Comments Set Off Firestorm as Council Approves Hacienda Lease

[video included below]


At its meeting last night, the Town Council approved the 10-year (plus two 5-year “mutual” extension) lease with Wedgewood Weddings. The approval essentially finalizing what was proposed in the staff report and as we reported in our earlier articles here and here.


Some language was “tightened up,” such as replacing the words “should” with “shall” with respect to hours of operation and noise levels. Nonetheless, the final staff negotiation the council approved still somehow managed to be less advantageous for the Town than the proposed lease two weeks earlier, handing over 3 years’ worth of capital reserve contributions ($120,000 in total) if a lease extension isn’t entered into, for any reason. Relatively toothless assignment approval criteria and similarly weak Town discretion to not enter into the 5-year extensions (basically only if Wedgewood has breached the contract) remain.


Resident Comment/Concern Didn’t Sway Decision Numerous residents submitted letters and spoke during public comment, expressing concern about the Town’s historic failures and inability to control noise levels, combined with what will likely be an increased level of activity at the Hacienda. Some councilmembers opined that a consistent, professional wedding management company will be far more likely to comply than random DJs.


Detailed and Most Relevant Lafayette and Orinda Sound Ordinances Overlooked Other public comment noted that the staff’s limited, DIY noise simulations weren’t sufficiently robust and asked for a professionally-conducted noise report and associated requirements/limits rather than those town staff had put together on their own. They also pointed out – correctly – that it appeared the noise-level ordinances staff characterized as “comparable locales” (Concord and Alameda County) were cherry-picked, nonspecific, and dissimilar to Moraga.


Lafayette and Orinda both have very specific sound-level noise ordinances (Orinda’s including provisions regarding amplified sound, outdoor activities, and even mentioning their Country Club where outdoor weddings and parties are held) were not considered at all, and Moraga’s noise-level restrictions in the lease allow for louder amplified sound than neighboring cities. Curiously, Moraga’s noise restrictions included in the lease call for measuring noise levels indoors with windows and doors closed, which some residents characterized as equivalent to requiring neighbors to “shelter in place.”


WATCH: Councilmember Stromberg’s Lecture, Rationalization Rankles Neighbors The agenda item was almost routine in terms of the process of staff report, councilmember questions and public comment. At least until it came time for councilmember deliberation (which often includes individual thought processes and explanations for the benefit of residents), and Councilmember Stromberg managed to light up chatrooms and text messages with a not-well-received, 13-minute soliloquy that included speaking to what the entire Town Council intended to do about a decision it hadn’t yet deliberated, lecturing neighbors, and offering comments that treated their concerns as overblown or unwarranted, stating “If you buy your home near the BART tracks, do you have a right to say BART shouldn’t run?" He later said, "I’m sorry that what you would like is just not realistic and cannot be provided” and “you have no reasonable expectation that [the noise] will be eliminated.”


One resident summarized Stromberg’s comments as “Basically, he's saying ‘stupid you for buying a house near there'" and that the speech was a "condescending, dismissive, huge ‘TOO BAD!’


Click on the video below to watch Councilmember Stromberg's comments:


Got thoughts? You can email the town council; contact info is here