Downtown Planning

2018 - Present

Downtown Precise Plan

In January 2020, the City began working on the Downtown Precise Plan (DPP). The goal of the Downtown Precise Plan is to spur revitalization by updating the City's downtown development standards and adopting objective design standards for multi-family residential and mixed-use projects. The final Downtown Precise Plan was adopted by the City Council on January 31, 2023. The project was managed in-house by Planning staff with specific tasks provided by consultants. Visit the Downtown Precise Plan web page for additional information.

ConnectOrinda Downtown Streetscape Master Plan

In July of 2018, the City of Orinda began, ConnectOrinda, Downtown Streetscape Master Plan. The ConnectOrinda process is working with the community to identify streetscape and transportation projects that beautify, improve travel through and preserve the uniqueness of downtown Orinda. The final plan was adopted the City Council in November 2019. Visit the ConnectOrinda web page for additional information.


Urban Land Institute (ULI) Technical Assistance Panel (TAP)

The ULI panel was asked to help restart the "downtown conversation" with concrete and actionable next steps while also building on the research and previously gathered input. The panel was composed of professionals from a wide variety of disciplines reflecting diverse perspectives, including marking analysis, land use and design, retail consulting, architecture, finance and development strategies, governance and policy, and real estate development.

  • Final Report: On September 7, 2017, the City of Orinda received the Final Report from the ULI Technical Assistance Panel (TAP). The final report can be viewed here.
  • Presentation: On April 11, 2017, the TAP presented its findings at a joint meeting of the City Council and Planning Commission following an intensive two-day process during which the TAP toured Orinda, met with staff, interviewed stakeholders including the Downtown Subcommittee of the City Council and the Chair and Vice Chair of the Planning Commission, and brainstormed to address the four questions posed by the City in the TAP application to ULI.  
    • Meeting Video (Note the first 17-18 minutes of the meeting is inaudible; however when the presentation begins, the meeting becomes audible.)
    • Presentation

Briefing Book
The Planning Department team completed the "Briefing Book" required by ULI as background information for the Technical Assistance Panel (TAP) to determine the next steps for Orinda’s downtown.  It can be accessed online here.  

Key documents used to prepare the ULI Briefing Book, can be viewed here.

National Main Street Center (NMSC)

The NMSC prepared a report that focused on the market and how to competitively position downtown Orinda from a consumer and business mix perspective. The report also served as a model for implementation. 

  • Final Report:On July 5, 2017, the City Council was presented the NMSC Final Report. NMSC’s report consists of its market research study and transformation strategies inclusive of comments made by the Downtown Planning Subcommittee, Stakeholders and members of the public. 
  • Interim Draft Report: The Interim Draft NMSC Report can be viewed here. This version of the report was updated after receiving feedback from both the Downtown Planning Subcommittee, Stakeholders and members of the public.
  • Preliminary Draft Report: The NMSC Preliminary Draft Report can be viewed here.


Streetscape Master Plan Funding 

In December 2016, an application was submitted to the Contra Costa County Transportation Authority (CCTA) for Measure J Transportation for Livable Communities (TLC) program funding to update the Orinda Way Streetscape Master Plan. In the grant application, the City requested $200,000 in TLC funding with a City match of $50,000. The City was notified in July 2017 that the requested grant was awarded. The awarded grant was ultimately used to help fund the ConnectOrinda Downtown Streetscape Master Plan.

Downtown Update to City Council

At the September 6, 2016 meeting, Planning Staff provided a report regarding Downtown Planning and Community Engagement. The meeting was well attended, with a standing-room-only crowd and approximately 30 speakers.  In addition, City staff received approximately 120 pieces of correspondence from members of the public.

At the meeting, the City Council directed staff to return at a future City Council meeting with the following:

  1. A more detailed strategy to engage downtown property owners.
  2. Regarding a Technical Assistance Panel (TAP) option from the nonprofit ULI: 
    • Present suggested questions or issues that ULI could address as part of the TAP process;
    • Bring a representative from ULI to answer questions from the City Council
  3. Provide additional information regarding the potential services of Main Street America as it pertains to downtown planning.
  4. Identify potential grant sources for revitalization of San Pablo Creek.

The Staff Report and a video of the PowerPoint presentation from the September 6, 2016 City Council Meeting. Meeting Minutes are available here, and the full September 6 meeting can be watched here.

Existing Regulations and Policies 

The existing regulations and policies for Downtown Orinda can be found primarily in the following documents:

  1. General Plan, 5th Cycle Housing Element and General Plan Land Use Map.  The General Plan establishes the broad policies and objectives for the City of Orinda, including chapters (“Elements”) about Land Use (and the supporting General Plan Land Use Map), Open Space, Circulation, Housing, Conservation, Safety, Noise, and Growth Management. With the exception of Action 3.A of the Fifth Cycle Housing Element, which states that the City will “study the feasibility of mixed-use development [in the downtown] at appropriate densities,” most downtown-related policies date to the original adoption of the General Plan in 1987. 
  2. Orinda Municipal Code (Title 17 - Zoning) and Zoning Map.  The Zoning Ordinance, together with the Zoning Map identifying zoning districts, contains establishes the permitted development standards (heights, setbacks, parking, etc.), allowable land uses, and the required permitting processes for proposed development and/or land uses.  Many of the zoning standards and land use regulations for the downtown area date to the original adoption of the City of Orinda Zoning Ordinance in 1999. 
  3. Downtown Design Guidelines (1990).  Design Guidelines which cover architecture and streetscape design for the Downtown Commercial (DC) and Downtown Office (DO) zoning districts, and BART Station/Parking lot area.  The Orinda Crossroads Beautification Plan, a companion document adopted in 1988, contains more detailed design suggestions for the streetscape of the Crossroads area.
  4. Orinda Way Streetscape Master Plan (2000).  The plan resulted in the streetscape improvements in the vicinity of the Orinda Community Center (OCC) and established planned streetscape designs for other segments of Orinda Way between Highway 24 and Camino Pablo Road.
  5. San Pablo Creek Through Downtown Orinda: Preliminary Restoration Plan (2001). The plan was endorsed by the City Council.
  6. Bicycle, Trails and Walkways Master Plan (2011).  This plan presents a long-term vision to guide the development of Orinda’s bicycle facilities, walkways, and trails over the next 20 years and beyond.  It includes several proposed pedestrian and bicycle enhancements in the downtown area.

Follow-up discussions and meetings pertaining to Downtown:

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