You all know about the Gateway Area Plan, right? That’s the big City of Arcata initiative to add lots and lots of housing in a somewhat underutilized area of the city or the next several years and decades, in order to accommodate the town’s natural growth along with the big influx of people expected due to the Cal Poly Humboldt transformation.

If you haven’t been following the plan’s every move, this is a good time to plug in. This week two separate city bodies — the Planning Commission and the Historical Landmarks Committee — will be taking a look at the area’s future and past, respectively. These meetings, the latest in a long series, are leading up to the the big joint Planning Commission/City Council special joint study session on the project currently scheduled for Aug. 23. That’s when the rubber is gonna really hit the road on this thing.

First: If you’re catching up, here’s a map of the Gateway Area:

The Gateway Area is in red.

It’s a big chunk of town within walking distance of downtown and Cal Poly Humboldt, and it’s currently dominated by post-industrial buildings, along with some apartments and single-family homes. The idea of the Gateway Area Plan is to rezone and redesignate the whole area to make it suitable for dense, urban-style development.

What will that development look like? Well, that’s the point of Tuesday evening’s meeting of the city’s Planning Commission, which begins at 6 p.m. in City Hall. (Zoom accommodations are available — click here for the agenda and for instructions.)

The commission will be looking, particularly, at the chapter of the Gateway Area Plan that deals with design. What sorts of building sizes and architectural features will be permitted? How far back will the buildings be set back from the street? How tall will they be? How are we going to deal with cars? 

The whole goal of the design chapter can be summed up in this mission statement, which is sort of the prologue to the proposed policies:

Ensure site design offers a mix of vibrant, mixed-use neighborhood structures with active and inviting public spaces. Provide for visual interest in walkable neighborhoods with street-level activity and public gathering places that support a car-free lifestyle.

You can read the whole design chapter, as well as the staff report that will frame the commission’s discussion of it, in PDF form at this link. It’s on pages 8 through 14.

This is the goal. Screenshot excerpted from the Gateway Plan’s Design chapter.

The Gateway Area Plan will be a subsection of the city’s General Plan, the rest of which is also being revised simultaneously. City officials are looking to get the whole package done early next year. Right after the discussion on the Gateway Area Plan’s design principles, the Planning Commission will take a look at proposed updates to the larger plan’s Resource Conservation Element, which, according to the staff report, will require only “minor” changes.


The next afternoon — Wednesday, July 27 — the city’s Historic Landmarks Committee will take up a different aspect of the Gateway Area Plan at a special meeting starting at 4 p.m., also at City Hall. (Find the agenda here.)

[UPDATE: City senior planner Delo Freitas, who is referenced below, lets us know that the public may only attend the Committee’s meeting virtually — no in-person spectators. Instructions at the agenda link, above.]

And where the Planning Commission will be looking at the future of the Gateway Area, this committee will be looking at its past — specifically, which buildings have enough historical value to merit additional protection.

The committee will winnow down a list of a little more than two dozen structures and features (including the abandoned railroad tracks that run through the area) to figure out which of them may be old enough, significant enough, in good enough shape, and/or associated with particular people or events to forward on to the Planning Commission and City Council for a final decision on their historical value.

The sites on the current long list include many single-family homes in the area, and also a few other well-known structures, including Portuguese Hall and the Cooper Building, which currently houses Richard’s Goat. (The Creamery Building is already a designated landmark.)

Once the City Council finalizes a list of historical buildings in the area, does that mean that those buildings will be protected forever? Not necessarily, according to senior city planner Delo Freitas, who explained the process to the Outpost earlier today. But it will mean that anyone who wants to build something else on those sites will have to either: 

  • Make the case why the building doesn’t merit historic preservation, or 
  • Complete a full Environmental Impact Report on their proposed project.

A list of properties that the Historic Landmarks Commission will consider at the Wednesday meeting can be found, in PDF form, at this link.


Both these meetings will be open to public comment, of course, so if you have something to say — say it there! But as the Gateway Area Plan, and the city’s General Plan Update, nears completion, it’s going to be more and more important for citizens to weigh in with their thoughts sooner rather than later.

You can find a whole lot of background material on the Gateway Area Plan and related matters on the city’s web page on its “Strategic Infill Redevelopment Program,” which encompasses the Gateway and related topics. You can find the aforementioned and future opportunities for public comment on “Ongoing Community Outreach” page pertaining to the SIRP.

Finally: Note, under the calendar tab on that last-linked page, what’s happening Aug. 23. That’s going to be the big City Council/Planning Commission study session where a lot of big decisions are going to be made regarding the Gateway project. If you have any thoughts at all about the project, you’re going to want to put them on the record well in advance of that date.

One way to do that: Email the planning commission members with your thoughts, ideas, praise, criticism or concern, and be sure to copy Community Development Director David Loya to make sure that your email goes on the record. You can find all those email addresses at this link.