Village developer makes pitch to City Council, claims Strombeck ‘formed ACRH’

The City Council and its entourage at the Craftsmans Mall. KLH | Union

Mad River Union

ARCATA – With the final showdown over the proposed The Village student housing project drawing near, correspondence between the stakeholders is flying fast and furious.

In the letter below, applicant David Moon of Coleraine Capital Group, makes a comprehensive pitch to the City  Council on behalf of the project.

The letter reviews the process by which the project has evolved, stating that most of the demands made by opposition group Arcata Citizens for Responsible Housing (ACRH) have been meet, but that the group later made it clear that it would oppose it regardless of revisions.

Moon also claims that Developer Steve Strombeck "...formed ACRH specifically to oppose The Village student housing community..."

ACRH has acknowledged that it is partly funded by one or more developers whom it refuses to identify, but states that the majority of its funding consists of small donations from citizens.

Moon characterizes The Village's opposition as "...a relatively small number of NIMBYs and paid consultants (including 3 law firms, a management consultant and a public relations firm), emboldened by the deep pockets of a developer/landlord who lives in Eureka and Hawaii, (not Arcata), and who is acting in his own self-interest and not that of Arcata as a whole."

In a series of bullet points, Moon extols The Village as addressing student needs, promoting infill development and helping alleviate the housing crisis, among other alleged benefits.

Concludes Moon, "The Village student housing community and proactively address the dire housing crisis that exists today."

Responses to the allegations have been solicited from Strombeck and ACRH, and will be posted when and if they are received.

Moon's letter, plus the attachment:

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July 5, 2018

Mayor Pereira, [email protected]

Council Member Ornelas, [email protected] Council Member Pitino, [email protected]

Council Member Watson, [email protected]
CC: City Manager, Karen Diemer, [email protected]; Community Development Director, David Loya, [email protected]

Re: The Village Student Housing Community

Dear Madame Mayor and City Council members,

I’d like to share with you some additional information regarding the Village student housing community, in response to two concerns that have been expressed by Council Member Watson and relayed to us by City staff, namely; depth of community support and Humboldt State University’s (“HSU”) involvement with the project.

Community Support:

More than three years ago, Larry Oetker, the City’s former Director of Community Development, personally called to inform me that the Kirkpatrick family wanted to sell the Craftsman Mall site. Larry’s call came shortly after the Planning Commission and City Council adopted the 2014 Housing Element, which identified the need for off-campus student housing and set a City goal to address that need. Larry thought the Kirkpatrick’s property was ideal for this use and was instrumental in making introductions to Nancy Kirkpatrick and her daughter, Mandy Yagi-Kirkpatrick. Once the property was under contract, our team met with the property’s immediate neighbors, including Bob Britt, Mad River Lumber, Dave Meserve, the Cotton family and the Provolt family. We also met with four of the five City Council Members at the time (Paul Pitino, Michael Winkler, Susan Ornelas, and Mark Wheetley) each of whom encouraged us to bring the project forward. Subsequently, we previewed the project at a City Council public meeting in November 2015. City Council Member Pitino even went to the trouble of visiting the student housing community we built in Marina, CA (The Promontory), where he met with City and Cal State Monterey Bay officials, as well as student residents of The Promontory. At that time, we met with City Council Member Ornelas and she recommended building an environmentally-friendly, alternative transportation student housing development. We also met with representatives from HSU and local developer, Danco. During this initial outreach period, we learned there was one developer/landlord, Steve Strombeck, who was opposed to the project but didn’t live in the neighborhood or even in Arcata. Every attempt to reach out to him was rebuffed including a call from our local representative, JB Mathers, to whom Mr. Stombeck told, “he wouldn’t meet with the enemy” and that “he may not be able to stop our proposed development, but he would do everything in his power to delay the project”. At that point, we knew we may not be able to work with Mr. Strombeck, however; we hoped he would appreciate that providing more housing options for HSU students would ultimately benefit everyone in the community.

