City of Arcata wants housing above shopping center

Steve Robles
Mad River Union

ARCATA – In order to comply with state rules on developing affordable housing for its residents, Arcata is appealing to local developers to create partnerships that will result in more access.

“I just wanted to take the opportunity to put a shout-out to the building community,” said Director of Community Development David Loya at last week’s Planning Commission meeting. “If you want to come work with us on affordable housing we’ll work with you. Yes, it’s a new ball of wax that you’ll have to learn, but we’ll help you learn it.”

After the state changed its requirements for municipalities to develop affordable housing, the city is considering which areas of the city and which sites in those areas would be best for placing affordable housing.

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The city is most keenly focused on mixed usage, properties that combine retail and business space with housing. Loya is particularly interested in converting the Uniontown Shopping Center into such a development.

At a recent planning commission meeting, Loya showed a photo of the shopping center at its busiest. Most of its ample parking spaces were empty. He suggested offering existing tenants like Safeway and CVS Pharmacy incentives that would benefit them as well as the city, where the retail operations occurred on the first floor, with housing above.

In addition to a new Uniontown development, the city is also considering developing affordable housing in areas like the Creamery District and the Gateway area, where a community partnership recently yielded the ABC Building.

As a strategy, the city is more interested on infill development, that is developing existing sites in the main part of town, than developing in areas in outside areas like the Arcata Bottom.

One option identified would be to develop city-owned parking lots by selling the air space above them to create affordable units. 

Although Arcata doesn’t have as many of these lots as larger municipalities, they do have some, and are considering all options to remain compliant with state laws.





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