Screenshot of Tuesday’s Eureka Planning Commission meeting.

PREVIOUSLY: Will Eureka Finally See Development on the Big Gravel Lots by the Boardwalk? City Looks to Declare the Parcels Surplus and Seek Proposals for Mixed-Use Project.


After 30 years of failed attempts, the City of Eureka is embarking on yet another effort to revitalize a cluster of vacant parcels along the city’s waterfront.

The Eureka Planning Commission adopted a resolution on Monday to declare these city-owned parcels “surplus,” in accordance with the California Land Surplus Act, to allow the city to lease or sell the properties to make way for mixed-use development.

The three parcels in question occupy a four-and-three-quarter-acre stretch along the boardwalk between the C and F street plazas. The land is zoned waterfront commercial, which also allows hotels and motels as principally permitted uses. With a conditional use permit, the properties could also include professional offices, warehouses, multi-family units and upper-floor residences.

The three city-owned parcels along the boardwalk, north of First Street in Old Town Eureka. | Image via City of Eureka

The sites may be developed individually or merged into one or two parcels, but the development must contain a minimum of 95 dwelling units ranging from “affordable” to “very low income” according to the most recent housing element of the city’s General Plan, Principal Planner Kristen Goetz explained.

Commissioner Delores Freitas asked if there were other sites available in the city for affordable to very-low-income housing. 

“If somebody has a site that’s willing to talk with us about [the city] having site control over it in one manner or another we would certainly be open to the opportunity to talk with them,” Goetz said. “They just need to keep in mind that it’s got to support a certain number of housing units and density requirements, be in the proper zoning district, those kinds of things. But we’re absolutely happy to talk to somebody about any site that they might have that’s available.”

Commissioner Michael Kraft asked if the parcels would be primarily used for affordable to very-low-income housing or if “visitor-serving mixed-used” was still on the table. “Are we still talking, potentially, about housing on the second floor and mixed-use below?” he asked.

“The RFP … will be going out very soon for all of the 11 remaining sites, not including the LINC Housing sites,” Goetz said. “Generally, I think that the descriptions for these sites are going to include …  mixed-use structures, probably not covering all three of the lots entirely, but with green space and open space and housing above [with] various kinds of mixed uses, not just retail. … We’ll have to just wait and see what developers come back with.”

Speaking during public comment, Eureka resident Dan Dion urged the city to develop the parcels, noting that “these particular properties are on the edge of blight and [are] in miserable condition.” He added that turning the vacant lots into housing would be “an incredibly sensible proposal.”

Adam Dick, co-owner of Dick Taylor Craft Chocolates, agreed that something ought to be done with the lots but asked the city to reconsider potential development on the parcel that runs parallel to the waterfront.

“I will first make it clear that I obviously have a bias in how this all develops,” Dick said, noting that his business sits on a property adjacent to the parcel in question. “When I look at these three parcels, the one that I really feel that the city should hold on to, or really reconsider the use of, is the one that parallels the boardwalk. Obviously, significant development there would affect the view – that’s fine. … But by the time you put an access corridor through there, potentially a two-way street, angled parking [and] sidewalks, you’ve really eaten into a gigantic portion of that piece of property and there isn’t a lot left for development closer to the boardwalk.”

Dick also expressed concern about building height and subsequent shading along the boardwalk. “Anything built too tall right next to the boardwalk will shade it for significant portions of the year and it’ll be really, really cold,” he said.

Robert Maxon, owner of Globe Properties in Eureka, manages properties throughout Eureka and has an office on First Street, near HealthSport. Maxon recalled the previous efforts by the city to revitalize the vacant lots, including its most recent attempt in 2016 which resulted in several potential project designs that were never realized.

“[There’s] nothing but potential for what could happen down there,” Maxon said. “When this project came before the commission [a few years ago] it was really surprising that it was so heavily weighted towards housing when previously – through the design charrette and everything – there were all these other ideas. … There was a lot of talk about hotels, housing, the parking that would be required for those kinds of things and how quickly the parking could eat up potential space. I think we do need housing down there, but it’s gonna be very important to have that mix.”

Maxon credited the city for taking the time to fix the city’s General Plan and Local Coastal Plan (LCP) before launching a request for proposals (RFP) for the project. “Let’s just keep moving forward,” he said.

Greg Pierson, president of the Pierson Company, also has connections to Eureka’s waterfront through Bayfront One, a mixed-use development on First and F Streets. He acknowledged the importance of creating more housing in Eureka but asked: “Why is our boardwalk the best place to do it?”

Pierson | Screenshot

“I worked with the city to provide property for low-income housing on the Sunset parcel with the idea that that was taking care of the low-income housing needs of the community,” Pierson said. “Now I’m seeing that the boardwalk is being possibly slated for 95 more very low-income housing units. … I’m just wondering what’s driving that because I don’t understand it and I think the community needs to understand what is required [and] what is available within the city inventory to meet those needs.”

Following public comment, Freitas said she had mixed feelings about how the parcels should be developed. “I am totally in support of it conceptually,” she said. “It is a little bit bittersweet knowing that so many people wanted so many different things for the site and it is such a prime site in the city and we just haven’t found a way in the last eight years since we did visioning to achieve some of those other dreams.”

She acknowledged Pierson’s call for more community involvement in the development process and encouraged residents to share their concerns with city staff.

Kraft agreed, noting that “the rubber meets the road at the RFP” and encouraged citizens reach out ahead of the RFP process.

“Staff is [currently] putting together a draft of that RFP,” Goetz said. “It will go to the city council, I’m shooting for the first meeting in April. That would be a time when members of the public can provide comments, either to the council in written form before the meeting or come to the meeting and provide comments at the meeting. Staff is happy to listen to any thoughts or ideas that folks have.”

After a bit more conversation, Freitas made a motion to approve staff’s recommendation to declare the city-owned parcels “surplus,” which was seconded by Kraft. The motion passed in a unanimous 4-0 vote, with Vice-Chair Craig Benson absent.

The Eureka City Council is expected to discuss the item early next month.


At the beginning of Monday’s meeting, Commission Chair Meredith Maier noted that staff had removed an item from the agenda that would declare another Old Town parcel as surplus. Formerly home to the Liberty movie theater, the 3,145-square-foot brick building, known as Nealis Hall, now houses an annex to the Clark Historical Museum next door. The Outpost noted in a previous story that if the building were to be declared surplus by the city, it could be acquired by the museum for continued use as an annex, or it could be remodeled into something else entirely.

Well, that news prompted the Clarke Historial Museum to issue a call to action via social media to save the museum. A subsequent Instagram post noted that the City of Eureka agreed to pull the item from the commission’s agenda as a result of public outcry and “the Clarke team taking action.”

Good work, everyone! Nealis Hall is safe!