These Eureka City Council agendas have been chock-full of interesting stuff lately!
Last week we highlighted a proposal to develop land underneath the Samoa Bridge with an RV park and — if everything goes to plan — a mixed-use, hotel-anchored “village” on the waterfront abutting Halvorsen Park to the east. That proposal ended up passing 4-0, with Councilmember Austin Allison absent.
But next week’s agenda promises even more momentous alterations to the city’s built landscape, as two high-profile affordable housing developments — one for seniors, the other for veterans and homeless people — are set to go before the council. Both involve the Arcata-based Danco Group, which has built many such developments around the region — including “The Lodge at Eureka,” a senior housing project at the site of the old Downtowner Motel.
Also on the agenda: Rob Holmlund, the city’s development services director, will be asking the council for some guidance from the council about his efforts to get stuff built on the Old Town waterfront.
Let’s take these things one by one.
I. Senior Housing at Seventh and Myrtle
The first of the two low-income projects is farther along. The city has long hoped to develop three parcels it owns along Myrtle Avenue, within the city limits. Recently the city asked for proposals. A specially convened panel and the city’s Housing Advisory Commission reviewed the two proposals that were submitted, and both picked Danco Communities’ plan for a 35-unit low-income development for seniors.
City staff are asking the council to ratify the Danco pick at the meeting next week, allowing the city manager to enter direct negotiations with the developer.
According to the staff report on the project, Danco is proposing a three-story, $7.8 million development with 35 apartments (plus one for an on-site manager). Six of the apartments would be two-bedroom apartments, two would be studio units and the remaining 27 would be one-bedroom apartments. There would be parking, laundry, exercise facilities and common sitting rooms, and the entire project would be LEED-certified.
If all goes according to plan, Danco says it hopes to have the project completed by the spring of 2019.
The other proposal for the site, which didn’t score as high as Danco’s, came from Housing Humboldt, a nonprofit developer. Housing Humboldt put forward a plan that included 46 units on the site, half of which would be reserved for people with “special needs” — a category that would include people with mental health problems who are, or at risk of becoming, homeless. The panel that reviewed the proposals faulted Housing Humboldt’s plan for its proposed funding streams, which it considered shaky, and because of what it called “concern for neighborhood acceptance of tenants.”
Read the entire staff report on the project at this link.
II. Housing For Veterans and People at Risk of Homelessness on Fourth Street, Downtown
Later down the agenda, Danco will ask the city for a $250,000 loan to assist in the development of a $16 million project on Eureka’s Fourth Street, between B and C, aimed at housing low-income veterans and people at risk of becoming homeless.
The company is still putting together financing for a 51-unit complex at the site, which is currently the home of Lonnie’s Smog Shop. Half the units would be reserved for veterans and the other half for people at risk of homelessness, and various local and federal agencies servicing those communities have committed several years’ worth of housing vouchers to help subsidize the cost of construction. The proposed loan from the city’s Housing Successor agency would count as “matching funds” that would allow the project to seek Low-Income Housing Tax Credits from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The facility will include a number of on-site services for residents, including counseling for drug and alcohol addiction, post-traumatic stress syndrome, “life skills coaching” and help finding employment. There will be security and food service. The intent of the project, according to the city’s staff report, is to “rehabilitate tenants and reintroduce them back into society.”
Presuming the money can be found, Danco is promising an attractive building at the high-profile downtown location:
With over 240 feet of building frontage on 4th Street, the proposed building would be a considerable presence. The façade and building character envisioned for the project are intended to be creative and responsive to the site and cultural context of our unique region. The view of Humboldt Bay and the redwood forests that surround the City will be spectacular.
Read the entire staff report at this link.
III. Waterfront Development
The city has long been aching to jump-start development on the vacant lots that sit on the Old Town waterfront, behind the boardwalk. City staff held community-wide visioning meetings a few years back. For a time, everyone got very excited. Since then things have moved more slowly, if at all. In his report to the council, Development Services Director Rob Holmlund says that three factors have delayed progress on this front — the city’s own standards for parking spaces associated with new development, the design and land use standards in the city’s General Plan, and the extra level of bureaucratic communication with the California Coastal Commission that is required, given that the area is in the coastal zone.
While dealing with these challenges, Holmlund says, others have arisen. Basically, they amount to a lack of market demand for office and retail space in the Old Town area, and subsequently for potential new sites in the waterfront zone. There’s one exception to this, Holmlund says: There is plenty of interest in a biggish hotel on the waterfront.
Developers would love to build such a hotel near the boardwalk, on the vacant lots between C and F, but that doesn’t fit in with the community’s vision for the area. It’d take up most of the space and leave little room for anything else.
Another possibility that the city has floated is for a new hotel on land just east of the boardwalk, in vacant space currently owned by Union Pacific. A new hotel there would bring lots of foot traffic to Old Town, and would likely boost the development of the waterfront land between C and F. The city has steered at least four different developers that way, Holmlund says, but so far the Union Pacific has been unwilling to sell the land at its fair market value.
So Holmlund wants to know if the council wants to continue the course that he’s currently following — slow and steady, working diligently toward bringing the community’s vision into being as opportunities arise. Or would the council like to move more rapidly — maybe to put out a request for proposals on the C to F street stretch of the waterfront now, knowing that what it ends up with might not be exactly what the community has asked for?
Read the staff report at this link.
The Eureka City Council meets Tuesday, Dec. 19 at 6 p.m. in Eureka City Council Chambers (531 K Street). The full agenda for the meeting can be found here.