City of Orinda Road and Storm Drain Repair Bond Issue, Measure J (June 2014)

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A City of Orinda Road and Storm Drain Repair Bond Issue, Measure J ballot question was on the June 3, 2014 election ballot for voters in the city of Orinda in Contra Costa County, California, where it was approved.

Measure J authorized the city of Orinda to increase its debt by $20 million through issuing general obligation bonds in that amount in order to fund the restoration and repair of storm drains and roads in the city. It also authorized a property tax of approximately $16.33 a year per $100,000 of assessed valuation in order to pay for the bonds. The interest paid on this loan over its 20-year life was estimated at $10.6 million, bringing the total loan amount - principal and interest - up to $30.6 million.[1][2]

In 2012, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission rated the overall road system in Orinda, consisting of 92.5 miles of roads and storm drains, at a Pavement Condition Index (PCI) of 50 out of a 100. At the same time, it also rated the residential roads in the city at a 38, which was considered poor. City officials estimated the cost of bringing the total city PCI up to 70 at $52 million. A city consultant reported in 2012 that it would cost $108 million to rebuild all city streets. Measure J was part of a ten-year plan to address the disrepair of the city's streets and roads.[2]

The city council had planned to put this bond issue before voters in 2016, but, encouraged by the results of a poll, they decided to put the measure on the 2014 primary.[3]

Voters approved a 0.5 percent sales tax increase to support road repair and maintenance in 2012 under Measure L.[3]

A 2/3rds supermajority vote was required for the approval of Measure J.

Election results

Measure J
Approveda Yes 4,431 75.50%
Election results from Contra Costa County Elections Office

Text of measure

Ballot question

The question on the ballot was:[4]

Orinda Road and Storm Drain Repair Measure. To repair failing roads and storm drains, restore and upgrade other roadways and storm drains, fix potholes, and improve safety on Orinda public streets, shall the City of Orinda issue twenty million dollars in bonds, with financial audits, public review of all expenditures, and a citizens’ oversight committee?[5]

Impartial analysis

The following impartial analysis of Measure J was prepared by the office of the city attorney:[6]

The Orinda Road and Storm Drain Repair Measure is a bond measure placed on the ballot by the Orinda City Council. If approved by Orinda voters, the Measure would authorize the City to issue and sell up to $20,000,000 in general obligation municipal bonds to help fund repairs and improvements to City roadways and storm drains. Proceeds from the sale of the bonds could only be used to pay for the roadway and storm drain infrastructure improvements described in the Measure, and certain costs associated with issuing the bonds.

California law authorizes cities to issue general obligation bonds to finance "acquisition or improvement of real property" subject to certain limitations. State law provides, for example, that a measure authorizing such bonds must be approved by at least two-thirds of the voters voting on it.

If the Measure is approved, an additional ad valorem property tax will be levied annually on all taxable property within the City to pay for the principal and interest due on the bonds. Once the bonds are repaid, this annual tax will terminate.

The Tax Rate Statement, which follows this Impartial Analysis, reflects the City's current estimate of the additional ad valorem property tax levy that would be required to repay the bonds. The Tax Rate Statement is an estimate based on currently available data and projections. The actual tax levied could be more or less than the City's estimate.

The Measure imposes certain accountability safeguards, including:

1. The Orinda Citizens' Infrastructure Oversight Commission (CIOC) would review bond expenditures and report to the public whether those proceeds are expended only for projects authorized by the voters. The CIOC, a volunteer body comprised of seven Orinda residents, was created by the City Council in 2007 to advise on infrastructure matters. CIOC meetings are noticed and open to the public consistent with State law (the Brown Act).

2. Bond proceeds would be deposited in a special fund or account.

3. The City Manager would annually prepare a public report, filed with the City Council, detailing the bond proceeds received and expended as well as the status of any project funded or to be funded from bond proceeds. This report may be incorporated into the City's annual audit and would be required as long as any bond proceeds remain unexpended.

A "Yes" vote is a vote in favor of City sale of bonds and imposition of the taxes necessary to pay for the bonds. A "No" vote is a vote against City sale of bonds and imposition of the taxes necessary to pay for the bonds.[5]

—Osa L. Wolff, Orinda City Attorney[6]


"Yes on J" logo


The following individuals signed the official arguments in favor of Measure J:[6]

  • Sue Severson, mayor of city of Orinda
  • Carol Penskar, chair of Orinda Finance Advisory Committee
  • Victoria Smith, Orinda City Councilmember
  • Robert J. Birgeneau, Chancellor Emeritus of University of California, Berkeley
  • Dennis R Fay, chair of the Orinda Citizens' Infrastructure Oversight Commission

The following Measure J supporters signed the official rebuttal to the arguments in opposition to Measure J:[7]

  • Darlene K. Gee, P.E., civil engineer
  • Mark Roberts, Lamorinda Rotary Club Asst. Governor Elect
  • Robert W. Burt, retired C.P.A.
  • John Eddy, P.E., civil engineer
  • Pat Rudebusch, Orinda Citizen of the Year in 2013

Arguments in favor

"Yes on J" campaign logo

Official arguments

The following official arguments were submitted in support of Measure J:[6]

Yes on Measure J! Orinda's overall road condition is ranked as one of the worst in the Bay Area. Without more funds our residential roads will continue to deteriorate and future repairs will cost even more.

