Rob Arkley in 2014. | File photo by Andrew Goff.


Security National founder and political lightning rod Rob Arkley was in discussions with Eureka City Schools about purchasing the vacant Jacobs Middle School campus before the district entered into a surprise land exchange agreement with a mysterious corporation called AMG Communities - Jacobs, LLC, which had been created just two days earlier.

“Prior to AMG’s successful bid for the property, Security National Properties communicated with the District as a potential buyer and also provided guidance regarding buying, selling, and managing properties,” Security National spokesperson Gail Rymer told the Outpost via email. “However … Security National Properties is not a buyer of the Jacobs property and is not involved with AMG Communities, nor is Rob Arkley.”

The revelation of Arkley’s involvement in negotiations with the district comes after the Outpost reviewed heavily redacted copies of the district’s communications in the months leading up to its board of trustees’ unexpected and controversial Dec. 14 decision to enter the land swap deal with AMG.

The 246 pages of documents turned over to the Outpost reveal that administrators and attorneys for Eureka City Schools exchanged dozens upon dozens of emails hammering out details of the agreement with AMG ahead of that December board meeting.

This runs contrary to what the district told the North Coast Journal back in March via attorney Harold Freiman of the Walnut Creek firm Lozano Smith. Freiman said a search for documents did not locate any correspondence to or from former Superintendent Fred Van Vleck that referenced a property exchange for the Jacobs site, AMG Communities-Jacobs LLC or any of its representatives — with a single exception.

As reported by the Journal’s Thadeus Greenson, the district’s records search found only this:

a text message to Van Vleck from school board President Susan Johnson, sent about 50 minutes before the board went into closed session on Dec. 14 to discuss the proposed property exchange for the first time, with a Lost Coast Outpost headline referring to the “mystery item” on that evening’s agenda. Van Vleck did not respond, according to the documents released to the Journal.

Asked to clarify, Freiman said no documents were found and withheld after being determined to be exempt from disclosure under public records law.

Van Vleck in a closed session hearing in 2022. | File photo by Andrew Goff.

“Based on the document trail provided by the district, it’s as if the deal materialized out of thin air,” Greenson wrote.

Now we know that’s far from the truth. The Outpost submitted its own California Public Records Act request after reading the recent Humboldt County Civil Grand Jury report criticizing the district for its lack of transparency and for the Board of Trustees’  lack of due diligence before “rubber stamp[ing]” the deal.

The Grand Jury report notes that Bradley B. Johnson, a San Diego-based attorney who represents Security National and several other Arkley-affiliated organizations (as you’ll read more about below), “sent and received many emails [emphasis added] to and from ECS administrative staff and legal counsel regarding the Jacobs property real-estate transaction before and after the December 14, 2023, ECS trustee meeting.”

Those emails delve into such matters as parcel surveys, deeds, inspections, escrow, lease terms, revisions to contract language and more, though many of the details are hidden behind redactions.

Why weren’t those emails disclosed to the Journal?

Arielle Percival, another Lozano Smith attorney representing the district, offered the Outpost this explanation:

In Mr. Freiman’s conversation with Mr. Greenson, he indicated that he knew of no other communications responsive to Mr. Greenson’s request beyond materials that had been redacted or withheld for privilege, and that no other responsive materials had been located in Mr. Van Vleck’s emails.  … [T]he Grand Jury invoked its subpoena power and gave assurances of confidentiality that led to some of the communications from and to my office later being provided to the Grand Jury, though those communications as provided still included redactions intended to continue to preserve the attorney-client privilege.

Whether or not that’s sufficient legal justification for denying the release of such communications in response to a Public Records Act request, the fact remains that Eureka City Schools was in regular contact with Security National’s go-to attorney, Johnson, in the weeks and months leading up to the Dec. 14 board meeting. 

The California Highway Patrol had spent more than four years negotiating with the district to purchase the Jacobs property for $4 million. The agency was hoping to build its new Northern Humboldt headquarters there, relocating from Samoa Boulevard in Arcata to get out of the tsunami zone. The CHP had outbid the City of Eureka, which offered $2,818,000 for the property but bowed out when the asking price got too steep. 

