft Development Feasibility Memo as an attachment can be viewed here. The meeting recording can be viewed here.

2020.12.01 - City Council

On December 1, 2020, the City Council awarded a contract to PlaceWorks for San Pablo creek restoration analysis. The tasks will include evaluating the creek’s existing conditions, evaluating conceptual designs that have been previously prepared, potentially proposing alternative designs, and identifying the necessary permits and studies for future restoration.

The staff report can be viewed here and the meeting recording can be viewed here

2020.11.19 - Character Area Workshop

On November 19, 2020, the City Council and Planning Commission held a joint workshop to discuss changes to allowable building heights, vertical and horizontal mixed-use, and design standards. A component of the workshop included breakout rooms for small group discussion.

The staff report can be viewed here and the meeting recording can be viewed here. Meeting materials including the presentations, breakout room questions, and an economics memo prepared for the workshop can be viewed here.

2020.10.06 - City Council

On October 6, 2020, staff provided an update on the DPP to the City Council. At the meeting, the Council approved Economic & Planning Systems (EPS) as the consultant firm to provide economic services for the DPP. In addition, staff also provided an update on the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) for the next Housing Element cycle. 

The staff report can be viewed here and the meeting recording can be viewed here.

2020.09.30 - Downtown Subcommittee Meeting

On September 30, 2020, the Downtown Subcommittee held a meeting to interview three consultant firms to provide economic services for the DPP. A total of 5 firms submitted a Statement of Qualifications (SOQ) for economic services. Staff held the first round of interviews the week of September 14, 2020. The top 3 firms from the first round of staff interviews were invited to participate in a second round of interviews with the Downtown Subcommittee. At the conclusion of the meeting, the Subcommittee recommended the City Council approve Economic & Planning Systems (EPS) as the preferred firm to provide economic services.

To view the meeting recording, agenda, staff presentation, SOQs and other meeting materials, please click here.

2020.09.10 - Downtown Subcommittee Meeting

On September 10, 2020, the Downtown Subcommittee held a meeting as a follow-up to the August 18, 2020 City Council meeting. Staff addressed the comments and concerns provided by the City Councilmembers at the August 18, 2020 meeting. 

To view the meeting recording, agenda, staff memo and presentation, and other meeting materials, please click here.

2020.08.18 - City Council Meeting

On August 18, 2020, the City Council considered potential changes to residential density, modifications to allowable building heights, and changes to the number of stories permitted. A decision made by the City Council will be used in the Program Environmental Impact Report (EIR) project description to analyze potential environmental impacts. The density, height, and number of stories decided upon by the Council are meant to set the outer limits of what could result from the DPP. It is expected that there will be variation in the allowed density and heights in different parts of the Project Area depending on site characteristics. 

Staff recommended the EIR evaluate an overall maximum density of 30 dwelling units per acre in the Downtown Commercial (DC) District and 25 dwelling units per acre in the Downtown Office (DO) District. In addition, staff recommended most of the Project Area maintain a maximum 35' building height, but that there be flexibility for up to 55' in height in some areas as an incentive for uses highly-desired by the community. After receiving a presentation and hearing public testimony, the City Council decided to continue the discussion to a future meeting.

The staff report can be viewed here and the meeting recording can be viewed here

2020.07.28 - Community Workshop #3

On July 28, 2020, the Planning Commission and the Downtown Subcommittee held its third joint meeting. This third workshop included a discussion to consider potential changes to residential density, potential modifications to allowable building heights, and an introduction of objective design standards. The density and height discussion is necessary for purposes of the project description to be included in the Program EIR. 

The staff report and meeting recording can be access online here. Opticos Design, the consultant selected to prepare the objective design standards, provided an in-depth presentation which may be viewed here

2020.06.23 - Community Workshop #2

On June 23, 2020, the Planning Commission and the Downtown Subcommittee held it’s second joint meeting. At this meeting, staff provided a presentation to solicit feedback on the DPP goals and objectives. The workshop also included a discussion of the DPP Online Survey, summary of stakeholder interviews, and an overview on the role that environmental review will play in the DPP process. As an informational workshop, no formal action was taken, but staff did receive comments and feedback from the Commission, Subcommittee, and public.