Measure J will implement the second funding stage of the publicly approved Orinda Roads and Drainage Repair Plan to fix Orinda's failing roads and storm drains. That plan, which will bring the average Orinda public road to good condition, was developed by Orinda's Citizens' Infrastructure Oversight Commission, Finance Advisory Committee and City Council after numerous public hearings and citizen input. For more information, see [1].

Measure J will:

  • Substantially increase repairs to residential roads and drains and can be used only in Orinda.
  • Add $20 million to the City's infrastructure investment, not replace current funding.
  • Protect property values, increase public safety and reduce auto damage.

Taxpayer Protections

Included among the taxpayer protections are requirements that:

  • Funds can only be used for street and drain repairs, not for other governmental purposes.
  • State and federal agencies are prevented from raiding these funds.
  • An independent citizens' oversight committee will report annually on the implementation of this measure.
  • An annual audit is required.

Measure J will expand our city's ability to make critically needed infrastructure improvements. It is an important investment in maintaining and improving our overall quality of life today and in the future. Homeowners will pay an average of approximately a one hundred ten dollar tax annually to secure twenty million dollars' worth of infrastructure improvements. Orinda taxpayers will benefit by acting now while construction costs are still low. Importantly, numerous safeguards are in place to ensure the money is spent as promised.

We urge you to vote yes on Measure J![5]

—Sue Severson, Carol Penskar, Victoria Smith, Robert J. Birgeneau and Dennis R Fay[6]



The following individuals signed the official arguments in opposition to Measure J:[6]

  • Kathleen T. Jenkins, contract manager
  • Chester Earl Martine, Jr., retired patent attorney
  • Christopher R. Kniel, engineering proj. mgr.
  • Bruce London, M.D.
  • Rebecca Ann Brown, daytrader

Arguments against

Official arguments

The following official arguments were submitted in opposition to Measure J:[6]

Ordinance 14-02 is not what it seems to be . . . Vote no!

We agree that Orinda roads are in disrepair and must be brought up to reasonable standards. Nevertheless, this Ordinance fundamentally fails to identify a clear scope of work and apply sound project management principles. The scope language is too broad and open ended. A bond initiative of $20 million demands thorough disclosure that details what specific roads the Project Plan designates for repair, the quality of repair (Pavement Condition Index), Plan scheduling, and cost estimates tied to the scope of work. The public must be provided this before voting whether to approve any bond initiative to repair our roads.

In addition, the city is disingenuous here about the full cost of repairing Orinda's roads, a cost which will be much greater than the $20M they hope to raise. Thus, the city will come back to the residents for more money to fix the roads in just a few years. This piecemealing out the solution rather than being honest with the public about the true costs and dimensions of the problem is wrong. And what guarantees do citizens have about specific road and drainage repairs? NONE. Does the Plan repair THEIR road, assure a level of quality agreeable to taxpayers, state an approximate time frame for repairs, and inform taxpayers of the associated costs? No. All we have in Ordinance 14-02 is: Give us the money and trust us to do the right thing!

Until the Council remedies these deficiencies, Orinda citizens should not be bamboozled into accepting a FIX that fails to adequately address the fundamental issues. Vote NO! Orinda Watch[5]

—Kathleen T. Jenkins, Chester Earl Martine, Jr., Christopher R. Kniel, Bruce London, M.D. and Rebecca Ann Brown[6]


The following poll was conducted by the Oakland-based polling firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates on the support and opposition for a $20 million dollar road and storm drain bond among Orinda City voters.

Orinda City Measure J Poll
Poll Support OpposeUndecidedMargin of ErrorSample Size
Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates Poll on Orinda City Measure J
January 2014
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to

Although this poll showed 70 percent approval, Measure J required 66.67 percent of electors to vote "yes." Moreover, the poll had a margin of error of five percent, which made the results of the election in no way certain prior thereto.[3]

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing local ballot measures in California

The city council originally planned to put this bond question before voters in 2016, but, encouraged by the results of a poll, decided to move forward with the measure in 2014.[2]

Similar measures

Approveda City of Orinda Sales Tax Increase, Measure L (November 2012)

See also

External links

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