Given the otherwise positive response, we submitted a design based on an architectural prototype proven to be popular with students at campuses across the country. Throughout the entitlement process, our team has listened to community members, Planning Commissioners and City Council Members. We have also worked closely with City staff to incorporate an abundance of public benefits as part of the project, including rail trail extensions, a bus stop, storm water management systems, reduced building heights, reduced the proposed bed count, increased the number of parking spaces, increased the building setback from Maple lane residences to 300 feet, added additional screening trees, changed the architectural style of the buildings, added solar panels, added a car and bike share program, added native planting and agreed to make contributions to the City to help fund traffic and sewer treatment plant improvements. None of these changes were minor and come at a significant cost. We have also agreed to legally limit the number of occupants and pay the City’s portion of the property taxes, including the local Fire Departments portion, in the event of a sale or transfer of the property to a tax-exempt entity, concessions not required by the City of any other residential developer. We believe this process has produced a project that addresses the needs of HSU students and the requirements of the Arcata community and City leaders.

From the earliest stages of our project application we have reached out to and listened to our neighbors. Unfortunately, since Mr. Strombeck formed ACRH specifically to oppose The Village student housing community, productive direct communication with neighbors was suppressed. On March 23, 2018, Patrick Shanahan of Amcal organized a call with the three ACRH Directors, when we were told in no uncertain terms that there was nothing we could change about the project to gain their support. In lieu of an open dialogue, we used the attached letter “Community Requests to the Planning Commission & City Council for Conditions of Approval; The Village” dated January 23, 2018 from Maureen Jules to the Planning Commission as a proxy for their input. The letter states it is a compilation of neighborhood requests and we made changes to the project in response to every one of those requests, except for the one request of HSU, which is outside our control, and another advocating for greater pet adoption, which we have not yet addressed.

As we have made important and significant changes to the proposed project, the number in opposition from the neighborhood has dramatically reduced. The project is supported by the general community, community leaders, City staff and more than 1,133 HSU students and parents who publicly signed a student-organized petition. Unfortunately, there remain a relatively small number of NIMBYs and paid consultants (including 3 law firms, a management consultant and a public relations firm), emboldened by the deep pockets of a developer/landlord who lives in Eureka and Hawaii, (not Arcata), and who is acting in his own self-interest and not that of Arcata as a whole. We hope you can look beyond the objections of the few remaining naysayers and in favor of the greater near and long-term community interests.

HSU Project Management:

We first met with Dr. Joyce Lopes, HSU’s former Vice President of Administration, in 2015 to determine if HSU had a housing need and, if so, would they publicly support the project and have an interest in some form of project affiliation. That outreach resulted in a November 2015 letter to the Arcata City Manager from Dr. Lopes that read,

“While we are not in a position to make a specific recommendation regarding individual projects, we generallyfavoreffortstoprovideadditionaloptionsforqualityhousingforourstudents. HSUplays an important role in educating the students of California and anticipates modest growth in our student population over the coming years.”

“While we are committed to adding additional housing on campus to support this growth, we also recognize that student success will be dependent on housing in the community. We support local developments that are targeted towards student-friendly housing. Off-campus housing for our students will serve the University’s interests as well as the City’s interest in ensuring that more single- residence housing is available for local citizens.”

Source: https://lostcoastoutpost.com/2015/nov/4/private-affordable-housing-developr-applies- build/

Over the next two years while we worked on the Environmental Impact Report (EIR), we kept HSU informed of our entitlement efforts. There was little substantive discussion with HSU until the past few months. In August 2017, our two primary points of contact, Dr. Joyce Lopes and Traci Ferdolage, left HSU for positions at other California campuses. Doug Dawes joined HSU as Vice President for Administrative Affairs in late July 2017 to replace Joyce Lopes and was appointed by HSU President Rossbacher as our primary HSU contact. We also began engaging with Dr. Stephen St. Onge and Todd Larsen from HSU’s Housing and Residential Life Office for their project design and management and programming advice and support. While Dr. St. Onge and Mr. Larsen offered many thoughtful suggestions on how the units should be designed, which we adopted, it was clear that their primary concern was in ensuring a safe, affordable and rewarding student experience through management and programming. Over the next few months, we developed a framework whereby HSU’s Housing and Residential Life Office would oversee the operation and programming of the community. After our working group reached a consensus on staffing plans, rental rates, qualification requirements, reserve funds, housing rules, etc., Mr. Dawes, the campus attorney and CSU Chancellor’s Office initiated their review process. After further back and forth, Mr. Dawes presented the plan to the President’s Cabinet for its review and approval. Once the Cabinet decided to pursue the project affiliation on Friday, June 1, 2018, Mr. Dawes and Dr. Wayne Brumfield, Vice President for Student Affairs (also hired less than a year earlier) publicly announced HSU’s prospective involvement with The Village, the following Wednesday, June 6, 2018.

