During its Tuesday night meeting, the Eureka City Council approved the release of three city-owned parking lots — the two lots directly next to City Hall and another on 2nd and L Streets, catty-corner from the Adorni Center — to be used for affordable housing developments.
This is the second batch of three parking lots to be released by the City for housing developments, (the first batch was released last year and will be developed by Long Beach-based company Linc Housing) as a part of Eureka’s plan to build housing on 12 city-owned sites over the next several years in order to meet state housing requirements. The plan was approved in 2019 as a part of the city’s Housing Element of the General Plan update.
Initially, the City planned to release three different lots this year — located at 5th and D Streets, 4th and G Streets and 3rd and E Streets — but swapped out the sites due to concerns raised by the community. Eureka Principal Planner Kristen Goetz explained during the meeting that city staff submitted a written request, which was approved by the California Department of Housing and Community Development, to put those sites on hold while the City looks for other sites to potentially replace them.
The council’s approval allows city staff to put out a request for proposals (RFP) for development of three sites, which will be officially released on July 1 and have a deadline of Sept. 9, 2021. Submitted proposals will then go before a selection panel, composed of city staff and community members. The panel’s selection or selections will then go before the council for approval in October. Applicants can submit proposals for either one or multiple parking lots.
The RFP requires that any housing development on the 6th and L lot include a minimum of minimum of 37 affordable units (17 low income and 20 very low income), the 5th and K lot needs to hold a minimum of 35 affordable units (16 low income and 19 very low income) and the 2nd and L lot would need 12 units (six low income and six very low income.) The RFP states that priority will be given to proposals that “include a diversity of housing units such as affordable-by-design studios, student housing, condominiums, and/or luxury penthouses” and that “mixed-use components such as corner stores, ground level or rooftop bars/restaurants, or child care facilities will also strengthen the application.”
Councilmember Leslie Castellano was concerned about the potential for mixed use at the 2nd at L lot and the small number of units required for that site. Because the site is located in the Coastal Zone, the number of units it can hold is limited. The lot is about 11,940 square feet and the coastal zoning requires a minimum of 1,000 square feet of site area per dwelling unit. The zoning also requires one on-site parking space per unit, also limiting the number of units that the site could accommodate.
City Manager Miles Slattery explained that applicants could possibly build more than 12 units by applying for a density bonus. However, any additional units would not count toward Eureka’s state housing requirements.
Slattery also reassured Castellano that the council will have the final say when it comes to approval of the proposals and can reject plans that it does not feel meets the needs of the City. In the end, the council unanimously approved the RFP for the three parking lots. Council members Natalie Arroyo and Kim Bergel were absent.
In other business, the council unanimously adopted the City of Eureka Budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year.
With last year’s budget severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the news surrounding the upcoming budget year was overwhelmingly positive, with the City estimating about $109 million in revenue in the next fiscal year – up from about $79 million in the previous year.
Eureka Finance Director Lane Millar explained during the meeting that these increases are largely from grant funding and the tax increase from the approval of Measure H, which raised the city’s sales tax rate from 8.5 percent to 9.25 percent, adding over $7 million to Eureka’s general fund.
With the increases in revenue the City will be able to restore several government positions that were cut last year, including in the accounting department, the police department and the zoo, and will also have a built in surplus for the upcoming year.
“When we look at the bottom line, you can see in 2021-22 we are expecting about a $3.1 million surplus — a big improvement from the 2019-20 fiscal year, where we saw about a $3 million deficit,” Millar told the council on Tuesday.