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MORAGA: When It Comes To Growth – The Horse Is Already Out Of The Barn

Pro-Growth, No-Growth - battle lines are shaping up in a fight over Moraga's growth rate - but is it too late?

Allow me a few minutes to ponder some of the decisions being made for the good of Moraga. Lately, I’ve felt overcome by a futile sense of deja vu, of having been down a familiar road, arriving at the conclusion that the horse has escaped the barn and that we’re shouting a warning, but that no one is listening.

My family has lived in Moraga a long time. I’ve seen a lot of changes come to pass and not many have been good, in my opinion. I’ve warmed many a seat in the audience at many a city council meeting, spoken out late in the evening about issues of concern and I took my lumps as a volunteer on a hot topic town committee. Speed bumps. Remember those? Right up there in terms of hubris and depth of passion exhibited by my neighbors with the pitched verbal battles waged during the Battle of Rancho Laguna. As a civilian I felt I argued with the crystalline logic of Darrow, questioned some of the cozier relationships in our small town, and predicted many of the problems that have befallen us and which now grace our most recent council agendas.

Ridgeline development

And while I waxed eloquent, questioning everything from three-story rooflines “the developers need to have” to outdoor sound systems “necessary for a festive atmosphere,” parking bloat on key roads, McMansions popping up like mushrooms in tracts of 60s ranchers, trip counts, and cluster development along key access roads, it began to hit me – the horse is not only out of the barn, he’s galloping out of town.

I was struck by a comment captured in local scribe Sophie Braccini’s account of the July 15 Design Review Board meeting – a challenge posed to the latest group of pitchfork and lantern-carrying citizens upset by the DRB’s apparent approval of a 36-unit town home project on Moraga Way. In it, board member Gerald Kirkpatrick asks a cadre of hot-tempered Moraga Country Club residents: “Where were you four years ago when the plan was approved?”

Frankly, I felt the statement was a valid one – partially. I’ve seen firsthand how irate Moragans can get well after an issue goes through the town’s review process, after the wooden story poles depicting height and breadth of a project go up and they see for the first time that the view of the hills they have enjoyed for so long is now, well, gone. I would wager that few, if any, in the room July 15 took the time to speak out years ago against increases in height restrictions and density that troubled more than a few of us back in the day.

On the other hand, I also think Kirkpatrick’s question disingenuous. A few of us did speak up back then. Neighbors did ask questions. They may not appear in the town’s minutes, I’ve looked, but I heard the objections and made a few myself.

So here we are, a segment of the community feeling sandbagged and put upon, convinced dirty deeds were done behind their back, while the town marches down an inexorable road it charted for itself years ago. I can remember the evening our council eased height restrictions on downtown buildings and established new parameters for growth, saying even then “our hands are tied” by ABAG, the MTC, and by so many other subliminal factors that get no official mention but are always swimming just in the background.

What’s it all mean? Another group of neighbors unnerved by the growth coming to their area (and, of course, there’s a lot more where that came from), a new round of frenzied neighborhood organization, possibly a petition and a catchy anti-project group name, threats to withdraw neighborhood support for existing candidates and perhaps even the most dreaded word of all: Lawsuit.

The upshot to all this because I have told you how I appreciate brevity is that the change we are now facing was mapped out years ago, and that while neighbors who probably should have been paying more attention to those meeting notice mailers will – unless they are very tenacious and very, very lucky – be getting some new neighbors, and their cars, and their noise… in the not-too-distant future.

And, of course, there’s a steady line of additional projects in line after that.

Sometimes, I feel, living in an area a long time can be a curse – especially if you don’t like the changes that come to your hometown over the years. Am I alone? Hopelessly out of date? So I’ve been told.


  1. Seemingly, over all kinds of protest, the ravages of development march ever onward. It’s not as if I haven’t been vocal in my objections. I started in earnest complaining back in the late 1980s that, if things continued the way they were going, we would loose our beautiful rolling hills, the traffic would become intolerable, and the region would become unliveable, beginning to resemble Los Angeles. I really question whether it did any good because, in spite of my warnings then, we seem to be moving in that direction whether we like it or not, and there seems to be no way to halt this “de-beautification” of our once bucolic area. I hope I’m wrong.

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