|Posted on May 26, 2021|
|Additional work to be undertaken on the restoration of the San Pablo stream|
|By Sora O’Doherty|
Orinda will spend an additional $ 59,000 for further studies on conditions affecting San Pablo Creek. In fact, the additional work will actually cost the city only $ 27,000, as the project is currently under budget, according to Orinda planning director Drummond Buckley. The additional amount needed, about $ 27,000, can come from the long-term planning fund, Buckley said.
Buckley returned to Orinda City Council on May 18 to answer questions raised at the March 16 council meeting. He explained that Placeworks offers a more technical focus on the creek, which Buckley says has been overlooked for a long time. The creek, which is an essential part of the city’s stormwater drainage system, was diverted in the 1940s and 1950s, after which it was completely ignored. Orinda has never invested any money in the creek issue since the town was incorporated in 1985, Buckley added.
He gave council a presentation to explain why the additional spending on the creek is now needed. The San Pablo stream is a potential natural resource, as well as a pedestrian and / or cycling corridor. He pointed out that other communities have taken advantage of the streams in their commercial areas and that there is a lot of community support to restore the San Pablo stream, which is currently underground as it passes through downtown Orinda. .
The planning director spoke about the restoration plans that have been prepared by the Friends of Orinda Streams at no cost to the city. He also explained to council how a more in-depth study of the creek will be useful in developing the next specific plan for the downtown area and the residential component. For example, the data provided by the studies will help the city establish the top of the shoreline and minimum setback requirements for buildings along the creek. In addition, he said, the data will facilitate a substantive discussion on safety and flood risk in downtown Orinda. The location of property lines in relation to the stream and surrounding features (retaining walls, outlets, etc.) will be very helpful for work on the impending housing feature.
The creek has not been modeled since 1990, Buckley added, noting that the creek has since changed. A detailed investigation will help determine how things change over time. He also speculated that the concrete channel was not in the best shape at the moment. Reminding Council of the major disaster that occurred on another Orinda Creek and caused the Miner Road sinkhole, Buckley encouraged the proactive identification of existing gaps in the functionality of the creek.
In the public comments, Ted Fleischman applauded City Council for the work it is doing on San Pablo Creek. Revitalizing the stream will bring back flora and fauna and improve the downtown area, he said. Nick Waranoff also commented. He was of the view that city staff would later return to council for even more money, and that the proposed work could expose the city to liability or reverse conviction, and likely increase the cost of insurance against flooding. He judged the proposed works as “very unfair to neighboring landowners and citizens of Orinda”.
Board member Inga Miller, one of two members of the downtown development subcommittee, agreed that was a big sum of money in a town where the council prides itself on being frugal. But it’s a good use of city funds, she concluded, to ensure that downtown development takes care of the creek. Some of the stream-related issues she addressed included recreational opportunities, alternative transportation, the problem of stormwater drainage in the face of more severe weather events including 100-year-old storms. “The stream is a major driver of stormwater,” she noted, “and we didn’t pay attention”. Miller also noted that the director of public works is also the director of Flood Plain. The creek channel faces a huge main road, and there are suggestions that the channel is breaking. “It seems like a win-win job,” she concluded. Hard work is required for the city’s infrastructure and, at the same time, the city listens to our residents who want us to restore the creek. The other member of the subcommittee, Board Member Nick Kosla, stressed that he was in favor of this work being done so that everyone has this standard.
Deputy Mayor Dennis Fay noted he was one of the council members who had questions at the March 16 meeting, but said staff did a good job persuading him that the study will be useful, and it is important that we know. “Being an ostrich is not a good idea,” he said. “We have sufficient funds, I am ready to move forward.” Council member Darlene Gee, who also asked questions the last time the matter went to Council, was also ready to move forward. But after the presentation, she agreed that there were multiple benefits to doing the extra work.
Mayor Amy Worth thanked City Manager David Biggs for the reminder of the city’s upcoming responsibilities in stormwater management. “We’re a turning point,” Worth said; “the water goes down and into the streams.” The question was adopted unanimously.