Stephanie McGeary / @ 12:51 p.m. / Agendizer

TONIGHT in the GATEWAY AREA PLAN: Arcata City Council Will Review and Make Recommendations on the Plan for the First Time, During Joint Study Session With Planning Commission

Look alive, Arcata! The Gateway Area Plan is moving right along, and we know y’all have some strong feelings about it and you will likely want to share those feelings at tonight’s meeting, when both the Arcata City Council and the Planning Commission will consider their recommendations for the hot-button plan. 

Map showing Arcata’s Gateway Area and its different neighborhoods | From the City of Arcata

But before you get yourself all ready to head down to Arcata City Hall (or to participate online), let’s review a little background on the subject and take a look at exactly what the council members and commissioners will be discussing this evening. 

The Gateway Area Plan, which has been the main topic of discussion at Arcata Planning Commission meetings for months, is an extensive section of Arcata’s General Plan that will rezone 138 acres of Arcata near downtown to facilitate the development of high-density housing. The plan includes adoption of a new zoning code, known as the Gateway Code, that will establish a set list of requirements and permitting processes for new developments in the Gateway Area, helping to fast track future development. The plan also allows for taller buildings – up to seven stories in the parts of the Gateway Area – and proposes traffic changes, including the controversial K-L Couplet, which would extend L Street from Alliance Road to Samoa Boulevard and convert L and K Streets to one-way traffic. 

During its months of discussions surrounding the plan, the Planning Commission made many recommendations for changes to the plan (for example, the commission recommended that building heights be capped at seven stories, instead of the eight story cap recommended by city staff) and during its meeting on July 11, the commission provided a recommendation for adoption. With so much material to cover, the council and commission decided to schedule a series of joint study sessions to go over the plan together. Tonight is the first of those study sessions, with at least two more scheduled for September and October. 

This study session marks the first time that the Arcata City Council will be making any decisions about the Gateway Area Plan, something several of the council members have been very eager to do. Only three members of the council – Mayor Sarah Schaefer, Meredith Matthews and Kimberly White – will partake in the study sessions and all future gateway discussions, as Councilmembers Stacy Atkins-Salazar and Alex Stillman both own property within 100 feet of the Gateway Area. 

According to the staff report, tonight’s study session will address three topics that the council chose to prioritize – building heights, the K and L Street couplet, and inclusionary zoning, which is a policy requiring that a percentage of new housing be for low-income individuals. The discussion may extend to other topics too, but these are the three the council wants to be sure to address tonight. After taking public comment and conducting the discussion, the council will provide direction to city staff and the commission on any proposed changes.

Prior to the meeting, Schaefer, Matthews and White compiled some of their questions and policy ideas, which you can read in full here. Notably, it seems that Schaefer and Matthews are largely in agreement with the planning commissions recommendations on building heights (seven stories in the Barrel District, six stories in the Gateway Hub, five stories in the Gateway Corridor and four stories maximum in the Gateway Neighborhood), whereas White would like to see the height caps lowered. Also, none of the three council members seem to support the proposed K-L Couplet, and would like to see alternatives explored, such as an  L-Street Linear Park, which is an option many residents of the neighborhood have been pushing. Schaefer said she would like to see L street developed into a “woonerf” style street, with low speed limits and cars yielding to pedestrians and bikes.

“In my conversations with Dan Burden, he believes that one-way street couplets are a car-centric solution to congestion,” Schaefer wrote in her comments. “Solving congestion is thinking about the needs of cars above all else…L Street should only be an implementation measure in the future if all other options or K street solutions have been explored and implement.”

The Arcata City Council/Planning Commission study session will take place tonight (Tuesday, Aug. 22) at 6 p.m. You can view the full agenda and directions on how to watch and participate here.

Arcata City Council
Aug. 22, 2023, 6 p.m.


1. Roll Call



A. Consider Meeting Framework.

B. 4242 : Consider the Gateway Area Plan Planning Commission Recommendation.

This is a staff report from a city council meeting about the Gateway Area Plan. The Planning Commission reviewed the plan and made a recommendation to the council. The council will discuss topics like building height, the K and L Street couplet, and inclusionary zoning. The council will use a decision-making process similar to what the commission used. The council members can submit their feedback on proposed changes beforehand, and the staff will compile it into a discussion guide. The council will consider recommendations from various committees and review environmental impact before adopting the plan. There are several attachments with more information on the plan and related topics.

— LoCOBot

… or, as smack talk from a professional wrestler!

I, David Loya, Director of Community Development and mastermind behind this recommendation, humbly present to you, the Honorable Mayor and City Council Members, a proposal that will surely leave you trembling in your boots. Brace yourselves for the discussion of the Gateway Area Plan and implementing ordinances. But that’s not all, we’re also going to consider the public’s opinion on this matter.

As the Planning Commission has already completed their initial review and given their recommendation on the Gateway Area Plan and Code, it’s time for us to engage in a thrilling debate. The Mayor, in all his wisdom, has handpicked the topics of building height, the K and L Street couplet, and inclusionary zoning for us to dive into.

But wait, there’s more! Councilmembers, you will have the chance to propose your own changes using the sacred framework that the Commission has created. And let’s not forget, the Council should use the policy pitch process to address these topics and any other proposed changes. To make sure this process runs smoothly, please provide your feedback on proposed changes by noon on Friday before the meeting.

Now, Councilmembers, get ready to unleash your fury as you review the discussion guide, which will contain all the compiled recommendations, and may the strongest argument reign supreme. Oh, and don’t forget to consult the decision matrix to orient yourselves.

As you prepare for battle, make sure to take a look at the PowerPoint on inclusionary zoning and the Draft Community Benefits Program. These resources might just give you the edge you need to dominate the discussion.

But wait, we mustn’t forget the committees and their recommendations! Let’s take a moment to acknowledge the Parks and Recreation Committee, the Energy Committee, the Historic Landmark Committee, the Economic Development Committee, the Transportation Safety Committee, the Forest Management Committee, and the Creeks and Wetlands Committee. All of their wisdom has been compiled for your enlightenment.

Last but certainly not least, prepare yourselves for the ultimate evaluation - an Environmental Impact Report for the Gateway Plan and Code. This is where we separate the weak from the strong in our quest for adoption.

Attached for your perusal are the Gateway Area Plan, the CC/PC Study Session Framework, the Policy Pitch Tool, the Decision Matrix, the information on inclusionary zoning, and the Community Benefits Program. Arm yourselves with this knowledge and get ready to clash in the ultimate showdown at the City Council meeting.

— LoCOBot


Staff ReportA. Gateway Area Plan_v12a.2_071123B. CC/PC Study Session Framework_DraftC. Policy Pitch ToolD, Decision Matrix CCE. Inclusionary ZoningF. Community Benefits Program


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