For a full history of Orinda's road problems and plans visit the Orinda Road Facts web site.
The history of the current plan starts with the election of Council Members Glazer and Smith in 2008. At that time, two bond measures, the second led by Glazer, had recently failed to gain super-majority (2/3) support even though the roads were in uniformly miserable condition. There were many reasons for the defeat of these much needed measures, some of which are still reverberating in the community. The roads were still a mess so Glazer and Smith, both vying for a second term issued the battle cry "roads, roads, roads" and were re-elected.
In existance at that time was the Citizens Infrastructure Oversight Commission (CIOC) which was created to monitor the expenditure of funds expected to be generated from second failed bond measure in June 2007. After the funds did not appear, the CIOC's only task was to monitor what funds the city did have for road repair. At times it tried to generate excitement to find new funds but that was not its charter so this behavior was discouraged by the Council.
The Chair of the original Infrastructure Committee, Art Haigh, was a charter member of the CIOC and inaugural Chair. In 2008 he also became part of the Revenue Enhancement Task Force (RETF). The Task Force was created to explore new revenue sources. It did this but went one step further, aggregating the most promising revenue sources into a multi-source, multi-year plan to address not just roads but sub-standard fire hydrants (also part of Orinda's infrastructure). This went beyond the City's scope for the RETF. The response? The Council disbanded the RETF before they could publish their final report and Art Haigh's position on the CIOC was not renewed (Smith and Glazer were council members responsible for this action).
But the CIOC was able lead the Council into creating a road funding plan that would benefit most residents with the money available. It determined that 90% of Orinda's driving was done on 30% of Orinda's roads so a dollar spent on those roads (arterials and collectors) was 20 times as effective as a dollar spent on the other 70% (residential streets). In addition, money spent on arterials and collectors could also attract grants and match funding from county, regional, state and federal agencies to further enhance the impact of the local repair-dollar. Behind this guidance, the Council put a policy in place to concentrate road repair dollars on Orinda's "major" roads and, effectively, abandon the residential streets until a solution to address their needs could be created. The result was a significant improvement in the overall driving experience and a decrease in the overall angst (and, unfortunately, willingness to pay new taxes) by the average driver / voter / taxpayer.
This lack of urgency allowed the Council, and Glazer and Smith who promised "roads, roads, roads" in the November 2008 issue of the Orinda News, to put the topic on the back burner until two and a half years later. In May 2011, Glazer chaired a newly created Roads Sub-Committee to re-examine options (which the RETF and the Finance Committee had previously examined). This was supposed to be a community-inclusive operation but, strangely, all meetings were held mid-week and mid-day with minimal advance notice and thus minimal attendence by anyone from the community. Although an agenda for each meeting was pre-posted in accordance with the Brown Act, none of the materials being presented at the meeting were made available in advance nor were minutes recorded and distributed. The meetings concluded with a report to the Council in November 2011 with the final meeting of the subcommittee two weeks later. No conclusions or recommendations were drawn by the Sub Committee.
In January the Council commissioned a survey of residents on their "appetite" for a new road tax. What the survey would include was discussed at one Council meeting but the final form of the survey, at the objections of members of the public, was determined by city staff without further input by the public. While the results of the survey were presented in February 2012, the actual questions asked were never made public (eg, when asked if a $20 million bond was acceptable, was any cost for the bond presented or was the respondent expected to know what a $20 million bond would cost him/her). A couple possible taxes (benefit assessment district - only taxing those whose streets were actually repaired; real estate transfer tax - taxing people only once, when they sold their home; both taxes that could pass with a simple 50% majority) were excluded from the survey. The result was the only tax that showed any promise of passing was a sales tax (also a 50% tax) and the only amount tested was 1/2 cent on the dollar (0.5%).
When the survey results were presented to the Council (February 7, 2012), the Council's response was that the City's Finance Advisory Committee and CIOCC should participate in developing a plan.
The city staff, at the May 1st Council meeting asked the Council to provide direction as to whether or not to pursue a sales tax. The Council said to keep working on the idea. The staff came back to the Council at their June 5th meeting and was directed to draw up plans for a 1/2 cent sales tax. However, no mention of a ten year road plan appeared on any city or committee agenda.
The creation of the Ten Year Road plan first became known to the public when the agenda and attachments for the July 17, 2012 City Council meeting were released on the morning of Friday July 13th, 2012. In adddition to the details of the Sales Tax proposal, a 10-Year Road Master Plan was also on the agenda to be voted on by the Council it had never before been discussed in public.
Four days later, at the July 17th City Council meeting. both the Sales Tax plan and the "10-Year Roads and Drains Repair and Maintenance Master Plan" were unanimously adopted with little chance for the community to reflect, analyze or comment on either one.