ORINDA -- With Tuesday's passage of Measure J, city officials hope to kick local street and storm drain repairs into a higher gear by summer 2015.
Measure J, a $20 million bond measure to help fix local roads and storm drains in a city with a reputation for bad streets, passed handily, 2,894 "yes" to 951 "no" votes (75.2 percent approval). It needed a two-thirds vote to pass.
Dennis Fay, chairman of the city's Citizens' Infrastructure Oversight Commission and a key proponent of Measure J, said he hopes the knowledge the bond money will come early next year means some of the money now in hand from Measure L -- a November 2012-approved half-cent sales tax -- can be used for planning projects down the road.
"It will take a while to plan for this work," Fay said Wednesday.
The work paid for by Measure J bond money will be strictly for residential streets, and not for the major arterial roads running through the city, said Mayor Sue Severson, adding that the first $10 million bond will probably be sold next spring, just ahead of the start of the first "J" projects.
Property owners' annual Measure J payments will be somewhere from $13 to $20 per $100,000 of assessed valuation; the owner of a typical Orinda home will pay between $100 and $110 per year per parcel toward this bond, its proponents have said.
This general obligation bond will be the second phase of a four-phase plan to bring the city's roads up to a "good" condition rating on the Pavement Condition Index (PCI) that measures roadway quality. The first phase was a 2012 sales tax increase; another bond measure and another tax increase are eyed for future years.
There's been little disagreement among Orinda residents that city streets and storm drains need to be brought up to higher standards and that a way must be found to do it.
But critics of Measure J contended the city doesn't have a plan for how to spend the money -- nor even a real estimate of how much all the needed work will cost. They also insisted city leaders can't be trusted to spend the money only on roads and storm drains, that money could be spent on seemingly unrelated projects deemed to have even the slightest tie-in to the cause of improving roads.
Critics also said $20 million isn't nearly enough to pay for the comprehensive repairs the city needs; in fact, the city has said those comprehensive repairs could cost more than $65 million.
Proponents of Measure J, including most city leaders, have said lining up funding for needed work is urgent, and that waiting will increase costs.
Proponents have maintained the bond money couldn't be spent on projects not directly related to roads and drains, and that oversight will be sufficient to preclude that. Fay agreed, and said spending the money properly is a trust issue.
"We have to spend this money wisely if we expect people to support the future phases of our plan," Fay said.
Supporters also have insisted a compete, detailed plan of the work to be done from year to year is impractical or impossible, given weather-related damages and unforeseen problems developing. A plan to tackle major road-repair projects is already compiled each year.
Not seriously discussed as part of the Measure J strategies, Severson said, was the effect of good streets on home and property values. But she knows streets, like anything else, can be a factor.
"I know that Realtors have lost sales to nearby communities with better roads," she said.