Home NEWS Government New Fight Looming For Moraga’s Contentious City Ventures Project

New Fight Looming For Moraga’s Contentious City Ventures Project

Moraga's City Ventures project is once again on track.

Questions about the City Ventures project along Moraga way began almost as soon as the story poles marking the project’s proposed roof lines and construction footprint went up alongside Station 41. And a new fight appears to be brewing as the Moraga planning commission appears evenly divided on the issue and the future of the project remains in doubt.

The condo/town home project, first proposed in 2012 and whittled back from 54 to 36 dwelling units by developer City Ventures, LLC, of Newport Beach since then – quickly became the object of a contentious debate between developers, downtown property owners, and residents who criticized the project for a look and feel they said was out of character with Moraga.

Originally green-lighted as consistent with the town’s specific plan regulating growth in the downtown area, a citizens group submitted a petition opposing construction of the the par 4-sized three-acre parcel, sandwiched between the fire station, office buildings, Moraga Way and Country Club Drive last year. The developer and downtown property owner Russell J. Bruzzone, Inc. filed a lawsuit demanding that the town reject the citizen’s referendum. The Town Council approved a resolution denying the appeal by a 4-1 vote, with council member Teresa Onoda opposed, last May, and the project appeared headed back to the planning commission for further review, discussion, and – it was largely expected – approval.

But not so fast. New appointments to the planning commission this past year have changed its makeup and, perhaps, its direction.

At the commission’s July 18 meeting a vote to approve City Ventures under the guidelines imposed by the General Development Plan cleaved the commission cleanly down the middle, with three commissioners (Steve Woehleke, Tom Marnane, Ferenc Kovac) voting to approve and three others (Suzanne D’Arcy, Christine Kuckuk, and Kymberleigh Korpus) voting no.

It appears that while half the commissioners believed they were obligated by law to approve the project’s General Development Plan based on its language, three others did not feel so restricted, voting to reject the GDP as written.

At any rate, what some may have believed would be a relatively straightforward construction project has already proved to be contentious and probably destined for further future argument relative to its language and design.

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  1. More thinly disguised infill development built on a major feeder street a la Lafayette Homes at Deer Hill. Look for more posturing and saber rattling and the devloper to offer things town councils like to here like sports courts or public art or EV charging stations.

  2. I quite like the dustbowl / crater look of the current site. It’s inviting, especially with the no trespassing signs. The perfect gateway to Moraga, one could argue.

    I am, of course, kidding.

    My suspicion is that the aversion to condominiums/apartments/townhomes in Lamorinda is ultimately based on pressures from the ‘upper echelon’ to keep people less-wealthy than them, from calling Lamorinda home. This sad realization came to me recently in the comments section of the short-term rental story, in where the attitude of “if you need extra income, you don’t belong here…” seems to be deep-seated and quite popular amongst a certain portion of our population.

    I’m not suggesting the town give developers carte blanche in terms of look and feel, but I do question the primary motivation of the detractors. Is the look and feel of the existing wasteland consistent with Moraga’s character? I suspect not. Is it better than condo dwellers? Quite possibly. Do keep in mind that the original appeal was filed by only three individuals.

    In response to Sabrina, I agree that it’s suburban infill, but I don’t think it’s thinly disguised — seems pretty clear what is happening and what the proposed development might look like. It also appears to be squarely within Moraga’s Center Specific Plan, which calls for such development. There’ll be lots of saber rattling and posturing, that is for sure!

    Will be interesting to see where this goes.

  3. Paying $900000 to live next to a fire station or on a major highway in Lafayette does not make a lot of sense to me I will admit. I am left to assume that there is a market for this type of construction.

  4. This is Yuge! The working class will be swarming in from Oakland, Brentwood, Oakley, the Peoples Republic of China, snapping up those $900K condos, reminding us all of the American dream and what it meant to not have a golf club membership. (Country club membership and Town of Orinda membership not included).

  5. To me it would be like buying a home next to an airport but people do that and complain about the noise later. I would think it woul d be very noisy with sirens and other activty next door. The landscaped “sound buffer” idea is laughable.

  6. In the “rendering”, the trees are spun sugar, and the life forms are human-like or human-lite. How does that rosy, relative accuracy reflect on the relative accuracy of the architectural “rendering”, I wonder? And why aren’t the “humans” smiling? Someone is selling this happy vision, aren’t they? So, why aren’t Ken and Barbie smiling? And where is Spot? You know, Spot, the Dalmatian who howls every time the siren sounds. Spot, who barks a friendly bark, bark, bark, bark at the firehouse whenever his heroes drill next door at the practice yard they have been using for years. Maybe this was an early draft though I do love it when all the plants bloom at exactly the same moment!

  7. David, they aren’t smiling because someone is driving by yelling “INTRUDERS! INTRUDERS!”, on their way to the Jack n’ the Box, only to discover it’s no longer there.*

    *some of the facts in this statement may not be completely factual.

  8. This cookie cutter development is also being pushed in Antioch, and being fought by the citizens. City Ventures has used the same drawings for ours, but without the landscaping.

  9. I personally think this project is a lot more appropriate than Via Moraga by Signature Homes (across from TJ Maxx and Starbucks). Multi family homes by definition imply high living so the newhome owners know what they are getting into. Via Moraga is trying to cram single family homes into an area that is far too small. That alone makes Via Moraga unlike any development we have seen in town (so far). Additionally, the City Venture project provides multiple ways to enter and exit the housing complex. Via Moraga looks to have one way in and one way out with very little parking options in the circle. I can’t wait until the new home owners ask the town for a traffic light.

  10. Look for more of the same as cities try to push through these crackerbox housing developments, residents petition and whine, developers or low cost housing advocates or citizens sue and these things still get built despite all the fuss.

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