CHP personnel were reportedly caught off guard when the Eureka City Schools Board of Trustees voted unanimously to take another route altogether, one that had been kept almost entirely secret from the public until just 90 minutes before the board’s decision. 

Following a closed session hearing with Van Vleck, who was attending his final meeting before retiring from the district, the board opted to trade the Jacobs property to AMG Communities - Jacobs, LLC, which had been created just 48 hours earlier. In exchange, the district is slated to receive a two-unit residential property on ⅛ of an acre on I Street, plus $5.35 million in cash. 

The AMG offer is valued at $6 million, a full $2 million more than the CHP bid and more than twice what the City of Eureka was willing to pay. 

The property at 3553 I Street contains two separate units. In an email to an attorney, Assistant Superintendent Paul Ziegler observed that the property “looked dated.” | Image via Eureka City Schools.

The transaction hinged on a clever use of the California Surplus Land Act, which allows government agencies to exchange “surplus property” with other parties while sidestepping a lot of red tape. In this case, the maneuver allowed Eureka City Schools to avoid a number of California Education Code requirements that are part of standard real estate deals with school districts. Thanks to the inclusion of the small residential property at 3553 I Street, which the district says it will use to house employees, this deal qualifies as a trade, even though the vast majority of the offer’s value comes via the millions in cash.

The documents provided to the Outpost show district administrators rushing to complete the deal before the end of the year while being careful not to release any information about it to the public until the last minute.

They also reveal that Johnson and the district initially had an altogether different property lined up for the land swap, a four-plex at 4242 Walnut Drive in Cutten. But on Nov. 28, barely two weeks before the board’s decision, Johnson informed the district that the seller of that property had backed out. Not to worry, though; Johnson had quickly lined up “an entirely different property for the exchange,” as Freiman later reported to Van Vleck and Assistant Superintendent Paul Ziegler.

Van Vleck (left) and Ziegler at a 2022 Eureka City Schools Board of Trustees meeting. | File photo by Andrew Goff.


On the morning of Dec. 12, just two days before the school board meeting, Freiman asked Johnson via email whether AMG actually existed.

“Not yet,” Johnson replied. “We are forming it today on the 24-hour turnaround.”

In its report published two weeks ago, the Grand Jury concluded that, prior to hastily agreeing to a $6 million property deal with such a newly created entity, “ECS Trustees did not publicly verify the bona fide identity and finances of AMG Communities-Jacobs, LLC.” The report also found that “Prior public notice failed to personally name the AMG Communities-Jacobs, LLC principal members or negotiator(s).”

To date, AMG has only provided the district with a $100,000 deposit. The deal remains in escrow, with a target closing date of July 11. More than six months after the exchange was arranged, the interests behind AMG Communities - Jacobs, LLC, remain a closely held corporate secret. 

While AMG established a website (which currently features an aerial shot of the San Francisco Bay Area on its homepage, for some reason) and an email address where you can send inquiries, the people who respond to those inquiries have steadfastly refused to identify themselves or anyone else involved with the company, except to say in the website’s FAQ section, “Rob Arkley is not an owner or investor in AMG Communities.”

Even if that’s true — and currently we have only their word for it, and Arkley’s — there is ample connective tissue linking Arkley and Security National to a range of initiatives aimed at moving affordable housing development plans away from Eureka’s downtown and over onto the Jacobs property, which sits at the southern border of city limits. 

The City of Eureka’s current development plans involve converting several municipal parking lots into apartment buildings to help satisfy state mandates for affordable housing.

Arkley has railed against these efforts for years, saying the developments would eradicate too many parking spaces. In angry exchanges with Eureka City Manager Miles Slattery and other staffers, Arkley has said the parking lots in question are “critical for safety” and “the lifeblood of downtown retail and restaurants.”

In late 2022, Arkley threatened to move Security National headquarters out of Eureka — a threat he has yet to follow through on. In a 2021 interview on KINS Radio’s “Talk Shop” he vowed to take legal and political action — namely lawsuits and a ballot initiative — aimed at thwarting the city’s plans. 

Through Security National, he has done just that. Citizens for a Better Eureka, a nonprofit corporation financed by the company, filed a series of five lawsuits last year intended to halt affordable housing developments on four city-owned lots. 

