ORINDA -- A historic adobe structure slated to become a private clubhouse for residents of an Orinda subdivision could be sold and turned into a historical resource center for the general public.

The Joaquin Moraga Adobe building could still also be accessed by subdivision homeowners if an agreement between the adobe's owners and a local nonprofit group pans out.

Orinda leaders approved this week a service contract with Oakland-based consulting firm Lamphier-Gregory for a new environmental review of the J&J Ranch subdivision should developers decide to proceed with plans to revise their project by selling the structure -- after which the town of Moraga is named -- to the Friends of the Joaquin Moraga Adobe historical group.

J&J Ranch, LLC is negotiating an agreement with the Friends in which the nonprofit would purchase the adobe and the .9-acre Orinda lot on which it sits. No other changes to the project are proposed, according to city documents. A possible sale price has not been disclosed, and a call to the developer was not returned.

According to an analysis by the consulting group, the adobe will be restored by the developers and opened to limited use by the public and school groups. Additional proposed uses include opening the adobe one weekend day per month for public site visits and allowing third- and fourth-grade classes in the Orinda Union School District to visit the adobe once a year.

The subdivision's homeowners association would continue to be responsible for regular maintenance of the adobe building and its grounds, and residents would still be able to use the structure as a clubhouse and meeting room.

Orinda planning commissioners approved Oct. 9 the proposal for the 13-lot subdivision. Its developers had hoped to convert the vacant, vandalized structure into a private amenity for residents.

That plan was met with resistance by a group of Lamorinda residents, including the Friends, who appealed the planning commission's decision to the city council. The group argued that the adobe should be made into a historical center or museum that would be open to the public and accessible to schoolchildren. They also urged the council to protect the adobe's "historical view shed."

Another group of residents living near the project site also challenged the planning commission's ruling, saying a streamlined environmental review of the project was flawed and inadequate.

The two parties are still negotiating but are "really close" to an agreement, Orinda planning director Emmanuel Ursu said. The city has been working with the developer and the Friends, but is not a negotiating party in the agreement. "We just brought the two parties to the table," Ursu said.

Once the agreement is reached with the Friends, the developer would need to withdraw the original application and submit a revision that reflects the change. The two appeals would then become "a moot point," Ursu said.

The revised project will then undergo a full environmental review, which could take from seven months to a year, Ursu explained.

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