After recently approving a plan for three low-income housing developments on city-owned parking lots, the City of Eureka is now preparing to do the same with another batch of three lots around the Downtown and Old Town neighborhoods — all part of the city’s long term goal to convert 12 parking lots into housing over the next few years in order to meet state housing requirements.
This next batch of parking lots includes both of City Hall’s parking lots — one on 5th and K and one on 6th and L — and another at the corner of 5th and G Streets. Eureka City Manager Miles Slattery told the Outpost that initially the City planned to include the parking lots at 4th and G Streets — across from the Arkley Center — and on 3rd and E — right next to the Sea Grill — as part of this round, but decided to postpone the release of those lots until next year, due to community concerns.
As a part of the process, the City is holding public meetings to give the community a chance to ask questions and voice some of their concerns. The first meeting was held on Monday and the next meetings will be tonight (Wednesday) and Thursday. Over 50 people attended Monday’s virtual meeting, many of them voicing worries over the projects, including the impact on parking — particularly at the 3rd Street parking lot, which was initially planned to be the focus of the meeting.
Mike Newman, a broker at George Peterson Insurance and a former Eureka City Council member, said that the parking lot at his business is always full, adding that he was worried that taking that parking away would have a negative impact on the Sea Grill’s business. Newman also felt that the City didn’t make enough effort to notify the community about this meeting. “I would urge for in the future that there be a little more outreach to neighboring businesses,” he said.
Newman was not the only one concerned about the City’s outreach efforts and many people mentioned feeling perturbed about the previously approved project — three housing developments to be built on parking lots at Sunny and Myrtle Avenue, 8th and G Streets and the other at 6th and M Streets by Linc Housing — which some people said they had heard nothing about until recently.
Former Eureka Planning Commission Chair Jeff Ragan — who recently resigned in reaction to the Linc Housing project — again spoke up about his issues with the City’s process, which he feels is “moving too fast.” Ragan also commented on the fact that the housing will be low-income, saying that, although the Planning Commission had approved the plan to convert all of these city parking lots into housing — which was approved as a part of the Housing Element of the City’s General Plan update — Ragan said that the plans he approved proposed “penthouse options” and some “high-end rates.”
“We really need to slow this way down,” Ragan said during the meeting. “We need to do much, much more vigorous reaching out to not only neighbors of the property, but the city as a whole.”
Slattery said, responding to the concerns during the meeting, that each of these projects will be required to have a parking plan that will have to either keep all or most of the parking (depending on the usage of the lot) or replace it within 300 feet of the site. Slattery also said that the City has made great effort to engage the public in this process, which is why staff is holding these meetings. He did, however, want to take those concerns into consideration and said that the City is making a greater effort to notify the public about meetings moving forward.
As far as Ragan’s concerns over the housing developments being low-income instead of mixed, Slattery told the Outpost that the RFQ (request for quotation) released by the City for the first three parking lots did encourage mixed occupancy, but that the City just didn’t receive any proposals that met that request.
“Unfortunately, none of the proposals had the inclusion of more diverse housing opportunities,” Slattery wrote in a follow up email to the Outpost. “We have had many discussions with Chris Dart [of] Danco, on how we can incentivize this more in future RFQs. He has been clear that, from a financial standpoint, this is extremely difficult. However, we will continue to strive to meet the intent. Hopefully the properties in Old Town will provide for more opportunities to mix in commercial uses with the developments.”
The City will hold two meetings about building housing on the city-owned parking lots — tonight and Thursday at 6:00 p.m, via Zoom. You can find the flyer with information on how to attend at this link.
After the City has gathered community feedback, staff will finalize the RFQ, which will then come before the City Council for approval, most likely in July, Slattery said. After the RFQ is sent out and staff chooses a recommended proposal, the project will again come before City Council for approval.
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