Since 2015 and until the date HSU’s Cabinet approved a prospective affiliation, the Administration maintained a consistent position on The Village, namely that the City and HSU need housing desperately, but HSU’s policy dictated not endorsing a specific project. That changed when the new administrators, received the level of control they felt HSU needed to make an endorsement. This accomplishment also addressed concerns raised by our neighbors in the public review process about wanting HSU’s involvement, affordable rent, responsible management and staffing.

Public Policy:

Finally, there are noteworthy and important local and statewide public policy reasons for approving this project.

  • Increase access to higher education. Cal State turned away 32,000 eligible students last year because it could not accommodate them.1 Governor Brown and the legislature just passed additional funding in the 2018-2019 budget for CSU to open CSU’s doors wider to fulfill its mission to provide a quality, affordable, higher education by serving a greater number of students and providing California and Californians with both immediate and far-ranging benefits. HSU has stated that additional student housing is critical to their ability to recruit and retain students. Contrary to the State’s policy, HSU may experience a 10% decline without sufficient housing, which translates to fewer future environmental scientists, biologists, social workers, elementary school teachers, etc. For the local economy, this could mean more layoffs for HSU faculty and staff and a negative impact on the regional economy of $19 million or more per year.
  • Address the housing crisis. New housing construction is increasing at a slow pace and remains far short of demand. Rental opportunities for students are too scarce, resulting in limited, poorly maintained housing, housing discrimination and surging homelessness. HSU students of color2 continue to report challenges obtaining housing in the off-campus Arcata housing market that is dominated by the same developer/landlord that is fighting to prevent the development of The Village student housing community.
  • Meet housing needs through infill development. The Village reduces the amount and distance that students travel in their cars and encourages walking, biking, and the use of buses. Reducing how far and how often people need to drive also reduces vehicle emissions (not to mention household transportation costs), so less driving means less air pollution, which helps everyone breathe easier. Walking and biking is also an important public policy strategy for combating obesity and its associated health risks.
  • Increase the proportion of owner-occupied units in Arcata. Increase the number of homeowners living in the City and reducing the number of absentee landlords and associated public nuisance and danger related to unmanaged rental housing.1 UC, Cal State closer to big funding boost. Los Angeles Times, May 24, 2018 2 Eureka NAACP Press Release dated April 26, 2018
  • Ensure the needs of the University and City are met. Approval of The Village student housing community will serve to address the City’s Housing Element goal of proactively pursuing off-campus housing opportunities and positively respond to an emergency request from HSU, one of the City’s most important community partners.

Blight. Promote the health, safety and general welfare of the community by eliminating dangerous, non-code compliant buildings, abandoned structures, litter, and overgrown weeds. Blight, declared as a public nuisance under California law, lowers property values, negatively impacts the social and economic stability of the City, increases crime, and damages residents’ well-being and connection to their community.Summary:In Summary, The Village will help meet the goals outlined by your predecessors in the 2014 Housing Element; the project is recommended for approval by the Arcata City Manager, Director of Community Development and Planning staff; it is supported by former Council Members Connie Stewart and Alex Stillman, the League of Woman Voters, Chant’e Cat of the HSU Homeless Student Advocate Alliance, Sean Armstrong of Redwood Energy and other community leaders; it is supported and will be managed by HSU, the largest economic driver in Arcata and Humboldt County; it is supported by HSU students and their parents; and the community at large. We all know that infill development is where new housing should be placed and, unfortunately, it will never make everyone happy. It is always going to be in someone’s backyard. So, while there remains a small number of neighbors and a Eureka developer determined to prevent this student housing community from being built, you have before you a project that will serve to meet many of the City’s 2014 Housing Elements goals, will have a very positive impact on the lives of many HSU students and their families as an HSU managed and programmed student community. We trust you will vote to approve The Village student housing community and proactively address the dire housing crisis that exists today. Your affirmative vote will also be a demonstration of your community leadership and will have a significant and measurable impact on the well-being of HSU students, Humboldt State University, employment and the local and regional economy.

Sincerely,
David J. Moon
On behalf of project applicant, Coleraine Capital Group and Amcal Equities

Coleraine Capital Group, Inc. – 2100 Garden Rd., Bldg. A, Monterey, CA 93940 – www.colerainecapital.com

 

 

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