Mad River Union
ARCATA – The Arcata Citizens for Responsible Housing (ACRH) Board of Directors has responded so some of the statements made by David J. Moon in a July 5 letter written to the City Council on behalf of The Village’s project applicant, Coleraine Capital Group and Amcal Equities.
The ACRH response (see below) denies Moon’s claims that the group was founded by Arcata housing developer Steve Strombeck. “ACRH was formed by the three Directors (Erik Jules, John Bergenske, and Julie Vassiade-Alcock[sic]), states the letter.
ACRH also denies Moon’s claims of NIMBYism by pointing to the large number of anti-The Village speakers at the June 7 City Council meeting. “The public testimony WAS NOT an orchestrated ACRH presentation,” states the letter. It also states that most ACRH members live in neighborhoods that aren’t adjacent to the project site, the Craftsmans Mall on St. Louis Road.
Moon had cited a Jan. 23 letter from Westwood resident Maureen Jules which listed a number of mitigations for the project, requested on behalf of neighbors. They include reducing buildings facing Maple Lane to two stories, greater Humboldt State and University Police involvement, among other issues that reflect the dialogue at that stage of the public process.
Moon claimed that all but one condition – that of coordination with local animal shelters – had been addressed in subsequent revisions and modifications to the project. Responds ACRH, “That letter (dated Jan. 23), which we’ve included below, was written BEFORE we even formed ACRH! It didn’t, and doesn’t, represent ACRH. To think he could use that letter as proof he’s addressed all of the concerns community members have is ridiculous.”
ACRH also reasserts its position that The Village’s student residents would be drawn from Eureka, McKinleyville, Fortuna and elsewhere, rather than from Arcata, and that it would reduce the number of owner-occupied dwellings in Arcata.
It further faults city staff for an inadequate public process.
“The only real input people had about the Village was to make some design changes,” concludes the ACRH letter. “But it’s still what it has always been: a student-only dorm built off- campus into a residential neighborhood that isolates students rather than integrating them into our community.”
The ACRH letter:
July 8, 2018
Dear Arcata City Council,
The three Directors of the Arcata Citizens for Responsible Housing (ACRH) would like to comment on a letter submitted by Mr. David Moon to the council on July 5, 2018 regarding the proposed Village project. In his letter, Mr. Moon makes several false and misleading statements,and we feel it’s imperative that the council be made aware of these statements.
1. In his letter, Mr. Moon states that “Mr. Strombeck formed ACRH specifically to oppose The Village student housing community.”
ACRH was not formed by Mr. Strombeck. ACRH was formed by the three Directors (Erik Jules, John Bergenske, and Julie Vassiade-Alcock)
2. Mr. Moon also states that, “Unfortunately, there remain a relatively small number of NIMBYs and paid consultants (including 3 law firms, a management consultant and a public relations firm), emboldened by the deep pockets of a developer/landlord who lives in Eureka and Hawaii, (not Arcata), and who is acting in his own self-interest and not that of Arcata as a whole.” (emphasis added here, not by Mr. Moon).
This statement has a number of incorrect parts. First, to say there are a “relatively small number of NIMBYs” is wrong on two points. First, there are large number of people (still) opposed to AMCAL’s project. To say there are just a “few left” is absolutely false. We highly recommend you refer back to the public testimony at the June 7th Council meeting as an example. That testimony, given by ~40 speakers opposed to The Village all occurred AFTER AMCAL & HSU announced their latest changes. If most people were happy with the project (as Mr. Moon claims in his letter), there wouldn’t have been such a big turn-out with so many individually written and oral public comments. The public testimony WAS NOT an orchestrated ACRH presentation. Most people didn’t even use the ACRH talking points. Instead, members of the public turned out, some of them ACRH members, some of them not, but all with well-thought-out comments. Some of them neighbors to the project, some of them not from the adjacent neighborhoods. Almost all people who gave comments were opposed to AMCAL’s project. They turned out and gave excellent public testimony, revealing that the project still lacks the wide-spread community support David Moon claims it now has.
In addition, it is false to say ACRH is comprised of NIMBYs. As you know, we are advocating for building a housing development in our back yard. Just not the one Mr. Moon would like to build. Also, you should know the majority of ACRH members reside in areas of Arcata outside the three neighborhoods that bound the Village project.
We have used two law firms, not three. The “deep pocket” comment is odd, as paying for a fewwell-written letters by a CEQA attorney hasn’t been very expensive.
3. In response to this part of the letter: “From the earliest stages of our project application wehave reached out to and listened to our neighbors. Unfortunately, since Mr. Strombeck formed ACRH specifically to oppose The Village student housing community, productive direct communication with neighbors was suppressed. On March 23, 2018, Patrick Shanahan of Amcal organized a call with the three ACRH Directors, when we were told in no uncertain terms that there was nothing we could change about the project to gain their support.”
4. Mr. Moon says the following when discussing ACRH: “In lieu of an open dialogue, we used the attached letter “Community Requests to the Planning Commission & City Council for Conditions of Approval; The Village” dated January 23, 2018 from Maureen Jules to the Planning Commission as a proxy for their input. The letter states it is a compilation of neighborhood requests and we made changes to the project in response to every one of those requests, except for the one request of HSU, which is outside our control, and another advocating for greater pet adoption, which we have not yet addressed.”
That letter (dated Jan. 23), which we’ve included below, was written BEFORE we even formed ACRH! It didn’t, and doesn’t, represent ACRH. To think he could use that letter as proof he’s addressed all of the concerns community members have is ridiculous.
5. Lastly, when looking over the Public Policy section of David Moon’s letter, he lists that AMCAL’s proposed project will “Increase the proportion of owner-occupied units in Arcata.” While I believe the City staff thought that was true initially, I don’t think even they believe this will happen now that we’ve had so many discussions about it. AMCAL’s project willnot reduce the demand for rentals in Arcata, rather they might reduce demand in outlying areas such as Eureka, McKinnleyville, Fortuna, etc. In fact, we believe that AMCAL’s project may REDUCE the proportion of owner-occupied housing, as that part of town becomes the “student part of town.”
ACRH is still opposed to AMCAL’s student only project. We would like the City Council to vote on the project soon, and vote No. Citizens have worked hard to fight this development for good reasons, and they are growing weary from their difficult volunteer efforts. If the City staff had used a public process like the one they are now proposing for future in-fill development, we would not be in this situation. We would have had a public meeting to talk about the best uses,and compatible uses, of the Craftsman’s Mall site. Instead, City planning staff made that decision for the rest of the community. The only real input people had about the Village was tomake some design changes. But it’s still what it has always been: a student-only dorm built off- campus into a residential neighborhood that isolates students rather than integrating them into our community.
Erik Jules, John Bergenske, and Julie Vaissade-Elcock