ORINDA -- Despite opposition from a handful of residents, city leaders will hire a consultant to prepare a portion of Orinda's general plan outlining how the city plans to meet state affordable housing guidelines.

The City Council voted unanimously April 22 to hire Pacific Municipal Consultants, tasked with updating the "housing element" in Orinda's general plan and preparing an associated environmental review. The city will spend $32,555 from a special fund to revise that future housing plan.

The city's fifth housing element update -- which Orinda must adopt by Jan. 31, 2015 -- must show how the city plans to accommodate 227 additional units of very low-, low-, moderate- and market-rate housing as dictated by the "regional housing needs allocation" overseen by the Association of Bay Area Governments. The city completed its fourth housing element update last year after a highly charged public process that included pushback from the community group Orinda Watch. Its members have claimed city leaders are giving in to state demands not required by law to have the housing plan certified.

One resident with that group spoke out against hiring Pacific Municipal Consultants, arguing that consultant Diana Elrod -- who is working on the city of Lafayette's housing element -- was the only candidate who proposed addressing issues raised by the state Department of Housing and Community Development, which certifies the document.

According to her proposal, Elrod suggested preparing an administrative draft of the element that would answer the state's request that Orinda not hinder multifamily housing through existing special permits. Under the city's general plan, the residential multifamily zone does not allow more than the 10 units per acre.

Elrod said she would also ensure that the inventory of adequate sites to fulfill housing requirements was "accurate and defensible."

After planning staff said why they want the firm hired¿, city leaders urged a "robust" community outreach program. They also explained that the money to hire the consultant was coming from a special general plan update fund and not the city's general fund.

All California cities are required under new state laws to update their "housing element" plans every eight years. Not doing so could result in cities possibly losing out on state transportation grant dollars.