Hank Sims / @ 1 p.m. / Agendizer

It’s a Crucial Week for the Gateway Area Plan and the Future of the City of Arcata

Above: The boundaries of the Gateway Area. Zoom in and around if you like.


For the last few years, Arcata city government has been working on a plan that could transform the city in big ways. Their idea: Take a lot of underutilized, post-industrial land on the west side of town — north of Samoa Boulevard and west of K street — and open it up for high density housing development.

They christened this land the Gateway Area, and they’ve called their plan the Gateway Area Plan. And this week marks a milestone in the plan’s development, as the city’s Planning Commission looks poised to approve a final draft at its meeting Tuesday night. The Arcata City Council would then be set to approve it for good at a special meeting two weeks later, on May 29.

It’s not too hyperbolic to say that the the plan, if adopted, could remake the town over the next few decades. Of course, the town — like all towns — will be remade over the next few decades in any case; this plan, like all long-range city planning efforts, simply seeks to steer that development in a particular direction. But the Gateway Area Plan is perhaps the most ambitious city planning document seen on the North Coast in many a year.

There are the bottom-line figures: Planners estimate that the Gateway Area Plan has the potential to add 3,500 housing units to the city’s housing stock (which stood at 8,423 units as of the 2020 census.) There is the aesthetic element: The new housing would almost all be in apartment/condominium-style housing, with buildings possibly as many as seven stories high in certain parts of the district, resulting in easily the most modern, urban landscape on the North Coast, designed mostly for pedestrian- and mass transit-focused residents.

Also innovative is the procedural aspects of the plan. The plan institutes “form-based codes” for local developers, designed to lay out in advance the kinds of projects that the city is hoping to see from developers. (See an explanation here.) The form-based code is designed to supplement or supercede old styles of city planning, which have been based on separation of uses — retail over here, residences over there. They lay out in advance the types of buildings the city would like to see, and the additional amenities it would like developers to offer, and are supposed to streamline the permitting process, giving developers more security when embarking on a project.

The Gateway Area Plan has some ardent supporters — housing advocates and YIMBYs — and some equally or even more ardent detractors. Those detractors, in some cases, worry about the provision of emergency services, or everyday services like sewage or water, or — despite the car-optional intent of the planners — increased traffic. Beneath them all, usually, is a sort of pre-nostalgia for the Arcata that is, or was. For a smorgasbord of these arguments, check out the arcata1.com website, which has been a hub of anti-Gateway sentiment that also throws in accusations of governmental shenanigans designed to push the plan down the throats of an unsuspecting citizenry. 

The City of Arcata Planning Commission meets at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 14, in Arcata City Hall (736 F Street.) Remote viewing instructions at this link. Full agenda, with supporting documents, can be found below.


Arcata Planning Commission
May 14, 2024, 5:30 p.m.


A. Land Acknowledgment

B. Roll Call

C. Roll Call



A. Minutes of Apr 23, 2024 5:30 PM

B. 4424 : Affirm the Zoning Administrator Action of April 25, 2024, for the American Hospital Multifamily Design Review Project at 3289 Janes Road

The Planning Commission is being asked to approve a multifamily design review project for American Hospital on Janes Road. The Zoning Administrator has already approved the project, but neighbors have raised concerns. The Planning Commission can either affirm the decision or initiate an appeal. The project meets all development standards and requirements set by the city, and approval is required by the Housing Accountability Act. If the Commission chooses to appeal, the project will still likely be approved due to meeting all standards. The decision was exempt from environmental review.

— LoCOBot

… or, as a bildungsroman!

Title: Building Janes Road: A Journey of Development

Chapter 1: The Decision

As the Planning Commission meeting on May 14, 2024, loomed closer, Sarah Miller felt a sense of apprehension building within her. The American Hospital Multifamily Design Review Project at 3289 Janes Road was under scrutiny, and she knew that the decision would impact not only the neighborhood but also her own future.

She had been following the project closely ever since the Zoning Administrator approved it on April 24, 2024. The project had met all the necessary standards, but several neighbors had raised objections. Now, the Planning Commission had the power to either affirm the decision or initiate an appeal.

