Arcata residents really care about how their town is doing. At least, that is how it seemed yesterday morning, as people filled the main screening room of the Minor Theatre for Arcata’s ‘State of the City’ meeting, where presenters discussed some of the town’s most significant issues.
“As always, the state of Arcata is strong” Arcata City Manager Karen Diemer said during her presentation. Diemer was one of three panelists at the meeting, joined by Community Development Director David Loya and Executive Director of the Redwood Region Economic Development Commission Gregg Foster.
Diemer discussed some projects the city has accomplished in the last year, such as the ballpark installing new bleachers and improvements to Ennes Park. She also discussed improvements to the Plaza and the formation of the Plaza Improvement Task Force.
By far the biggest project on the horizon, Diemer said, is the rehabilitation of Arcata’s Wastewater Treatment Plant, a plan which will be phased in over the next five years and will cost an estimated $50 million.
Diemer also addressed the topics she is most frequently asked about as City Manager: the Mckinley statue removal, the revocation of Toby & Jack’s and Sidelines liquor licenses and the status of the Village student housing project.
Addressing the McKinley statue removal from the center of the Arcata Plaza, Diemer let the crowd know that the City Council will be reviewing the final Environmental Impact Report at a meeting, hopefully on Feb. 20. She said that we may expect final decisions as early as this spring.
Diemer told the Outpost that after reviewing the EIR, the council will need to amend the general plan to allow for the statue’s removal. “In city’s general plan, that statue is listed as a historic resource,” she said.
At this point the decision is completely up to the council. But Diemer doesn’t think it’s likely the council would change their initial decision to remove the statue.
“When [the initiative] was defeated it provided some assurance that at least the voting community supports that decision,” she told the Outpost.
Diemer explained that the decision to revoke Toby & Jack’s and Sidelines’ liquor licenses is currently in an appeal process. Diemer said that the ABC has either 60 or 120 days (she was not entirely sure) to make a decision on the appeal. If it is not approved, owner Salvatore Costanzo still has an opportunity to appeal the entire decision to the courts.
“We’ll have to wait and see if that happens,” Diemer said. She also mentioned, addressing an audience question later in the meeting, that both bars will remain open during this process.
As for the Village student housing project, Diemer explained that the revised plans are now available on the City of Arcata’s website. She encouraged everyone to attend last night’s meeting about the project, which will also be reviewed at the next Arcata City Council meeting Feb. 6.
Loya spoke next, focusing on city’s plans for dealing with the effects that climate change will have on Arcata.
As heat and fire conditions become more extreme throughout the state, Loya said that people will seek out the more temperate conditions of our area. He stressed the importance of preparing for this inevitable population growth.
“I don’t think this is going to happen anytime soon,” Loya said. “But what I’m suggesting is that over the course of the next 20 years we’re going to experience a real crunch in our housing and in our quality of life if we don’t plan for it appropriately.”
Loya also discussed legalization and the effect on Arcata’s economy. Although there have been negative effects, Loya said that there have also been benefits, such as creation of high-paying jobs.
Executive Director of the Redwood Region Economic Development Commission Gregg Foster finished out the morning’s presentations by discussing the area’s economy, stressing the importance of attracting intelligent, talented workers to the area to help diversify our economy.
Foster also discussed the changing cannabis industry, saying that though we may no longer have a locational advantage, we have people with intellectual power to be innovative in the industry. He borrowed a quote he had recently heard from Supervisor Mike Wilson (who was sitting in the audience) — “We don’t just want to be the Napa Valley of cannabis, we want to be the Silicon Valley of cannabis.”
The City of Arcata encourages anyone who missed the forum or has any questions regarding the State of the City to email firstname.lastname@example.org.