The city is well known in the area as one of the most desirable addresses in the East Bay, due to its excellent public schools, high-priced real estate and naturally scenic landscape. While the city is in close proximity to nearby urban areas, it has maintained a very intimate, small town atmosphere.
Originally a rural area mainly known for ranching and summer cabins, the land which became the town was named by Alice Marsh Cameron in honor of the poet Katherine Philips ("Matchless Orinda" being a nickname for Phillips). Orinda's popularity as a year-round place to live increased after the Caldecott Tunnel was completed in 1937, providing quicker access to points west including San Francisco. Bisected by Highway 24, and framed by its rolling, oak covered hills, the city of Orinda was incorporated on July 1, 1985. The Northern portion of the city, crowned by the Orinda Country Club, is very hilly and dotted with multi-million dollar custom homes. The Southern portion of the city is known as the "Glorietta" area, because of a main boulevard, is flatter and has more modest homes that are still mostly over one million dollars.