‘The Village’ plans from City of Arcata’s website.

For the first time in a long time, the Arcata City Council was in agreement about the Village — the controversial large-scale housing development proposed for the Craftsman’s Mall site. Councilmembers all voiced support for the project’s newest redesign during Wednesday night’s meeting.

After coming before the council many times and going through several design changes, the Village project was, once again rejected by the council at a meeting in April. Developers AMCAL have since come up with yet another design concept, which was brought before the council Wednesday. The newest redesign includes a mix of 122 student-only units — which include a total of 392 beds — and 100 open-market apartments. 

“We believe what we’re presenting to you at this point is consistent with what all four council members were looking for in terms of the broad parameters,” developer David Moon said during the meeting. “In terms of rolling up our sleeves and working on the particulars, we’re ready to do that and we’re excited to do that.”

But before the project can move forward, the city will need to hire a new consulting firm to examine the project’s environmental impact report.

Arcata City Council

During the April meeting, it was brought to the council and staff’s attention that AMCAL had hired the company that drafted the EIR for the project, something that should not have been permitted. As it turns out, an amendment to Arcata’s land use code requires that any outside firm drafting an EIR must be hired by the city.

Arcata Community Development Director David Loya explained to the council that although no CEQA laws had been broken, staff had not followed the land use code. In order to correct this error, the council directed staff to hire an outside consulting firm to examine the EIR and draft any future EIRs for the Village project.

The city has put out a request for proposals for an environmental consulting firm. The deadline for proposals is June 28 and Loya said the council will select the firm at its first meeting in July. AMCAL will be responsible for paying for the consulting services.

Once the EIR has been approved, Loya told the Outpost, the council can move forward with voting on approval of the Village development.  

Although the council has historically been split on the Village project, all four participating members were able to agree on Wednesday that the current size and division of student and open market units was satisfactory. (Councilmember Michael Winkler had recused himself, as he has on all discussions about the Village, due to his company’s previous involvement with the developers.)

Councilmember Susan Ornelas, who has had some issues with the project in the past, mentioned some of the benefits the Village project would have, including providing more housing for students.

“HSU has been going through some problems, but we have a new president now and I truly believe in HSU,” Ornelas said. “That’s one reason we’re supporting this project. Because we want to demonstrate to HSU that we support the students and that we believe in HSU.”

You can view the full meeting video here.