“The Village” — a large-scale student housing project on St. Louis Road, west of the highway — will go before Arcata City Council at tonight’s meeting. To allow ample time, the council will also hold a special meeting tomorrow night open to public comment on the issue.
The project, submitted by developers AMCAL Equities in 2015, has been the source of some major controversy. A recent Mad River Union article exposed coordination between AMCAL and Humboldt State University on the project. Previously, Humboldt State had expressed no direct involvement with the development.
The Union article published a hefty 369 pages of HSU emails showing involvement with the project developers. The emails were obtained via a Public Records Act Request filed by the Arcata Citizens for Responsible Housing (ACRH) — a group of over 400 citizens voicing concern over the Village development.
ACRH co-director John Bergenske told the Outpost that the group hired an attorney to file the request when they noticed Humboldt State’s notable lack of presence during the Planning Commission meetings surrounding the Village.
“They [HSU] were saying ‘we support this but we have no involvement,’” Bergenske said. This lead ACRH to think there must be an angle, and that AMCAL might be trying to sell this development to Humboldt State.
Bergenske said it’s the lack of transparency around Humboldt State’s involvement that is so disconcerting. Of the pages 369 pages of emails, a lot of content was redacted. ACRH is now working to discover what information was withheld.
From a press release sent out June 1:
As more and more evidence mounts that HSU and AMCAL have been coordinating a planned purchase or affiliation around their 800-bed private housing project in Arcata, and secretly working to put more students in each unit after certification, ACRH is demanding that all documents shared between the developer and HSU be made public before the special City Council meeting [on] Thursday, June 7th.
Bergenske told the Outpost that by purchasing the Village from AMCAL, Humboldt State can avoid paying prevailing wages and would not have to pay any property tax.
“If the city is paying for services but not getting any property taxes from it, this is really unfair to the taxpayer,” Bergenske said.
Arcata City Council will have a lot to consider before moving forward with the development. The project plan failed to receive a recommendation by the Arcata Planning Commission — the May 8 Planning Commission meeting ended in a 2-2 vote.
Tonight’s meeting will include the project applicants presentation and the City Council will receive and review the city staff report. Tomorrow night at 6pm the issue will be open for public comment. Bergenske and the ACHR encourage public attendance Thursday’s meeting.
“This is really about a project that creates housing, but doing it in a way that involves our community and doing it above board,” Bergenske told the Outpost. “This is the last parcel like it in Arcata. We’ve really got one chance at this. We can’t afford to get it wrong.”
The Arcata City Council meets at 6 p.m. tonight and tomorrow in Arcata City Hall (736 F Street, Arcata).