25A Orinda Way: Planning commission here they come

Correction: In today's email we incorrectly stated the next planning meeting would take place on Thursday, February 23rd. The meeting is in fact on Tuesday, February 23rd. Now, onto the good stuff...

Back in December we wrote about proposed plans for a new commercial building at 25A Orinda Way, the empty lot across from the Orinda Library and Community Center. As previously mentioned, should this development become a reality, it would be the first new commercial building on the Village side of Orinda since the city was incorporated in 1985. 

In short, it's a big deal.

Last week we went down to the planning department for an update. What we found was that developer, Tandem Real Estate Company, submitted updated renderings and a vote will be taken on Tuesday, February 23rd by the planning commission at 7:00 PM at the Orinda Library auditorium. Draft plans are available to the public at the Planning Department at 22 Orinda Way, open 8-5 daily, closed for lunch 12-1. 

UPDATE: The final plans are now available online. 

The latest proposal shows that Tandem and the architect incorporated some suggestions from the December 8th public study session, and left out others. For example, the facade is now broken into varied finishes and materials with a clock tower added. 

They have widened the sidewalk to incorporate four existing street parking stalls into the design, reimagining them as additional outdoor seating.

And they have moved the parking lot entrance from Orinda Way around to the side of the building so cars will enter and exit via the same driveway used for the Vintage House.

They did not scale back the project in terms of height or setback from the street, as some had suggested. Nor did they incorporate more Spanish style elements to tie into Orinda's history. The design looks essentially the same as in December.

We are in support of downtown revitalization and hope that all stakeholders - the city, the developers and the community - are advocating for beautiful, high-quality design that will be attractive to an excellent tenant mix and fit in with Orinda's "village" character. After all, the building will be a cornerstone for decades to come.  It's important to get it right. 

We will be attending the planning meeting on the 23rd to ask some questions we have heard posed on the street. For example, 

  • We'd love to see some "story poles" erected to show the scale of the project before it is approved. If you've ever seen a rough framework of 2x4s showing height and width of a new building or addition prior to construction, these are "story poles". This is an important way to see how the final building will scale in proportion to the lot itself, to pedestrians, neighboring structures and drivers.
An example of story poles from a project in Moraga

An example of story poles from a project in Moraga

  • Has enough space been allotted for commercial loading and unloading, and what is the plan for trash removal? Currently one parking space is designated as a loading zone. Will this be sufficient to support five retail/restaurant businesses plus office space upstairs? 
  • We know that the developers can't lock up leases until the space exists, but we are curious to hear how they plan to excite and attract tenants. Based on many conversations we've had, we know that Orindans would love to support boutiques, small businesses and regional operators. Is there evidence from similar developments that the current design is conducive to attracting these types of tenants? 

Given all of this information, we are wondering how you are feeling about this project. If you have thoughts, we encourage you to get involved in the following ways: 

  • Email feedback or questions for the planning department and commission to Derek Farmer (dfarmer@cityoforinda.org) and Tiffany Morlin (tmorlin@cityoforinda.com). They are very open to community input. Feedback sent before 5pm on the 17th will be passed along to the planning commission in the February 19th packet along with the final plans. All items submitted before noon on the 23rd will be passed along to the commissioners to consider prior to the meeting.
  • Join our group at the planning meeting on February 23rd. There will be time for public comments at that meeting.
  • Or send us an email to info@whatsupdowntownorinda.com with your thoughts or questions, we may be able to voice them at the meeting. 

Thanks for reading!