Mad River Union
McKINLEYVILLE – The county’s Planning Commission has done something it hasn’t done in several years – approve a new multi-unit subdivision.
The 40-unit Washington Terrace Subdivision, located in McKinleyville on Washington Avenue near the School Road intersection, got unanimous approvals for its final map and development permit at the commission’s August 19 meeting.
The subdivision is on a 7.5-acre property. At least 15 percent of its lots are required to meet affordable housing standards, with parcels ranging in size from 3,700 square feet to 7,500 square feet.
In response to public concerns about traffic in the area, the project includes a sidewalk connection to School Road.
There are greater concerns about the lack of a sidewalk connection from McKinleyville Avenue to the School Road roundabout but according to a written staff report, making the connection involves a property that the subdivision’s applicant, Jim Furtado, has no control over.
Commissioners were wholly supportive of the project and its infusion of much-needed housing. But the area’s traffic safety concerns figured into their discussion.
Commissioner Brian Mitchell noted that “this parcel is where all the traffic off of McKinleyville Avenue has to go, right next to it.” He asked about the status of the McKinleyville Avenue-School Road roundabout connection.
Public Works Engineer Bob Bronkall said McKinleyville Avenue will be “punched north” with a sidewalk once a subdivision on the nearby property is advanced and approved.
Soon there was discussion about adding speed humps and bike lanes.
Commissioner Peggy O’Neill bicycles on Washington Avenue and described it as “a dangerous road.”
Mitchell agreed. “On almost a daily basis I have to stop in the middle of Washington Avenue to allow people on bicycles or skateboards to go because I have to either go into opposing traffic, hit a bicyclist or stop,” he said. “This is a really, really problematic area and I’m not sure that not having bike lanes is a workable solution.”
Bronkall explained that the width of Washington Avenue is too narrow to allow a bike lane without removing parking on one side of the road.
That would have to be approved by the Board of Supervisors and “I can tell you from many public hearings involving the Board of Supervisors and parking, it’s a very contentious issue,” he said.
He added that another Furtado subdivision, Central Estates, is just north of the Washington Terrace project site and includes the Mid Town trail segment to Washington Avenue, where a crosswalk was installed.
“Another chunk” of the Mid Town Trail will be developed and will reach a nearby McKinleyville Community Services District parcel, said Bronkall.
During a public comment session, local Realtor Robin Bailie, a resident of Central Estates, vouched for Furtado’s work
She also said that two years ago, there were about 360 single family homes for sale in the county and now there are only 187.
“We are in desperate need of additional homes and I am totally supportive of this project,” she said.
After some discussion about the traffic and sidewalk issues, commissioners agreed that it isn’t Furtado’s responsibility to address them. They agreed that a letter should be written to the Board of Supervisors encouraging removal of parking and installation of a Washington Avenue bike lane.
Before joining unanimous approval of the project, Commission Chair Alan Bongio noted that it’s been several years since a subdivision has been approved.
“That tells you how bad things are with housing in Humboldt County,” he said.
Bongio added that “you will find no better developer than Jim Furtado in Humboldt County – he is the standard that everyone else looks up to.”
Also during the meeting, commissioners considered a permit for a 120-foot tall AT&T cell tower disguised as a water tower on an Arcata Bottoms parcel.
A 130-foot lattice tower had been approved at an early August meeting and the commission intended to approve the AT&T tower last week.
But the tower had originally been designed for a 100-foot height and that was changed to accommodate more carriers.
As commissioners viewed visual representations of the tower at the new height, Commissioner Mike Newman asked if re-noticing had been done to inform the public about it.
Planning Director John Ford said it hadn’t and described the omission as a “glitch.”
The hearing on the tower was continued to a date uncertain to allow for re-noticing.