Another Village housing project revision before the City Council

Four-story student housing buildings would be located on the project's east side, near U.S. Highway 101. City of Arcata EIR image

Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union

ARCATA – In what has become a recurring event, still another revised version of The Village housing project is being submitted to the Arcata City Council for consideration. The newest iteration, incorporating alterations recommended by the council during recent meetings, is to be considered during the Wednesday, April 17 meeting.

Criteria specified by a majority of councilmembers on March 6 include a maximum of 400 beds for the student housing side and 150 bedrooms of open-market housing, with no more than 50 percent of the open-market bedrooms in one-bedroom apartments; a 65/35 student/open market population split; and a maximum occupancy for the total project of 632 people.

Mayor Brett Watson has continued to oppose the revised project, citing unavoidable impacts on surrounding neighborhoods and insisting on a project whose occupancy doesn't exceed that of the previous, 602-bed proposal. Councilmember Michael Winkler, whose Redwood Energy company continued to privately consult with its longtime client, project developer Amcal Equities LLC, after it submitted the project to the City of Arcata, has recused himself from the deliberations due to conflict of interest.

That leaves an even-numbered council susceptible to tied votes to consider The Village. That's what happened last August, when a tied vote sunk an earlier version of the project. However, the project applicants have continued to revise The Village in hopes of gaining approval, and in March, Councilmember Susan Ornelas offered compromise criteria under which she would consider offering approval.

That conditional breakthrough revived hopes by project backers that it could be approved, if it penciled out for the developer and was resubmitted with another revision.

Councilmembers Sofia Pereira and Paul Pitino have both said they could back the latest iteration of the project, but prefer the previously proposed, 602-bed, all-student version.

The current projected occupancy is 628, four fewer than the upper limit of 632 set by the council majority.

However, the revised project's approval is far from assured. While amenities remain mostly the same as the previous version, and the current EIR may still be applicable, the changes promoted by the council could have as-yet unconsidered impacts. Planning staff hasn't devoted resources to an in-depth analysis of the new version as it waits to ascertain how serious the council is about reconsideration.

Notes a staff report, "...the last iteration of the Development Agreement had language related to HSU paying the lost taxes to the City and Fire District. Since HSU will no longer be a party to the project, these terms will be modified. While staff cannot warrant that there will be no changes, the changes will reflect language nullified by the difference in the project description. The changes will not reflect reductions in amenities related to the reduced project size."

All of the revised versions of the project have been opposed by the Arcata Citizens for Responsible Housing (ACRH), a group funded via donations by citizens and unidentified real estate developers. ACRH advocates for an alternative development it now calls the Greenway Project, for which it says it has lined up two developers willing to proceed with construction. The group, a private non-profit, has declined repeated requests to identify the developers with whom it is coordinating its efforts, and the extent of their financial support.

The April 17 council meeting takes place at 6 p.m. at Arcata City Hall, 736 F St.



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