Severson may not seek another Orinda Council term

Orinda City Council member, Sue Severson, has apparently given up seeking another council term.

sue-severson-orinda-housing-elementSeverson, who is currently Orinda’s mayor, failed, according to well informed sources, to file re-election documents by the deadline of Friday, August 8. The position of mayor rotates among city council members.

Severson, because she is an incumbent, is allowed an extra few days to change her mind and run for another term.

Severson, who narrowly, in 2010, won her city council seat, has been a controversial figure in Orinda politics. She was first elected to the city council in 2006.

Severson has supported Orinda real estate interests — interests which favor large-scale construction projects in Orinda.

In December 2013, Severson publicly apologized to residents of Orinda for making improper telephone calls regarding real-estate projects. According to the Contra Costa Times (online version, Dec. 18, 2013), Severson ” . . . kicked off her one-year mayoral term this week with a public apology for violating city council policy in sending emails concerning a highly disputed downtown development . . . ”

According to the Times, Severson delivered her apology ” . . . after a community group Orinda Watch obtained — using a Public Records Act request — emails that show Severson discussing a proposed preschool with a developer, and with the city’s planning commission chair in an informal meeting, before the commission’s consideration of the project.”

The Times added: “In addition to detailing her biases against the preschool project, Severson’s emails were sent from her personal email address, despite council policy requiring officials to use their city email addresses for city business.”

Severson, along with the four other members of Orinda City Council, voted to support the Monteverde Senior Apartments, now being constructed in downtown Orinda at 2 Irwin Way (across the street from the Safeway and Citibank).

Monteverde, which, when completed, will have 67 units but only 30 parking spaces, has been highly controversial because it will have a height that exceeds Orinda’s 35-foot height limit. Monteverde blocks views of nearby hills. Orinda residents have also criticized Monteverde because the project is expected to worsen Orinda’s notorious parking and traffic problems.

In recent years, the Orinda City Council, including Severson, has approved other controversial real-estate projects. At Altarinda Road, not far from the Orinda BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station, 73 new homes are being constructed. Some of the homes are so close together that this correspondent was able to extend his arms fully and touch two adjacent houses.

Severson has supported the Housing Element, a plan to build 227 units of housing for very low-income, low-income, and moderate-income people. Of the 227 units, 84 will be set aside for very low-income people and 47 for people described as low-income individuals.

At press time, Severson could not be reached for comment.

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  1. Christina Thompson says

    Severson knew exactly what she was doing and abused her position of authority. She should resign not seek re-election. Unfortunately, all of our council members need to be replaced. Our small sleepy cottage community is being saturated with too much bureaucracy and growth. Janet Keeter, City Manager has certainly out lived her usefulness. She should have be replaced years back. El Toyonal is an example of her incompetence. The “2000 El Toyonal reconstruction project” was a disaster, no backup plan was in place and many of the residents on the lower side of El Toyonal now get flooded year after year. This problem has not be rectified. Keeter, Smith, Glazer and Swanson are quite familiar with this ongoing problem. Their only solution is to place sandbags on the downhill side of El Toyonal and ignore the residents who are deeply effected by this substandard project. This problem was addressed at a city council meeting and to date, nothing has been done. This is one of many problems. Voters need to be aggressive, vote out incumbents and start fresh with new ideas that help tax paying residents, not growth and corporate America. The City of Orinda needs community minded council members who want to preserve and protect this amazing small community. Now that Measure J has been voted in, Orinda needs new council members who will fairly allocate who benefits and who doesn’t. Those who are currently in place lack objectivity.