Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
ARCATA COMMUNITY CENTER – In an attempt to guide the development of its future housing inventory, the city’s Community Development Department last week invited citizens to weigh in on the matter.
Arcata’s housing profile isn’t ideal, and even optimistic projections indicate a continuing shortage.
With housing-themed music (“Our House” by CSN&Y, “House of the Rising Sun” by Eric Burdon and the Animals) wafting in the Community Center air and offering subliminal motivation, and after being plied with abundant pizza and juice, attendees assembled at 12 of the 24 candy-laden tables to bring their insights to key questions.
Facilitator Heather Equinoss urged participants to learn, connect and work together on housing questions that could be grist for divisive discussion. She noted that it’s easier to see flaws in opposing views than our own, and challenged those there to transcend their “tunnel vision.”
“Arcata is one of the most awesome places I’ve ever been,” said Community Development Director David Loya. “This is an epic place… even our sewage plant is beautiful.”
By way of reality check, Loya said that “HSU is our economic engine. Communities plan for their economic engine.”
Since 2003, Arcata has created 1,569, 30 percent less than is needed. The state is requiring that Arcata plan for 610 new housing units by 2027, but even with best case scenario, it will come up 100 units short.
Another problem is home ownership. Young professionals are finding it hard to locate adequate housing, and significant portions of low- and moderate-income residents are paying more than they should as a proportion of their income.
The way to control the housing situation, Loya said, is by increasing the supply.
There are three options for doing that:
• Infill housing – adding density as prescribed by the General Plan.
• Annexation – of lands on the Arcata Bottom, as is being done with Danco’s Creek Side Homes.
• A third option is doing nothing, since housing will increase anyway.
The do-nothing option is popular. “I like Arcata the way to is,” Loya said residents tell him. But there are many reasons not to abandon planning. First, it’s required by law. Second, planning will still occur, but it won’t be done locally. “If we don’t plan, the state will plan for us,” Loya said. “It will hand the reins over to developers to build how they like.”
Added Loya, “Just because we don’t plan for the growth doesn’t mean it isn’t going to happen.”
Another grinding issue that needs acknowledgment is the added difficulty in finding housing experienced by minority group members. “People of color have different outcome that white persons,” Loya said. “It’s hard for us to grapple with.”
Three initiatives are in the works to boost housing. A revision of the General Plan’s Housing Element which calls for 610 new units in the next eight years; a Gateway Plan due next year for the K Street Corridor that foresees 2,900 new units; and the Local Coastal Plan, which is being readied for next year and will attempt to plan for relocating housing that will be eliminated by sea level rise.
Ideas collected at the workshop will be incorporated into the Housing Element revision. A Spanish-language housing workshop is also planned.
Citizens may offer their views online at cityofarcata.org/152/housing.