Formula restaurant regs revised, homelessness crisis pushes new tactics

Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union

ARCATA – The City Council last week continued the coronavirus emergency, ensuring eligibility for reimbursement for pandemic-related expenses. In doing so, it also delayed for another six months enforcement of Ordinance No. 1527, which prohibits single-use plastic foodware, unless patrons pay a 25 cent surcharge. 

Enforcement was initially to begin on Jan. 1, 2021; but because of the pandemics impacts on food service businesses, the council opted to delay enforcement until July 1, 2021. However, despite reopening and the resurgent restaurant trade, business as usual hasn’t quite returned, and city staff recommended another six-month delay in single-use plastic enforcement, and the council agreed. 

Formula restaurants

The council also introduced a revised formula restaurant ordinance, refining the definition of restaurant to include eateries not before included as such. Ordinance No. 1546, as recommended by the Economic Development Committee and the Planning Commission, retains the limit of nine on the number of chain restaurants allowed in Arcata, with one potential exception.

A formula restaurant is still defined as one having 11 or more outlets. The regulation prohibits formula restaurants downtown and limits the total number in Valley West to six. But with one eatery in Valley West – Chester’s Chicken in the Giuntoli Lane Chevron station – redefined as a restaurant under the new ordinance, that maxes out that neighborhood’s limit of six restaurants.

However, an unnamed formula restaurant is said to be well along with preparations to open in Valley West, as allowed by the current ordinance. That begs the question as to whether the council might allow one extra restaurant over the limit if the building permit application comes in before the new ordinance comes into effect, or stick to the new limit of nine regardless. If allowed to “slide in under the old existing rules,” as City Attorney Nancy Diamond put it, there would be 10 formula restaurants until one of them closed, and the number would permanently reset to nine. 

Councilmembers disagreed on whether to cut the possibly pending applicant some slack on the new limit, and in introducing the revised ordinance for June 16 adoption, specified that further discussion will be needed on that point. Once adopted, the ordinance will go into effect 30 days later. 

One bit of news from the hearing is that a Domino's Pizza is going in at the former Subway Sandwich outlet in Northtown.


With citizens organizing on their own to brainstorm solutions for reducing the impacts of homelessness and pushing the city to do more (Union, May 19), the council heard a staff report from City Manager Karen Diemer reviewing current and future efforts.

The city’s Homelessness Services Working Group has partnered with a range of Arcata-area and county-level organizations to address homelessness.

Accomplishments include medical services in Valley West; adding social workers to police response; creation of low-income housing, rental assistance and stabilization;  neighborhood cleanups; and medical, food, housing and other support during power shutdowns and the COVID pandemic. 

A CARES Act grant, expected this summer,will help Arcata House Partnership with fund staffing, outreach and camp cleanups, improvements at the Annex and needle disposal.

City Council short-, medium- and long-term goals include creation of a night shelter; outreach to people sleeping in doorways and natural areas; rental assistance; housing vouchers and creation of housing via motel conversions. 

“We are doing everything we can to work on this,” said Vice Mayor Brett Watson. “We work on it every day.”


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