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Orinda's Oldest Landmark Continues to Fight for Preservation and Public Access

Still no plans to include public access or cultural preservation.

While Spanish exploration and early settlement may be vague visions of school lessons, you might want to consider an old piece of Orinda's history as an excuse to take a stroll down memory lane.

Built in 1841 by Spanish explorer Don Joaquin Moraga, the Moraga family made a home now known as the Joaquin Moraga Adobe. 

The adobe home was remodeled in 1941 and again during the early 1960's, but not after being recognized as a historical landmark by the State of California. In 1995, Orinda also jumped on board with recognizing the landmark's importance. 

Today, the Joaquin Moraga Adobe is privately-owned and the city of Orinda's planning commission wants to begin a new 20-acre proposal, J&J Ranch—ironically named after Joaquin Moraga and his cousin Joaquin Bernal recipients of the a 13,000 Mexican land grant.

The grants' pre-existing history has 13,000 acres which include portions of present day Orinda, Moraga, Lafayette, Canyon, and Rheem Valley—the remaining land will be used to build single family homes and a clubhouse area, specifically where the adobe home is.

While no steps have been taken to gaining public access to viewing all or parts of the adobe home, the historical nature around the new development lingers.

"According to the Planning Commission's report, some of the adobe home will be removed and used as a private clubhouse for the present owners. What is the historical value in this?" said Ken Long, President of the Friends of the Joaquin Moraga Adobe (FJMA).

The FJMA have been meeting the third Monday of the month for four years with residents of Moraga-Orinda on how to render to the needs of the community.

"Next steps would be to discuss how the historic building will be preserved. Then get public access as maybe a historical museum or a place for school groups to visit and study," said Long. 

Although the adobe home has been riddled with vandalism more frequently, Long doesn't see how public notices can describe the home as a "community center or neighborhood center." 

"A statement of official action will be released on the approved plan soon" said Emmanual Ursu, Orinda's Planning Director. 

Unfortunately the new proposed plan says nothing about public access.

"There will be landscape revisions where the scenic views remain preserved," Ursu explains.

But these revisions could definitely be seen as small in comparison to many city revival efforts of historical landmarks.

Any additional proposed changes can be viewed in the J&J Ranch environmental Review. 

The FJMA urge residents and community members to join them again tonight for their monthly meeting to voice your opinion on the J&J Ranch Proposal. 

The meeting will be held at the Better Homes & Garden Mason-McDuffie Office located at 51 Moraga Way in Orinda. 

Is the historical preservation of the Joaquin Adobe important to you as a resident? Are there other ways the adobe space could be used for? Tell us in the comments section below.

CJ October 16, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Tear it down already. Stop with the fabrication of narrative that this is some historical landmark. If it was 200 year old stone masterpiece that was still standing proud you may have a case , but it is a collapsing old rotting farmhouse, requiring money that is not available in the public arena to restore. My relatives used to live in the adobe in Concord, I never got why it was considered such a historical landmark either, it just isn't worthy at any level. Let the developers build on their property as they see fit. This is just ridiculous.
Nebuchadnezzar October 17, 2012 at 12:21 AM
Tear it down? Why? Its the oldest house in town, by about fifty years, built in 1841 by the original settlers in Moraga Valley, back when California was part of Mexico. Its the only remnant of the Mexican era in Orinda. The Moragas were a prominent family in early California history; Gabriel Moraga, Joaquin's father, was a famous explorer and Indian fighter. Mrs. Irvine preserved the Adobe because she saw it as a piece of living history. It should be preserved for eternity, and open to the public for school groups and everyone else to visit and learn about the history of the area.
CJ October 17, 2012 at 04:29 AM
I can go to the library or several other locations of more historical significance. No need to spend any money or valuable time to prop up a decayed old building with no real architectural significance. The rhetoric that this deserves some historic preservation is just silly. If you want it preserved then come up with the money and buy it and the land around it and do whatever you want, otherwise mow it down and move on.
Abe Froman October 17, 2012 at 12:55 PM
You don't need an old dilapidated house to "learn" about local history. Just because she is old it doesn't make her special. That's what the doctors said about Grandma before they put her down. The same applies here.
Nile Kinnick October 17, 2012 at 02:04 PM
Let's hope Obummer's death panels do the same. Old people and old houses are annoying. Both should be knocked down to make room for the new. Plus old people smell like urine.

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