Homeowner Guide


The City of Orinda has compiled information on various city regulations and policies that impact property owners in Orinda. A pdf of the Prospective Buyer and Homeowner Guide guide is also linked here.


Orinda contains approximately 30 miles of privately maintained roads, of varying widths and condition. These roads provide access to individual lots and/or neighborhoods. These roads were often not built to city standards. They are not maintained by the city, but rather by the adjoining property owners through either a homeowners association or a less formal arrangement. These private roads are rarely gated, so they are typically open to and used by the public. You should not rely on street names and other signs in determining whether a road is private. You may need to obtain professional advice. A property’s Title Report should indicate if a property includes access easements/right of way that constitute a private road.  Such easements would not have a recorded city (or county) acceptance of such road. The documents links contained in this Guide may be a helpful starting point, as they include maps and lists which show private roads according to preliminary review of city records (refer to item 15 in the Table of Contents). You should independently verify this information. Unlike private roads, city-maintained roads have been built to city standards and/or been accepted by the city (or its predecessor, Contra Costa County). There are approximately 93 miles of city-maintained public road in Orinda.


Orinda maintains approximately 17 miles of storm drain pipes and related catch basins under its public roads. Pipes outside of City-maintained roadways are in almost all cases considered private and maintained by the respective property owners (refer to item 7 in the Table of Contents). The exception would be when a drain pipe is within a drainage easement that has been formally accepted by the city (or county), which should be indicated in a property’s Title Report. That Report may also indicate private drainage reserves, easements, and facilities which exist (but without city acceptance). It is not uncommon for a drain pipe or drain ditch to exist that does not have a formal easement – however such facilities must be maintained by the property owner under drainage law. Any alterations are also subject to local and possibly State regulations. There appear to be approximately 28 miles of private storm drain pipe based on preliminary review of the limited records the city has available. The city in most cases does not have plans for the construction of such private storm drain pipes – they were typically installed by the original land developer to allow a lot to be buildable. Older developments typically utilized corrugated metal pipes (CMP) for storm drains; these pipes corrode over time and are expensive to repair. As with private roads, you may need to obtain professional advice to identify drainage facilities associated with your property. Prospective buyers are advised to carefully inspect properties for drainage facilities, retain qualified professionals to advise them as to conditions of such facilities, and not assume those facilities will be maintained by others (including the city).  


Orinda’s municipal code section 12.08.320 (refer to item 3 in the Table of Contents) generally requires the abutting property owner to maintain trees, even if they are in the public right of way. If a tree falls onto a city-maintained road, city crews may opt to cut and remove portions of the tree in the paved roadway for access and safety reasons but will leave tree remnants (including cut portions) at the side of the road and advise the adjacent property owner of their responsibility. Property owners are also subject to MOFD requirements to address vegetation which may constitute a fire hazard, including trees fronting private property but within public right of way.


The city generally does not own or control creeks. Most creeks are owned by underlying property owners, and maintenance and other responsibilities are associated with it (refer to item 8 in the Table of Contents).   Prospective buyers who are considering house additions should be aware of creek setback provisions per municipal code 17.4.6 (refer to item 9 in the Table of Contents).


Most construction and demolition projects require a building permit and/or grading permit (refer to item 10 and 11 in the Table of Contents). The City of Orinda contracts with Contra Costa County for building services including permit issuance and inspections. Permits for construction typically require City of Orinda Planning Department review and approval for zoning code conformance prior to submittal to Contra Costa County. The City of Orinda Public Works Department issues Revocable Encroachment Permits as provided for in the Municipal Code Title 12, Chapter 12.08, for all work done in the City right-of-way. For building permit records, including copies of old permit cards and approved building permit plan sets, prospective buyers would need to submit a Records Request to Contra Costa County. Certain project types also require approval from the Central Contra Costa Sanitary District/Contra Costa Environmental Health and Moraga-Orinda Fire District.


This collection of brochures and handouts is provided to interested parties and buyers of property in Orinda for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace or constitute property specific disclosures or Real Estate Licensees and/or inspections reports prepared by appropriate experts.

For additional information regarding land use, water rights and other regulations affecting real property located in Orinda, Interested Parties, Sellers and Buyers are advised to consult with their own qualified professionals.