Sarah spent hours poring over the staff report, trying to understand all the details and implications. She knew that this decision would set a precedent for future development in the area. As a young architect, she was eager to see her community grow and evolve, but she also understood the importance of preserving its character and integrity.

Chapter 2: The Debate

At the Planning Commission meeting, emotions ran high as neighbors, developers, and city officials took turns expressing their opinions and concerns. Sarah listened intently, taking notes and trying to sift through the conflicting arguments.

On one side, there were those who supported the project, citing the need for affordable housing and the potential economic benefits it could bring to the area. On the other side, there were those who feared the impact on traffic, parking, and the overall character of the neighborhood.

As the debate raged on, Sarah found herself feeling torn. She understood the complexities of urban development and the need to balance progress with preservation. But she also felt the weight of responsibility on her shoulders, knowing that the decision she and the other commissioners would make would have far-reaching consequences.

Chapter 3: The Decision

After hours of deliberation, the Planning Commission finally made their decision. In a close vote, they chose to affirm the Zoning Administrator’s decision and approve the American Hospital Multifamily Design Review Project at 3289 Janes Road.

As the news spread, the neighborhood erupted in a mix of celebration and outrage. Sarah knew that not everyone would be happy with the outcome, but she also knew that they had made the best decision they could based on the information and guidelines available to them.

In the days and weeks that followed, Sarah reflected on the experience. She realized that this journey of development had taught her valuable lessons about compromise, collaboration, and the importance of listening to all sides of an issue. And as she continued her career in architecture, she knew that she would carry these lessons with her, always striving to create spaces that truly served the needs of the community.

And so, the story of Building Janes Road came to a close, with Sarah and the Planning Commission paving the way for a new chapter of growth and progress in their beloved neighborhood.

— LoCOBot


Staff ReportA. Action 234-015-DR_RedactedB. Public Comment




A. 4422 : Adopt Resolution PC-24-03 Recommending Certification of the Environmental Impact Report and Resolution PC-24-05 Recommending Adoption of the General Plan Comprehensive Update and the Gateway Code

The Director of Community Development is recommending that the Planning Commission open a public hearing and adopt resolutions to certify an Environmental Impact Report and recommend adoption of a General Plan update and Gateway Code. The Commission has been reviewing these documents for over two years, and public engagement has been ongoing for seven years. The City Council will have the final say on certifying the report and adopting the amendments. The Commission has made minor changes to the documents, which will be reviewed by the Council in May. The revised documents can be found on the City’s website.

— LoCOBot

… or, as a heartbreaking country/western song!

(Verse 1)
In a small town called Arcata, where dreams go to die
The Planning Commission made a decision, and left me wondering why
They recommended certification, of the report so cold
But it’s tearing me apart, a story never told

Oh, the General Plan update, and the Gateway Code
They’re tearing us apart, babe, our love’s on overload
I never knew a city could break my heart in two
But here I am in Arcata, feeling so damn blue

(Verse 2)
Seven years of work, and outreach for all
But now it’s time to say goodbye, to the dreams we had to fall
The changes they made, they cut me deep inside
I never knew a city could leave me feeling so denied

Oh, the General Plan update, and the Gateway Code
They’re tearing us apart, babe, our love’s on overload
I never knew a city could break my heart in two
But here I am in Arcata, feeling so damn blue

I thought we had a future, I thought we had a chance
But now it’s all over, with just once last dance
I’ll remember the memories, the good times we had
But now it’s time to move on, it’s just too damn sad

Oh, the General Plan update, and the Gateway Code
They’re tearing us apart, babe, our love’s on overload
I never knew a city could break my heart in two
But here I am in Arcata, feeling so damn blue

So farewell to Arcata, a town I used to know
You broke my heart in pieces, now it’s time to let you go
I’ll carry on, I’ll be strong, but I’ll never forget
The way you tore us apart, with a single regret.

— LoCOBot


Staff ReportA. Res PC-24-03 GP EIRB. Res PC-24-05 Project Approval



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