Image of the proposed couplet from Arcata’s Draft Gateway Area Plan



During its Tuesday night meeting, which focused on recommendations on Arcata’s General Plan Updates, the Arcata Planning Commission agreed that K Street is kind of a mess. It has lots of car traffic, no bike lanes, too much parking and not big enough sidewalks. But exactly how to address that mess was something the commission was a little less clear on. 

One proposed option the city has been looking at for a few years is the controversial K-L Couplet – a proposed plan to extend L Street from Alliance Road to Samoa Boulevard and convert L and K Streets to one-way traffic. City staff and the Arcata City Council are in support of the couplet plan, saying that it will be necessary to accommodate the growth that will go along with the Gateway Area Plan and the most effective way to improve bike and pedestrian safety. 

But Arcata’s Transportation and Safety Committee has made recommendations against the proposal, and some community members have voiced concerns over the couplet urging the commission and council to instead support the plan for an L Street Linear parkway – which would block L Street off from car traffic entirely, making it only accessible by bike and foot. 

One community member, Alex, told the commission that he is not in support of the two street couplet  because of the traffic and noise pollution it would cause in the neighborhood. “Everyone loves L street as it is right now, but it’s a really quiet area right now,” he said during Tuesday’s meeting. “Making it a new thoroughfare for a newly developed area is going to make it decidedly less pleasant.” 

With the mixed reception of the couplet proposal, the planning commission was asked to make a recommendation on whether the proposal should be removed from consideration, or if it is something the commission would like to keep in the City’s General Plan as a means to address traffic and safety concerns in the coming years. Though the commission members took no formal action, they took a straw poll indicating that four members would like to see the couplet kept in the plan and two members would like it to be removed. 

But even with the couplet proposal left in the city’s general plan, it will not be happening any time soon. David Loya, Arcata’s community development director, said that the couplet plan “probably won’t happen for 20 years.”  The planning commission agreed that something will need to be done to address the issues on K Street in the nearer future. 

In case you are not super-familiar with traveling through Arcata, K Street is a popular thoroughfare, connecting Alliance Road to Samoa Boulevard, and is lined with many residences and businesses. Though the street is marked as a “bike boulevard,” there are no separate bike lanes and many feel that the street is not safe for cyclists or pedestrians. City Engineer Netra Khatri showed the commission some of the alternative plans for improving K Street in the interim, including proposals to add marked bike lanes, remove one or both parking lanes and even to potentially add a two-way turning lane in the middle of the street. 

K Street improvement “option A” would remove one lane of parking and add two marked bike lanes

The “most viable option” Khatri said, was Option A, which would remove one parking lane on the west side of K Street and add two marked bike lanes, with one parking lane maintained on the east side of the street. Again, no formal action was taken by the commission, but the majority of the commission members did seem to support this option. Some members also supported the option to remove parking from the street entirely. It’s not clear when any of these options will be brought forward for formal action, but it was clear that city staff will continue to work toward planning for K Street improvements and that the item will be brought forward for consideration in the future. 

The commission was also slated to recommend approval of the General Plan Annual Progress Report, something that must be submitted to the state annually to show how well the jurisdiction is doing at meeting its housing goals. But city staff realized that the report contained some errors that needed to be corrected, and requested that the commission move this item to its next meeting on April 25.