Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
ARCATA – As Arcata’s Planning Commission grinds through hearings en route to probable approval of The Village, an 800-bed student housing complex to be sited at the present location of the Craftsmans Mall, a citizens group which objects to the proposal is developing an alternative plan for the site.
Arcata Citizens for Responsible Housing (ACRH) held a design charette at Arcata Elementary School (AES) last Thursday, soliciting community comment on a project that might avoid the many problems it sees with The Village. These include the project’s size, capacity, traffic impacts, loss of tax revenue and consequences for adajcent neighborhoods.
To assist in crafting the plan, ACRH has engaged Arcata-based planning firm Greenway Partners.
“We believe there’s a better way than The Village project,” said John Bergenske of ACRH. He said the group is fast-tracking development of a proposal to be presented to the Planco at its March 27 meeting, when it next considers The Village.
A good plan, Bergenske said, could compel the Planco to force major changes to The Village.
Beyond that, an approved Village project would go on to the City Council for final approval, where it could also be halted. “The Planning Commission is ‘practice’,” Bergenske said. “The real game is the council. We’re not even into the game yet.”
Another option is developing a ballot measure in opposition to The Village. Bergenske said ACRH now has about 100 members, and he asked attendees at the AES gathering to each recruit 10 friends. With 1,000 members, he said, it would be clear to all that the group could gather enough petition signatures to qualify a ballot initiative. he also asked for donations via the group's website, arcatacrh.org.
Greenway Partners Principal Kirk Cohune asked attendees for “game-changing ideas – what we want, not what we’re opposed to” in order to help create a “compelling, community supported project.”
Criteria for a replacement for The Village would be a project that works on a design level, could be financially viable and is actually developable.
He said Greenway is fast-tracking its planning in order to have something to present to the Planco at its March 27 meeting. “We have 19 days to do work that normally takes four months,” he said.
He said Greenway is “reverse-engineering” The Village to ascertain its costs. Cohune added that it is “not uncommon” in California for alternative projects to be developed in response to a development proposal.
Greenway planner Jason Brownfield then displayed slides of a conceptual design for the 10-acre Craftmans Mall site, one intended only as a conversation starter.
The conceptual layout includes a mix of single-family dwellings and apartment buildings of various shapes and sizes. The homes are located on the parcel’s west side, minimizing visual and other impacts on Maple Lane. That street’s residents have been particularly upset over effects The Village would have on privacy, noise, shading and their property values.
Farther northeast are a variety of larger structures, and some smaller ones to the southeast.
Options for the site include the family homes and the apartments, but also senior housing and even tiny houses.
An additional one-acre site to the north of the Craftsmans Mall on St. Louis Road, owned by Mad River Lumber, might be available for commercial facilities to provide “items of necessity” for the residents of the main parcel.
Options discussed include stores, a laundromat and a coffee shop.