Latest Plaza improvement push shaping up

Serious talk of "fully pedestrianizing" Plaza, with car-free mall to Creamery District

Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union

ARCATA – The Plaza Improvement Task Force is well into its quest to improve conditions on the Arcata Plaza. Charged by the City Council to identify, prioritize and make recommendations to the City Council on projects and programs to improve the Plaza neighborhood and fueled by $150,000 to fund worthy projects, the task force held its first meeting of 2019 Jan. 17 at the Arcata Community Center’s Senior Room.

During Oral Communication, Colin Fiske, executive director of the Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities (CRTP), delivered a petition with 583 signatures.(See CRTP's press release, below.)

Task Force recommendations will have to meet these selection criteria.

States the petition: “I support proposals such as the Living Plaza concept which prioritize pedestrians and ensure that people can use and enjoy the Arcata Plaza safely and comfortably by foot, bicycle or assisted mobility device. Research shows that this kind of design encourages more climate-friendly modes of transportation, community-friendly social and civic gatherings, and economy-friendly spending at local businesses. I encourage the City Council and Plaza Improvement Task Force to prioritize pedestrians and other non-vehicular users in their plans to revitalize the Plaza.”

According to CRTP, most of the signatures were gathered on the Plaza during farmers’ markets and other events, the signatories mostly local residents. 

Stated a press release, “the CRTP hopes that the petition will encourage the Task Force — and later the City Council — to adopt ‘pedestrian priority’ as a planning principle for the Plaza, and to consider bold new ideas for prioritizing pedestrians on the Plaza and surrounding areas.”

The group hasn’t yet involved the Transportation Safety Committee (TSC), but may. CRTP Arcata Modeshift Project Leader Ryan Campbell serves on the TSC.

CRTP claims that it “has demonstrated through research and analysis that the social, civic and economic success of the Plaza could be improved by prioritizing non-vehicular users and de-emphasizing vehicles.”

In fact, Fiske said, the task force’s mission could provide an opportunity to enact “really bold ideas for pedestrianization,” including “fully pedestrianizing the Plaza along with a mall or corridor between the Plaza and the Creamery District.” 

Portia Bramble, executive director of the North Coast Growers Association, said the Farmers’ Market is looking at changes to the market’s traffic control plan which could include reducing through-traffic on Eighth and Ninth streets to improve pedestrian friendliness. This would be done after considerable public scoping, including task force deliberation.

The task force is still trying to collect community input as to what its priorities should be. An online survey in English and Spanish is available at cityofarcata.org/795/Plaza-Improvement-Task-Force-201819 through March 1. Some 385 online responses had been logged plus 60 paper surveys at the time of the meeting. The deadline was extended as the task force attempts aggressive outreach to underserved communities.

The group discussed at length its criteria for formulating recommendations. These will be developed during March and April, with further community input gathered.

Any recommendations must promote one or more objectives of economic development, public safety, beautification and increased community activity. They must be affordable, yet serve a wide range of community members, particularly those presently underserved.

The task force’s December meeting included presentations by Community Development Director David Loya on economic development and beautification, and from Police Chief Brian Ahearn on public safety. 

APD Officers Kent Falkenstine and Heidi Groszmann presently provide seven-day-per-week, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Plaza coverage.

CRTP Press Release

HUNDREDS SIGN PETITION SUPPORTING PEDESTRIAN PRIORITY ON ARCATA PLAZA

Petition to Be Delivered to City Task Force Thursday

Arcata – The Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities (CRTP) will be delivering a petition with over 500 signatures to the City of Arcata’s Plaza Improvement Task Force at its meeting on Thursday, January 17, 2019. The meeting takes place at 4:30 pm in the Senior Room at the Arcata Community Center.

The petition reads as follows: “I support proposals such as the Living Plaza concept which prioritize pedestrians and ensure that people can use and enjoy the Arcata Plaza safely and comfortably by foot, bicycle or assisted mobility device. Research shows that this kind of design encourages more climate-friendly modes of transportation, community-friendly social and civic gatherings, and economy-friendly spending at local businesses. I encourage the City Council and Plaza Improvement Task Force to prioritize pedestrians and other non-vehicular users in their plans to revitalize the Plaza.”

Most of the signatures on the petition were gathered on the Plaza itself during farmers markets and other events. Signatures are mostly from local residents, but include a few tourists as well. CRTP hopes that the petition will encourage the Task Force—and later the City Council—to adopt “pedestrian priority” as a planning principle for the Plaza, and to consider bold new ideas for prioritizing pedestrians on the Plaza and surrounding areas.

The Plaza Improvement Task Force was created by the Arcata City Council last year, partly as a result of CRTP’s research, education and outreach efforts. CRTP has focused for almost two years on demonstrating the link between the transportation-related design features of the Plaza and its success (or failure) as a public space. In particular, CRTP has demonstrated through research and analysis that the social, civic and economic success of the Plaza could be improved by prioritizing non-vehicular users and de-emphasizing vehicles. Driving and parking areas currently take up more than half of the overall public space on the Plaza.

The petition will also be delivered to the City Council at an upcoming regular public meeting.

For more information about CRTP, visit www.transportationpriorities.org

 







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