- TONIGHT in EUREKA CITY COUNCIL: City Looks to Free Up a Bunch of Properties to Develop More Housing, Including Two Parking Lots Behind Lost Coast Brewery That Will Be Converted Into ‘EaRTH Center’
Following a long discussion and hearing from more than a dozen community members on Tuesday night, the Eureka City Council voted unanimously to declare 10 city-owned properties – including four downtown parking lots – as exempt surplus property, an action necessary to allow the sites to eventually be developed into housing.
The complete list of properties includes four parking lots – one at Sixth and L Streets, one at Fifth and G Streets and two on Third Street between G and H Streets (directly behind the Lost Coast Brewery – plus a vacant lot at 1808 Sixth Street, another lot on West Harris and four parcels on Fairmont between Harris and Henderson, which were recently acquired by the City in a land swap agreement with the Pierson Company.
During the public comment period many community members were – not surprisingly – opposed to the city’s plans to have housing built on the downtown parking lots, saying that it would have a negative impact on both employees and customers who rely on those parking spaces.
The two lots on Third and G and Third and H – which the City and Humboldt Transit Authority are proposing to convert into a large multimodal transit center, called the EaRTH Center – were the most controversial sites, with several commenters saying those parking lots get a lot of use currently.
Greg Pierson said that he has been concerned all along about the city’s plans to use the lots for housing because of the loss of parking. He is especially concerned about the lots on Third and G and Third and H because it will be used as a transportation hub and “not primarily used for housing.” (The plans include the creation of 31 housing units.) Pierson questioned if a parking study has been done and suggested that the city conduct a parking study by closing off the parking lots for thirty days and seeing what kind of feedback it receives from the community.
Others echoed Pierson’s parking concerns, including property owner Cindy Olsen, who said that businesses in the area are already struggling due to the impacts of COVID-19 and issues brought by the homeless people who stay in the area.
“And now you want to put the final nail in the coffin of the business community by taking away their parking,” Olsen said during the virtual meeting.
Though several council members said that they understood the community members’ concerns about the parking, they still felt it was necessary to allow these properties to be developed into housing, not only because we need the housing to accommodate population growth in Humboldt County, but also because it is necessary for the city to reach its Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) mandated by the state.
Kristen Goetz, principal planner for the City of Eureka, said that the city’s RHNA requires the creation of 952 additional units. City Manger Miles Slattery explained during the meeting that if the City does not have an attainable plan in place to reach that number, then the state will step in and create a plan for us. Not meeting the state RHNA can also result in Eureka losing state grant funding.
In addition to the need for more housing units, several council members pointed out, the City also should be discouraging driving and encouraging other forms of transportation. After discussing their reasons, the council voted unanimously (4-0, with Councilmember Kim Bergel absent) to declare the properties exempt surplus land, allowing the city to continue to move forward with its plans to create more housing through infill.
“I think having more people and more customers in town is going to ultimately be good for businesses,” Councilmember Kati Moulton said during the meeting. “And having solutions – even if we have to force ourselves to come up with them – around responsible transportation is what Eureka needs to do moving forward.”
There will be a
public meeting special city council meeting on the EaRTH Center project — which will include a pharmacy, a food truck pod, day care facilities and a regional transit hub — on Wednesday, Feb. 9 at 6 p.m. in council chambers and over Zoom. See a flyer for the project and the event here, and see the agenda for that council meeting at this link.