Home Letter To The Editor UPDATE: “Semi-Rural” Petitioners Gather 1,500 Signatures In Moraga

UPDATE: “Semi-Rural” Petitioners Gather 1,500 Signatures In Moraga



The volunteer signature gatherers of the Friends of Semi-Rural Moraga
were able to collect over 1500 signatures on Referendum Petitions, which
number represents 15% of the Town of Moraga’s registered voters. The
petitions were delivered to the Town Clerk at 3 PM this afternoon. (The
requirement was 1003 or 10% of the electorate.)

Many many thanks to the petition gatherers and all the petition signers! It was a very heartfelt experience to see the Town residents come together to attempt to protect the place we all call home!

More to come … The Friends of Semi-Rural Moraga


  1. I wonder how many people that signed the petition fully understand the costs the Town is likely to incur if the petition is certified and the issue moves to the November ballot. The cost for an election won’t be too bad, but the cost of defending against likely litigation from the developer and/or landowner–who saw the proposed project approved multiple times (due to appeals) by the Planning Commission and Town Council–will be large, and the cost of losing, enormous.

    I support people’s right to vote on key issues, but this issue seems to have little upside, lots of downside, and potentially very high costs. I’d rather see Moraga’s funds supporting schools, roads or parks, instead of a legal defense. Will the petition organizers agree to indemnify the Town against these costs?

  2. I hope you are prepared to at least carry your 15% of the Town’s legal fees as a result of your too-little-too-late civic activism. TOOOOO LATE!!

  3. Jon and David, the alternative is much worse than any potential cost that may or may not be incurred. Obviously it’s not too little too late (as you typed with a grade school sneer I imagine), because the signatures are there. Jog on.

  4. I wish Moragan had the conviction to add their name to this but I happen to agree with them. The legal cost issue is often raised these days as a way of scaring off supporters of a given issue. It’s an established tactic.

  5. I want to put a great big statue of me in the center of town and I’m willing to sue the town to make sure it goes up. Is that how we’re getting projects planned and approved these days? People have concerns and from what I’ve heard some of those fears are justified. It would have been nice to have addressed them when these project s were in the planning stage but I can understand why they are unhappy. We’re not being very smart about this.

  6. Unfortunately I am in agreement with Jon Chambers regarding where this will end. In a lawsuit that the a town will lose.

    I DO NOT want more houses in Moraga, however the referendum targeting this single development is missing the larger picture. This project was approved because it met the requirements of the current development rules in place. If people are serious about restricting future development, efforts need to be focused on changing the overall development rules, not on trying to stop individual projects that have met those rules and been approved.

    Look at what happened with the Palos Colorados project and lawsuits to see where this will end up.

  7. Dear Moragan: Is that a first name or last? Just what is the “potential cost” here? How much are you willing for all of us to pay? You neglected to speculate on that. That is pretty relevant, especially if you are likely to lose your legal fight.

    I DO NOT want more houses in Moraga. I have mine! But that is not how this works. Those pesky property owners have rights. They already jumped through the hoops. You are too late. Pick another battle and show up on time.

    Now, there is some craven capitalist a stone’s throw from me who wants to convert a lot slightly larger than my .3 acres into 7 detached single family dwellings. S/he would like to change the zoning from suburban office so as to allow 7 vertical Hobbit dwellings there. I don’t even have a pencil sharp enough to fit 7 single family dwellings into the lot between the dentists’ offices and the veterinary clinic, a lovely spot for Hobbits to be sure. Why don’t you start there…where they are just at the beginning of some pretty bizarre planning requests?

  8. Lots of issues here (pun intended). Part of the problem is the neo-liberal view that whoever can organize the most dollars should win. Others are manipulated into thinking they are defending the Constitution, the U.S. and apple pie by defending developers. Well, no. There is a political process to balance organized money. Moraga voted to keep the town semi-rural, and when I go to the central valley I do not find such development. I agree with those who say its too expensive NOT to fight devopement. It can now take 5 minutes to try to turn left at some intersections during commute time. One elementary school in Moraga told me there is not even one open seat to put another kid. Suburban sprawl does not pay for itself. It is outmatched by increases in the cost of police, fire, congestion and so on. Oh, and the other problem is that, in my humble opinion, there is only one person currently on the town council who is competent to be governing anything. /* end of mini-rant */

  9. Napoleon, Adam and Moragan, whether the cost of the (likely) lawsuit will be greater or less than the cost of the development is not yet determinable, and likely to be subjective. It depends, in great part, on how an individual sees the cost of development. Personally, I’m strongly opposed to suburban sprawl, but don’t see the same scale of issues applying to infill development in the Town center. I’m optimistic enough to believe that infill development could lead to bike and walk commutes, and better public transportation options, that might improve congestion over time. Of course, that would require supportive public policy, which may not be implemented.

    I’m not sure the “too little, too late” comment is entirely fair, but I note that the anti-City Ventures faction made their case to the Planning Commission–I believe more than once, to the Town Council, and to the Town Council again, as an appeal. Each time, the ruling authority allowed the project to proceed. As John Schwartz notes, the time to stop infill development–if that is really desired–was in 2009, when Town Council approved the Moraga Center Specific Plan (MCSP). What’s really interesting is that the Town Council sub-committee that drafted MCSP was comprised of Councilmembers Dave Trotter and Mike Metcalf. Two of the three petition organizers (Scott Bowhay and Dick Olsen) endorsed Dave Trotter in Moraga’s 2014 Council election. Bowhay and Olsen must have known that as an MCSP drafter, Trotter was likely to support the City Ventures project implementing MCSP.

    Bottom line is we live in a representative democracy. There are clearly some issues that should be decided by a popular vote. I don’t agree that approval of a 36-unit infill development rises to that level. I’m concerned that many citizens who signed the petition don’t understand the legal and other costs involved in putting this project to a vote. And I don’t like the approach of a group that chooses to fight development using delaying tactics that can reasonably be expected to pass the costs of the fight on to other members of the community, without even warning the community of what is likely to come. /* end of mini-rant */

  10. Jon – totally agree with your assessment. Your comments are the most articulately written words on this subject that has been displayed on many a local website ad nauseum. Thanks for your insight and ability to express the matter at hand so clearly ..

  11. See Lamorinda Weekly, July 1st, page A4, if you would like to try to imagine seven 3-story detached single family dwellings on about .37 acres, sandwiched between single story dental and veterinary offices. The illustration shows some large, broadleaf trees taller than the 3-story dwellings. Good luck finding room for those. And just how many feet is this from the barking, and sometimes heart-rending sounds that come from the veterinary clinic where animals are boarded post-surgery? You are going to need some thick windows on that side, especially on Sunday mornings when the dogs seem unusually restless. Late breakfast perhaps?
    Per LMW page A2, Deer Hill in Lafayette is now at about 1/7th the number of units originally proposed. Maybe that should be the Moraga planning commision’s goal, 1 shorter sfd or a couple of condos with triple-pane windows on the vet side. 7 units seems a bit nuts, so the commission study group recommended the developer come back with a plan for 4 or 5. Still, a little crazy in my estimation, but perhaps that is what the developer wanted all along.

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