More but smaller residential buildings, fewer residents, more parking, solar panels, complex moved to the east away from Westwood
Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
ARCATA – The Arcata City Council will take two nights this week to ponder The Village, the student housing project proposed for the Craftsmans Mall site on St. Louis Road. The council meetings take place Wednesday, June 6 and Thursday, June 7, both at 6 p.m.
The first night will feature a project description by the developers, with the second night to feature a presentation by opponents.
The ambitious project, proposed by developers Amcal Equities and Coleraine Capital Group, has met with stiff resistance by residents of nearby neighborhoods, who have organized an opposition group called Arcata Citizens for Responsible Housing.
With sustained objections voiced during 11 Planning Commission meetings on the project, opponents managed to get the developers to downsize the project from an initial 800 beds to 700 and remove one story from the residence hall (one of four total in the project) facing Maple Lane at the project’s west side.
Now, as part of a comprehensive redesign, the project has been downsized yet again – to 602 beds.
Changes, detailed in a staff report for the council meeting, include reduction of the project from four 4-story buildings to three 35 foot tall 2-story buildings and two 45 foot tall 3-story buildings totaling 152 units.
Though there are now five residential buildings, the total number of buildings actually remains the same. A community building was eliminated, and its functions moved into one of the residence halls.
Parking has been increased from 369 spaces to 408 spaces.
Another new wrinkle is a proposal for the city to vacate a portion of St. Louis Road on the project's east side so that The Village can be moved farther away from Westwood-area residents on the west side and parking added.
From the staff report:
"In order to minimize viewshed impacts from the west, the applicant has designed the project so that the buildings will be located as far to the east of the site as possible. The vacation of this portion of the road will accommodate this position of the buildings while keeping enough distance from the highway to minimize noise impacts. Furthermore, the vacation will allow the developer to the build a portion of the Rail with Trail and to provide parking for both the project and the public."
Also, from the staff report:
“The project has many design features developed in coordination with City staff to ensure the project reflects the City’s sustainable building practices.
“First, it is an infill development of significant scale. The proposed development will occur on an underutilized industrial site and will convert an industrial site into a residential site to match the existing residential areas that surround it. Second, it has planned many features to promote alternative transportation. The project will have a minimum of 185 indoor and outdoor bicycle spaces (as indicated on the original plan set) to securely store residents’ bicycles. The Applicant intends to partner with a car-sharing firm such as Zipcar.
“Finally, the project will add a bus stop and trail connectivity between the project and the rail with trail and Maple Lane. All of these designed features will shift transportation choices away from single occupancy cars towards alternative and ride share options.
“Furthermore, the Applicant is committed to certifying the project to the LEED silver standard. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a national certification system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council to encourage the construction of energy and resource-efficient buildings that are healthy to live in terms of water and energy usage, construction and interior materials, and indoor environmental quality. The LEED silver components include brownfield redevelopment, the use of domestic and landscape water and energy efficient fixtures, diversion of construction waste, use of recycled and/or regionally-sourced materials and many other measures.
“Finally, the project will install solar photo-voltaic panels on building roofs to produce clean renewable energy on the site. The applicant would like the Council to consider the redesign as a possible reduced project alternative identified in the EIR. Staff is currently evaluating for its consistency with the EIR and will provide an update in its oral presentation. The revised project is in the Residential Medium Density range. The action documents (Action, resolutions, and ordinances) would have to be updated to reflect the reduced density of the redesigned project.”
ACRH President Erik Jules wasn't impressed with the revised design. "Basically, AMCAL's new proposal isn't that different than the old one," he said. "It's slightly reduced in terms of the number or beds, but that doesn't solve most of the problems associated with their plan. They barely increased parking, the solar panels were already part of their discussion months ago, and so was the LEED certification. To try to make this sound like a redesigned project is suspect at best."
Concluded Jules, "A smaller version of a bad idea is still a bad idea. AMCAL’s scam to hurt Arcata taxpayers and breaks up our inclusive community is still a scam."