ORINDA -- Outrage over how the city of Orinda plans to accommodate future housing for residents of all income levels to meet state requirements is reaching a boiling point. Now, a number of angry residents -- and some out-of-towners -- are demanding the city withdraw its "housing element" from state review and form a citizen's committee to come up with a plan they say reflects what residents want.

Members of the group Orinda Watch told the city council Tuesday that they want them to address a list of requests that includes the withdrawal of the draft housing element from state review; a review of the plan by Orinda residents, and its "correction" and resubmittal to the California Department of Housing and Community Development, which certifies the element. The group also said an online petition has garnered hundreds of signatures from people supporting its demands.

"Orinda Watch requests that these issues be put on the Aug. 6 city council agenda and at that meeting, the city council and staff provide complete and satisfactory responses to the concerns of Orinda Watch and the citizens of Orinda regarding these matters," said resident Rusty Snow.

Snow and others have for weeks pressed the city to address their concerns about the state-mandated housing element, which was submitted in June. Some residents are arguing the city is planning to change Orinda's general plan to rezone portions of downtown and allow higher density housing there. They also claim the city wants to increase the residential zoning density from 10 units per acre to 20 units per acre, and rezone a site near Santa Maria Church to at least 20 units per acre to permit high density housing there. Other people argue that the housing element process hasn't been transparent.


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The remarks, like those made at past meetings, came during a period of public comment on non-agendized items. City rules do not allow council members to respond to issues that are not on the agenda for discussion.

However, Councilman Steve Glazer did attempt to address concerns about the housing element process and the council's input. He also tried to clarify that a draft had been submitted and no final decisions made. City Manager Janet Keeter said staff had received direction from the council at various points, and had updated officials on what had been submitted.

Glazer also asked whether the council has any obligation to do anything that has been submitted to the state. Keeter said the council did not.

Council members have not asked staffers to place Orinda Watch's request on an upcoming agenda, but Keeter did say Wednesday that staff does intend to bring matters on the housing element and process back to the council. She did not give a timeline.

State law requires that all local governments have a "housing element," a plan to accommodate future residential development, in their general plans, and that those plans be updated every eight years. Orinda's document must show how the city plans to accommodate housing for the "regional housing needs allocation," managed by the Association of Bay Area Governments. That needs allocation is income-based and provides projections for market-, moderate-, low- and very low income housing. The city is required to show it can provide land for -- but not build -- 218 housing units in the 2007-14 housing needs allocation cycle.

The certification would be Orinda's first.

State HCD officials notified the city June 12 that the draft housing element is in compliance, but the city will have to zone for a carry-over of housing units not included in the previous element. HCD spokesman Eric Johnson explained that the department assumes Orinda will zone for the 28-unit shortfall in the final housing element it adopts.

Planning Director Emmanuel Ursu says the city plans to rezone a 3.2-acre parcel of land near Santa Maria Church to accommodate 20 units per acre of future housing there and fulfill that unmet need, as well as affordable housing in the current cycle. He said it is not the city's responsibility to develop the land, only to provide the zoning. The site is currently zoned for 6 to10 units per acre.

A spokesman with the Diocese of Oakland -- which owns the property -- said the diocese has no plans to change the use of the property and that it is studying the rezoning with their attorney.

Orinda must adopt the element before it can be certified by Jan. 31. Cities cannot opt out of the housing element, according to HCD.