The staff report and meeting recording can be assessed online here

2020.06.10 – Downtown Subcommittee Meeting

On June 10, 2020, the Downtown Subcommittee held a meeting to receive updates on downtown planning efforts, including ConnectOrinda and the Downtown Precise Plan. Staff spent a significant portion of the meeting discussing the responses received from the DPP online community survey (click here to see staff’s presentation). Several members of the public were also provided an opportunity to share their ideas and/or proposals on public art installations. Approximately 27 members of the public joined the meeting and some of them offered comments.

To view the meeting recording, agenda, staff’s presentation, and other meeting materials, please click here.

2020.05.26 - Community Workshop #1

On May 26, 2020, the Planning Commission and the Downtown Subcommittee held a joint meeting to continue the conversation on the Downtown Precise Plan. At this first of a multi-series workshop, which was held via Zoom Webinar, staff provided an overview of the existing conditions, policies, and regulatory framework that apply to Downtown Orinda. As an informational workshop, staff did not make any recommendations for formal action. However, staff did receive comments and feedback from the Commission, Subcommittee, and public.

The staff report and meeting recording can be assessed online here.

2020.05.18 - Existing Conditions Report

This draft report provides a discussion on the existing conditions within the DPP Project Area. Particularly, in an effort to educate the community and help inform decisions about the future of Downtown Orinda, this report offers a snapshot on the community profile and economy; major land-uses and features; adopted policies, regulations, and plans; circulation; and natural features and infrastructure. Eventually, the Existing Conditions Report will become one of the first chapters of the DPP.

2020.04.29 – Downtown Subcommittee Meeting

On April 29, 2020, the Downtown Subcommittee held a meeting to receive updates on the Downtown Precise Plan. Planning staff delivered a presentation that included an overview of the project; items in progress; a discussion of proposed community engagement strategies; and immediate next steps. More than a dozen members of the public joined the meeting and provided thoughtful comments.

To view the meeting recording, agenda, staff’s presentation, and other meeting materials, please visit: https://cityoforinda.box.com/v/2020-04-29-SubComMeeting.

2020.04.07 – City Council Meeting

At the April 7, 2020 City Council Meeting, held virtually via Zoom, staff delivered a report on the DPP with a brief discussion on the following items:

  • Project Branding;
  • Request for Proposals and Request of Qualifications
  • Meeting with Subject Matter Experts;
  • Existing Conditions Report; and
  • Next Steps

On the same night, the Council awarded the environmental services contract to prepare the Program Environmental Impact Report (Program EIR) for the Downtown Precise Plan to Rincon Consultants, Inc. For more information on the Program EIR contract award, please visit this link.

2020.02.26 – Downtown Subcommittee Meeting

On February 26, 2020, the Downtown Subcommittee held a meeting to receive updates on the DPP. Planning Staff updated the Council and members of the public on the following items:

  • Request for proposal for the Downtown Precise Plan program environmental impact report;
  • Project logo/branding;
  • Existing conditions report;
  • Stakeholder engagement, and
  • Next steps in terms of the work plan.

Staff also took the opportunity to provide an update on potential funding options and costs for ConnectOrinda projects (e.g., murals). To view the February 26, 2020 agenda and staff’s presentation, please click here.

2020.01.07 – City Council Meeting

On March 19, 2019, the City Council set a Fiscal Year 2020-2021 Strategic Priority to update the City’s downtown development standards. After receiving direction at the August 20, 2019 City Council meeting, staff issued a request for proposal (RFP) for the Downtown Precise Plan (DPP) on September 9, 2019. However, due to low consultant participation, the City cancelled the solicitation and re-examined the RFP. After close consideration at the January 7, 2020 City Council meeting, the Council directed staff to manage the DPP in-house and issue RFP(s) and/or request for qualifications (RFQs) for specific tasks. The City Council was also provided with a revised project budget of $740,000.

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