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Charles Hill Road shows signs of deterioration in Orinda, Calif. on Friday, Oct. 19, 2012. On election day, residents will vote on a half-cent sales tax whose proceeds city leaders are saying, but cannot legally guarantee, will be used to fix infamously bad roads and storm drains.(Kristopher Skinner/Staff)

ORINDA -- On Nov. 6, the city will ask residents to vote on a half-cent sales tax whose proceeds officials say -- but cannot legally guarantee -- will be used to help maintain Orinda's notorious failing roads and storm drains.

But the general tax dubbed Measure L, which city staff estimates will raise $6.7 million during its decade-long life, is just the beginning of a multifold plan officials say is needed to repair and maintain Orinda's 92.5 miles of roads and drains.

In July, the city council approved the "10 Year Road and Drainage Repairs Plan," of which Measure L is the first phase. In the second phase, voters will be asked to approve a $19.8 million bond measure or parcel tax. They will be tapped to support an additional $19.8 million bond measure or parcel tax four years later in 2020.

In the final phase, voters will be asked to extend the half-cent sales tax to raise money for road maintenance. By 2024, the plan will have raised $58.4 million in new and existing revenue over 12 years -- not10 -- that will have been spent on roads and storm drains, according to city data.

Supporters argue the plan will place voters in control of fixing the roads. Mayor Steve Glazer says that since the plan is proposed in four stages, residents can decide whether they feel money is being spent appropriately at each point in time before they authorize the next stage.

"It's modest in its scale and it requires a check-in with the voters in order to generate additional resources to complete the plan," Glazer said.

Critics say the plan is doomed because Measure L won't raise the $2.5 million needed each year just to maintain current road conditions and will raise about half of what's needed to pay for rebuilding Orinda's roads after maintenance is factored in.

Opponents also argue that given past trends, voters likely will not pass the two future bond or parcel tax measures; in 2006 and 2007, bond measures of nearly $60 million fell short of required two-thirds majority approval needed.

City council hopeful Linda Delehunt said she doesn't think voters realize the two future bond measures are "the real meat of the project." She thinks a real estate transfer tax is a more viable solution because it would provide enough money to fund road repairs and wouldn't affect the city's youngest or oldest residents.

Voters, the candidate says, have also shown twice that they don't support bond measures yet those measures are being put forth as potential remedies.

"I believe in the voice of elections past," Delehunt said.

Councilwoman Victoria Smith said a majority of people polled in a city-sponsored survey in January, as well those who have attended public hearings on the matter, favor a sales tax as the first step.

Still, she conceded that the money it will generate -- an average of about $650,000 annually -- is a small amount. But she said it will begin to show voters that the city is putting extra money into the roads.

"It will build that voter confidence," she said.

Orinda Road Numbers
The city has 92.5 miles of paved roads. The average pavement condition index (PCI) of Orinda's roads is 51 or on the lower end of "good" according to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission; residential/local roads are rated an average of 39 or "poor." The city has an overall operating budget of $9.8 million.
Amount needed to bring all roads and drains to good condition: $52 million.
Amount city has spent annually on paving 2001-2011: $1.37 million.
Amount needed annually to maintain Orinda's roads: $2.5 million
Anticipated average annual Measure L revenue: $670,000
Amount to be generated from two possible parcel tax or bond measures: $39.6 million
Amount to be generated from possible sales tax extension in 2024: $716,000
Projected total revenue from "10 Year Roads and Drains Repair and Maintenance Plan," combined with other projected revenue sources: $58.4 million.