It’s Eureka City Council night! We’re looking at a relatively light agenda tonight, but there are enough items of interest on deck to please all but the most blasé of citizens. Here’s a quick rundown.
That Housing Swap and Coal, Again
Back on the agenda, after the first of the year: That proposed land swap between the city and the Pierson Company, in which the city would trade some publicly owned downtown parking lots for some land near Winco. The idea is that the city would be able to build more low-income housing on the Winco land than it was planning to build on the parking lots, and would also avoid opposition from downtown interests who registered horror at potential loss of the lots. (See a precis on the deal here.)
Last time around, the council seemed overall very supportive of the swap, but a bare majority thought that it would be good to put off a decision for a couple of weeks, so as to afford people more opportunity to comment on the issue. (The last meeting was right before the holiday.) The proposed swap has been opposed by some, including Colin Fiske of the Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities, on the grounds that it would be incompatible with the Housing Element of the city’s general plan, which calls for maximum infill, and is just bad policy in general.
But again: The council seemed very supportive last time around, and it seems like it’ll be an uphill battle to stop it.
The council can’t seem to stop dinking with its proposed coal storage ordinance, which got its first hearing way back in October in response to a weird and dubious proposal at the federal level to revive the old Northwestern Pacific railroad. There have been a lot of small and procedural questions about how to enforce the ban on storage of coal on city-owned properties. Maybe they finally have it all ironed out now.
Vacation Rentals and the Fire Department
There are a couple of information-only presentations scheduled for tonight’s meeting – one near the beginning and the other near the end.
Near the beginning of the meeting, Humboldt Bay Fire – a joint-powers authority that serves both the city proper and surrounding communities – will deliver its end-of-year report. There’s no sneak peek available, but generally these things run down the year-end statistics (number of calls, number of medical emergencies attended, number of fires fought, etc.) in addition to a look at the agency’s finances, what it accomplished organizationally last year, and what it hopes to accomplish in the year to come.
Closer to the end of the meeting, city staff will give the council a presentation on the state of vacation rentals in the city. There are a lot of them, and many of them aren’t necessarily registered with the city and paying their bed tax as they’re supposed to do. Staff will have some research about this situation, and it’ll be up to the council to decide if they want to take action on it at some point in the future.
New Police Chief, New Commission Members, and a Plea For Lower Weed Taxes
A couple of items of note on the council’s consent calendar.
First and foremost, the council is set to ratify City Manager Miles Slattery’s choice of Todd Jarvis, formerly top brass at the San Diego Police Department, to serve as Eureka’s interim police chief. The appointment is open-ended – it will last “until a recruitment for a new Police Chief is completed and the successful candidate placed.” No word if Jarvis himself will apply for the permanent position, but this will be the council’s – and the public’s – first look at the city’s new top cop.
The council will also affirm the city’s choices to serve on various citizen’s boards and commissions that are meant to advise it, and sometimes, as in the case of the Planning Commission, to make decisions on its own authority. Most of these appointments are actually just reappointments – people reupping their service on those bodies – but a couple of the commissions are getting new blood. New to the city’s Economic Development Commission: Monica Topping, Calder Johnson, Rebecca Rex and Ben MacDevitt Breckenridge. James Kloor, a deputy director of the Humboldt Area Foundation, will join the city’s Finance Advisory Committee. See a full list of appointments at this link.
The council is also set to pass a resolution asking Gov. Gavin Newsom and the legislature to provide immediate tax relief for cannabis farmers, in light of the wholesale collapse of the market. This has been an industry-wide push in recent weeks, and Eureka will signal its support. Read the full proposed resolution at this link.
How To Join!
The Eureka City Council is meeting in person again. It’ll get going at 6 p.m. tonight at Eureka City Hall (531 K Street), and the public is invited. (Wear a mask.) You can also Zoom in at this link if you’d rather do it remotely. Full agenda here.