Security National is also footing the bill for the “Eureka Housing for All and Downtown Vitality” initiative, which will appear on the ballot in November. If passed, the measure will create new restrictions on 21 city-owned parking lots around town. Any housing developments on those lots would be required preserve the existing number of parking places and add new ones to accommodate residents, should they be deemed necessary.

Those requirements — which would be enshrined via an amendment to the city’s general plan creating an “Off-Street Public Parking (OSPP) Overlay Designation” — could render most of the city’s current affordable housing development plans infeasible. That includes the Linc Housing projects at Eighth and G and Sixth and M streets, which have received tens of millions of dollars in grant funding.

The parking lot at the corner of 5th and D streets (in the background) beyond the gravel lot where the Lloyd Building once stood. | File photo by Andrew Goff.


It should be pointed out that the measure includes an escape clause, of sorts, for one of those 21 municipal parking lots: the one at the corner of 5th and D streets. That’s the lot half a block from Security National’s 5th Street headquarters, and in recent years Arkley and his staff unsuccessfully tried to negotiate a number of deals to acquire it.

Currently, the Wiyot Tribe’s Dishgamu Humboldt Community Land Trust plans to build a multi-income housing development there, along with another high-density housing project a few blocks away, at 6th and L. The “Housing for All” initiative says those projects will be exempt from the measure’s parking requirements, but only if the Wiyot agency remains the bid awardee and developer. 

If the Wiyot project falls through for any reason and the city decides to trade the 5th and D lot for another parcel, then the parking overlay “shall cease to apply,” the measure says, in which case the parcel could be developed with a wide range of commercial uses, including bars, retail, restaurants, car sales and more.

Meanwhile, glossy mailers paid for by Security National invite the public to “imagine what’s possible” at the Jacobs site. The “Housing for All” measure would enable that property to be rezoned to allow for high-density housing development, though critics, including Eureka City Councilmember Kati Moulton, have noted that the measure wouldn’t actually commit AMG or anyone else to developing even a single house. The zoning changes could instead open the door to strip malls, car lots, bars and numerous other types of commercial development.

Whoever is behind AMG Communities - Jacobs, LLC, they’re working symbiotically with Security National on Arkley’s plans for Eureka, spreading the same message as “Citizens for a Better Eureka” and the “Housing for All” initiative. According to AMG’s website, the corporation was formed “solely for the purpose of acquiring the former Jacobs Middle School site … and exploring ways to develop the site in the future.”

As pointed out by the Journal and, more recently, by the Humboldt County Civil Grand Jury, there’s one attorney handling who’s been handling all of this interrelated business: Bradley B. Johnson. 

From the Grand Jury report:

  • Bradley B. Johnson reportedly initiated contact with [Eureka City Schools] in August 2023 suggesting another purchaser for the Jacobs property (besides the City or … CHP) using the land exchange provision of the California Education Code.
  • Bradley B. Johnson is listed as the Secretary and Chief Financial Officer of Citizens for a Better Eureka in the Statement of Information for the nonprofit corporation filed with the California Secretary of State in September 2023.
  • Bradley B. Johnson, representing Citizens for a Better Eureka, funded by Security National, initiated five lawsuits against the City of Eureka. 
  • Bradley B. Johnson signed the Agreement for the sale of the Jacobs property to AMG Communities-Jacobs, LLC as an agent for AMG.
  • Bradley B. Johnson’s company, Everview Ltd., is listed in escrow documents as the purchaser of the 3553 I Street property.
  • Bradley B. Johnson is listed as the Manager of AMG Communities-Jacobs, LLC in the Statement of Information for the LLC filed with the California Secretary of State in April 2024.
  • Bradley B. Johnson sent and received many emails to and from ECS administrative staff and legal counsel regarding the Jacobs property real-estate transaction before and after the December 14, 2023, ECS Trustee meeting. 

You can now read many of those emails for yourself, albeit in heavily redacted form, by clicking the link below. 


DOCUMENT: Redacted emails and documentation from Eureka City Schools

The Jacobs campus. | File photo by Andrew Goff.