CORRECTION: Originally this article contained an image of the wrong parking lot near the Adorni Center. It has been replaced with an image of the correct lot. The Outpost regrets the error.
With what looks to be a pretty jam-packed agenda, the Eureka City Council will discuss some important issues during tonight’s meeting including the city’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year and the development of housing on another batch of three city-owned parking lots.
The first thing to say about the 2020-2021 City of Eureka budget, which will likely be passed at today’s council meeting, is that the news is very, very good.
Overall, the city forecasts that it’ll bring in around $109 million in revenue in the next fiscal year – up from about $79 million in the previous year – due mostly to some large grants and the citizenry’s overwhelming approval of Measure H on the last ballot. That measure, which upped the city’s sales tax rate from 8.5 percent to 9.25 percent, is expected to bring in an additional $7.5 million dollars or thereabouts – money that goes straight into the city’s general fund, where it can be spent more or less wherever the council likes.
One of the things it likes, apparently, is to fix roads. Lane Millar, the city’s finance director, tells the Outpost that though there is some juggling of funds involved – money transferred from the general fund to a different pocket and back again – the net result is that the city should have a $3.2 million budget for road repair in the next fiscal year.
A number of new positions will be added to city government (or added back, after they were cut in previous budgets), including a new police officer for the city’s Community Safety Engagement Team, which works on chronic problems in Old Town, the waterfront and other city green spaces. The budget also makes positions for a couple of workers in the city’s IT department, a couple of people in accounting, and some part-time people at the newly refurbished Zoo, on which the budget places high hopes.
In addition, the proposed budget moves several city expenditures, including those pertaining to code enforcement and harbor maintenance, into the general fund, where previously they had been paid out of other pockets. At a recent city council session, Millar explained the rationale for this switch.
“The general fund’s financial system has improved greatly, so now, going into 2021-2022, we’re going to focus on those other funds, that need a little help financially,” he said. “So this is one way to do it.”
Finally, the proposed budget builds in, for this year, a $3.1 million general fund surplus, which will build back some of the reserves that had been drawn down in recent years.
The overall budget this year is also bolstered by a couple of massive grants – $6.6 million to renovate 20/30 Park, and $7 million for an electricity storage system to be located at City Hall. These are single grants dedicated to specific projects, though, so they’re accounted for outside of the city’s “operating budget,” or the money it spends providing day-to-day services.
Millar will speak on the impact of Measure H on the budget tonight, after which the council will presumably approve it. You can take a look at the full proposed 2021-2022 budget here.
— Hank Sims
In other business the council will review and, most likely, authorize the release of the second batch of three parking lots to be converted into housing developments — a part of what has become a somewhat controversial plan to eventually turn 12 of Eureka’s parking lots into housing.
The three lots the council will be looking at tonight include the two parking lots right next to City Hall — one at the corner of 5th and K Streets and one on 6th and L — and a third lot on the northeast corner of 2nd and L Streets, across from the Adorni Center. Originally, the City had planned to release three different parking lots — on the corners of 5th and D Streets, 4th and G (near the Arkley Center for the Performing Arts) and 3rd and E Streets (right next to the Sea Grill restaurant) — but decided to postpone the release of these lots, due to concerns raised by some community members.
Rob Arkley, patron of the Arkley Center and owner of many other properties, was so upset over the city’s plan that he recently vowed to take political and legal action against the City of Eureka. In recent weeks, the Arkley Center’s marquee has displayed a message calling for the community to save the 4th and G parking lot and the mural that sits next to it.
And Arkley is not the only public figure who has disparaged the City over the parking lot plans. During a meeting back in April, former Eureka Planning Commission Chair Jeff Ragan abruptly resigned from his position because of his “grave concerns” over the proposed housing plans for the first three parking lots released by the City. Ragan has since turned up at several public meetings to voice his opposition to the project.
Arkley, Ragan and other community members have claimed that the City has not been transparent about the plans, and has not been doing enough to notify the public about these projects. City Manager Miles Slattery has largely rebutted these claims, but has also said that the City will make more of a concrete effort to include the community in the planning process moving forward.
The other main concern raised by the community has been over the loss of public parking, with several nearby business owners and employees saying it is already difficult to find parking in these areas. But the City holds that developing these parking lots is absolutely necessary for Eureka to meet its state housing requirements. And despite the concerns being raised now, the Eureka City Council already approved the plan to develop housing on all 12 city-owned parking lots as part of the Housing Element of the City’s General Plan, adopted in 2019.
If authorized by the council tonight, city staff will release a request for proposals for developments on the three parking lots. According to the staff report, the plans must include a cumulative of 84 affordable housing units, of which 39 must be low-income and 45 must be very-low income.
The deadline for the proposals will be September 9, after which, a review panel will select a preferred proposal. The proposal will then come before the council for approval in October.
— Stephanie McGeary
- The Eureka City Council Wants Developers to Build Affordable Housing on Three City-Owned Parking Lots
- EUREKA CITY COUNCIL: Wiyot Land Acknowledgement, Affordable Housing on City-Owned Parking Lots, Police Chief Citizen Advisory Board All on Tonight’s Agenda
- Eureka Planning Commission Chair Jeff Ragan Abruptly Resigns, Citing ‘Grave Concerns’ Over City’s Approval of Housing Projects on Three City-Owned Parking Lots
- The City of Eureka is Gearing Up to Turn Three More Parking Lots into Affordable Housing Developments, Including the Two Lots at City Hall
- Check Out the Neo-Victorian Designs for Those Eureka Parking Lot Housing Developments; Council Will Discuss Project Funding Tonight
- Arkley Threatens Lawsuits, Referendum, Recall Drive Over City of Eureka’s Plans to Convert Parking Lots to Housing
The Eureka City Council meets tonight (Tuesday), June 15 at 6:00 p.m. You can view the full agenda and directions on how to participate here.