If you’ve been following LoCO’s coverage of Arcata’s controversial Gateway Area Plan, then you know that earlier this week the Arcata City Council and Planning Commission held a big joint study session to go over some crucial aspects of the plan. For weeks, LoCO had been promoting it as a pivotal Gateway Area Plan meeting.
Following the study session, the Outpost listened to the recording (only audio had been posted) and attempted to write up a coherent summary, which proved to be difficult. The session was sometimes hard to follow and seemed to produce few tangible results. We reached out to city staff for some clarification on what would happen next, but didn’t hear back.
On Friday morning, David Loya – community development director for the City of Arcata – returned our call and explained what he was able to extract from the study session and what the community can expect to see over the next few weeks regarding the Gateway Plan.
“We did not get a definitive direction,” Loya told the Outpost in a phone conversation Friday morning. “But what we did get was a very robust conversation which highlighted several issues…We know what the issues are, and we know what the issues aren’t.”
In case you are not super familiar with Arcata’s Gateway Area Plan, it’s an infill strategy that aims to rezone 138 acres of land in and around the Creamery District to facilitate the development of high density housing to accommodate the city’s population growth over the next couple of decades. In addition to rezoning some underutilized properties to allow for housing, the plan also proposes changes to transportation infrastructure and increases in the city’s maximum building heights to accommodate the growth. City staff and planners have divided the Gateway area into four sub-areas, each with a different proposed maximum building height: eight stories in the Barrel District, seven stories in the Gateway Hub, six stories in the Gateway Corridor and five stories in the Gateway Neighborhood. (Take a look at the draft Gateway Area Plan here.)
Proposed building heights has been the most controversial aspect of the plan, with some community members and planning commissioners pushing for a maximum of four stories across the whole Gateway Area. During Tuesday’s study session, the commissioners and councilmembers took a straw poll to gauge their feelings on proposed building heights in each sub-area. The results of the first poll showed an almost even split between eight and four stories. But, Loya pointed out, the second poll showed about 60 percent of the councilmembers and commissioners in favor of eight stories.
As far as the other three sub-areas, Loya said that was a little less clear. But what was very clear, he said, is that the Council is very ready for the Planning Commission to make an official recommendation on maximum height for all of the sub-areas. This question will be posed to the Planning Commission at its next meeting on Sept. 13, Loya said.
The other thing that was made very clear during Tuesday’s study session is that the council would like the Transportation and Safety Committee to reconsider its recommendation against the proposed L Street Couplet, which would turn L Street into a one-way street going southbound and a portion of K Street into a one-way Street going northbound. Previously the committee recommended that the council not approve this proposal. But after receiving a presentation from GHD Engineering during Tuesday’s session, the council felt that this proposal was worth reconsidering.
When asked exactly what made the council think the committee might change its recommendation, Loya said he didn’t know. But he did say he “didn’t think the committee was going to change its mind.” Either way, Loya is hoping the Transportation and Safety Committee will discuss the couplet at its next meeting in September.
If the committee and the Planning Commission both give a clear recommendation to the council, then Loya feels the Gateway Area Plan process will be on track. The goal is for staff to come out with a second draft of the plan by the end of September. That plan can then be used for conducting feasibility studies and will go through the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) review process, before a final plan can be adopted.
The Arcata Planning Commission will discuss the plan at its regular meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 13. When the agenda is posted you will be able to view it here.
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